People often ask me how I manage to keep so many balls in the air and stay organized. When you work for a small business, your motto will NEVER be “not my job.” All jobs could be YOUR job on any given day. How we control these changing responsibilities and tasks and keep them all is organized could be the difference in doing your job and doing it well. Here are my five steps to keeping things straight:
- Create a master list. Your list does not have to be the typical pen and paper list. I always use a journal which I keep on my desk for precisely this purpose. You may prefer an electronic document you leave open to add to an update throughout your day. Consider an integrated task list within your email software, or an online task management tool.
- Prioritize your list. I feel this is an essential detail. If you don’t prioritize your tasks, you will not be able to accomplish the time-sensitive items on schedule. When you begin missing deadlines, they start falling in a domino effect. You may need to reprioritize your list multiple times a day as new tasks come in. You have to be comfortable in saying, “These are what I had as top priorities for my day. Where does this fit in?” I speak from experience when I tell you that even though you would like to get everything on that list done and checked off, there are only so many hours in a day and you have to focus on the highest priority items first. The others will still be on your list tomorrow.
- Schedule the items on your list. You must make the time to tackle your list. Use your existing email calendar. If I just spoke with a client and I know I need to follow up with them next week, I schedule that future task right away. You may have to drag it around to an exact time. I have a block of time set aside on my calendar for it. If my list includes “Create a new blog post,” I block out time during the day to write. If there are tasks that are recurring every week that I need to take care of, there is a repeating item in my calendar that is color-coded as red Important to Do.
- Re-evaluate the list. You must be updating the list throughout the day. Mark off items completed, reprioritize the remaining items, and add new tasks that have come up. When you don’t stay organized, things start slipping through the cracks. Go back through those emails you have flagged and add any follow-up items that may be necessary to the list. You don’t want to drop the ball on email and leave someone hanging. Even a simple reply of acknowledgement or confirmation could save you from a follow-up email from that person wanting to know if you got it done. It lets them know you are on top of it and they don’t have to worry.
- Repeat. Start the system that works best for you and make it part of your routine.
Keeping yourself organized is a priority. If you need to multitask throughout your day, multitask like a boss.