One of the first thoughts that might pop into your mind when a friend or colleague starts talking about getting organized is about the piles of papers that may be littering the desk in our office, the books overflowing from the bookshelves onto the floor, or those bags of once-coveted conference giveaways which have taken up residence in the corner of the office. Scheduling time to tackle all of these types of tasks is a wise idea and will ultimately result in increased productivity.
However, there is another application for getting organized that is especially important in a business environment and is also tied to efficiency: preparing for and running a productive meeting. All of us have sat through meetings that went on much longer than necessary, when with a little advance preparation they could likely have been wrapped up in under an hour.
In today’s fast-paced, constantly connected world, it is more essential than ever that meetings are kept with a specific agenda and that the discussion remains focused. The key to doing this is a little advance preparation (here’s where the getting organized part is applied).
Here are some easy-to-apply tips for creating productive meeting agendas as well as running the subsequent meetings. Btw, I am using my own experience getting organized and running the NAPO-NY board meetings (I’m the President) as an example.
1. Keep it focused. In assessing topics for inclusion on the agenda, keep them very focused on the essential items requiring immediate attention. You may want to look to those that are deadline sensitive, “hot button” issues, or that have been sufficiently researched so that the ensuing discussion will make for a productive meeting. For example, the NAPO-NY board needed to approve a request from our 25th Anniversary committee chair by April 30. The request was about the budget for a commemorative program that is being produced. Needless to say, this topic was included on the April board meeting agenda.
2. Share key information in advance. In order to use the meeting time for productive group discussions and to make decisions, it is important to get all of the appropriate information organized and distributed to the attendees a few days in advance of the meeting so there is ample time to review it. I request that my board submit information for discussion topics in advance. I then review it to ensure that the information is clearly and completely presented so that the board will be able to make a decision with only minimal discussion.
3. Stick to the agenda. In order to be sure that there is sufficient time to address all topics on the agenda, it is essential that there are only minor additions to it during the meeting. When running the meeting, it is important to allot a specific amount of time for each of the agenda points. Understanding that the meeting attendees have blocked out a specific time slot for the meeting and being considerate of their other commitments is really key. As we have two hours allotted for our NAPO-NY board meetings, I guesstimate the amount of time that will be needed for each of the agenda points and then can pace the meeting accordingly. If we are ahead of schedule, additional time can be spent discussing an issue or a topic that wasn’t on the agenda.
4. Identify next steps. During the course of a meeting, there are typically next steps identified or decisions made as a result of the discussions. In an effort to get organized for any follow-up meetings, making note of the point person for specific tasks that are assigned during the meeting, along with the deadline for completing those tasks, is very important. For example, I am planning a retreat for my board and needed to locate a suitable meeting place for this day-long event. I made note of the three board members who volunteered to locate space for us and requested that they advise me of their findings within four days.
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“The average office worker in the US uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. That’s four million tons of copy paper used annually. Office workers in the US generate approximately two pounds of paper and paperboard products every day.” [Source: EPA.gov]
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I hope this post finds you well. :-) I recently had a discussion with a good friend that stemmed from a comment about getting stuff ready for the following work day. The comment created a conversation about the different ways and tools we use to manage time. While I use a mix of apps and paper to do it, she uses no apps whatsoever, and instead resorts only to paper and memory. We both use (what she calls) “time blocking” (and what I call task allotment), i.e., allowing a set amount of estimated time to get a task done. We both also couple prioritization with that as well, which ideally makes for a great process (when it is successfully carried out).
As we continued to discuss our various time management processes, it made me think about my dad, who had no apps, no computer, or the like…but accomplished, what appeared to be, everything necessary. Apps are tools…they are assistants, but I began to wonder if I could be just as successful or even achieve greater success by adopting an app-less time management processes.
Things that make you go….hmmm…what do you think?
I’ll ponder that this week, maybe longer, and possibly post my thoughts in the future. In the meantime, here’s a good site I stumbled upon a few days ago: Productivity 501. It looks pretty interesting and useful to me. Maybe you’ll find it the same.
Have a productive day!
- 8 Time Management Tips for Entrepreneurs! (trak.in)
- How to Double Your Productivity at the Office (blisstree.com)
- Working At Home and Being Productive (apartmenttherapy.com)
“According to a 2009 survey of over 600 workers in the United States by the Society for Human Resource Management, 70% of employees work beyond scheduled time—staying late, taking work home, and working weekends. Over half cite “self-imposed pressure” as the reason. In certain industries, the numbers are even more dramatic.” [How to Work Less and Do Better · Matthew E. May · OPEN Forum · March 19, 2010]
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So you know how I asked for your vote of confidence that I will actually write one blog post every day in the month of November (in honor of NaBloPoMo)? Well, one reader did just that. Here’s what she said:
“Deb Lee, I need to know how to organize the work flow in my office. It has been such a challenge. I have decided to move my desk to the opposite wall to see if that will help. Daily Blog you can DO IT!!!Kathleen.”
Yay! She has faith in me and I, in return, have information for her and everyone else out there who’s in “spot of bother” (feeling a little British right now) with not being as productive as they would like to be in their office. Here’s my take on this issue…10 steps to a more efficient you…
1. Figure It Out. Think about all the various things you need to accomplish on a given day so that you can create a plan of attack. Examples:
- Client Calls
- E-mail & Voicemail
- Regular Mail
- Reports (expense, mileage, ROI, client data, etc.)
- Urgent Projects
- Long-term Projects
2. Have It All. Once you have an idea of all the tasks you need to accomplish on a daily basis, decide what items you need to help you get them done. Be sure to have everything you need (e.g., garbage can, shredder, file cabinet, industry specific tools, etc.). This is true whether your office is in a building in the city or in your home.
3. Get Closer. Keep the things that you use frequently very accessible. If you reach for documents in your file cabinet often, it should be as close to your desk as possible. If you’re a paper clip fanatic, be sure there’s a (neat) stash on your desk. When the items you use often are far away, you’ll have to keep getting up to, well, get them. You might increase the number of steps you take along with your heart rate, but you won’t make much of a dent in increasing your efficiency.
4. Get Comfy. Is your office chair comfortable? It should be since you’ll be spending some quality time with it on a daily basis. By the way, be sure your desk fits you, too. Check out the various shapes (L-shape, U-shape, etc.) to see which one suits you the best. The right chair and desk gets you ready for the day ahead.
5. Clear It Up. Keep your desk or work space clear and clutter free. Sounds obvious but when you start multitasking, things can go haywire and so can your brain cells, er, your productivity. If you have sufficient room to work, you’ll have a greater chance of successfully completing your projects (and remaining sane for another day).
6. Move to The Top. Prioritize and rank your duties in order of urgency. Urgency is usually dictated by time and/or money. If that big report is due in two days, that task should jump to the top of your list. If your boss expects that report in 1 hour, I’d say that’s pretty urgent and should take the #1 spot on your list. If you are the boss, well, maybe you have a little wiggle room.
6a. Don’t Get Sucked In. One more thing, choose specific times to read/respond to e-mail/voicemail. This one’s tough, but you can do it. Work on your priority projects when you’re feeling the most alert and handle the e-mails during brief, designated times.
7. Get FAT. No, it’s not lunch time, but if you use FAT, you’ll lose a lot of paper clutter.
- File … your “must haves” for future use
- Act … chop, chop, do something about it
- Toss … say goodbye, adios, seeyalata, babye
I learned about FAT from professional organizer Barbara Hemphill’s Taming the Paper Tiger at Home. Aren’t organizers wonderful?
8. Be Exclusive. Try to finish one thing before starting another and give your attention to one thing at a time. I have trouble with this one sometimes. Do you notice that you lose focus when you try to attend to more than one thing, or say 20 things, at one time? Yeah, it happens to the best of us. When in doubt, see step 6.
9. Time It. Decide how much time it should take to complete each task and stick to it. Set a timer or the alarm on your phone or have a friend call you so that you know when your time’s up. Your friend may get a bit tired of calling you, so that should probably be a last resort.
10. Know Thyself. Some of us keep things visible so we can remember them. Sometimes, we need to read and hear directions before we can master a task. Maybe you prefer talking on the phone instead of using e-mail. Personally, I love the color red. What’s this have to do with your office? If you can figure out your learning style (e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and what appeals to you aesthetically, you can achieve greater success with maintaining order, increasing productivity, and have a great time while you’re at it.
P.S. Thanks, Kathleen, for giving me a topic to blog about. Do you have a burning organization question? Leave a comment!
As a child, I LOVED Marvin the Martian. Truth be told, I’m still a bit of a fan. He has the cutest voice!
Would you believe that I own a mug with a very adorable picture of Marvin in his trademark green helmet and skirt? Now that I’m older, I’m trying to be less like Marvin. Marvin, who hailed from Mars (hence his red skin), had a penchant for trying to destroy the earth. Well, I like being an earthling, and I am trying to be more green not only in my personal life, but also from a business standpoint.
On the personal side, I unplug most appliances when they are not in use. I’m still working on unplugging the microwave. I now use it less frequently than I used to so this should be an easy transition. My washer/dryer is energy star compliant and I am replacing my usual bulbs with compact fluorescent ones. I only use regular liquid soap, not antimicrobial ones and am switching over to cleaning products that have the Green Seal or EcoLogo. I print less so I don’t have to shred as much. Next on my list:
1. Getting a stainless steel sports bottle to replace my plastic one
2. Replacing my vinyl shower curtains for PVC-free curtains
On the business end, I help clients recycle and/or donate their old and unused items, but do I practice what I preach as a businesswoman? Is there anything I can do as an entrepreneur to be more green? I am still trying to figure out how to do this so I decided to attend EcoTuesday to get some ideas. EcoTuesday is a business networking event where everyone in attendance has a huge interest in a sustainable future. I have never talked with such a diverse and passionate group of people whose major focus is to keep our planet healthy. From IT and marketing people to civil engineers to representatives from Greenpeace, everyone was atwitter (no pun intended) with the prospect of sharing the green wealth. Did you know that there are printers made specially to work with soy-based inks? Did you also know that many businesses will only do business with companies that are green?
Yes, green seems to be the new black. The folks at DC’s Green Festival already know this and have been organizing the festival for the last five years. This year’s two day event will be held at the DC Convention Center on November 8th (10am-7pm) & November 9th (11am-6pm). There will be over 125 speakers, 350 eco-friendly companies, “HowTo” workshops, yoga sessions, cooking demonstrations, organic beer/food, and a reggae concert on Saturday morning. For more information, visit www.greenfestivals.org. By the way, tickets are just $15.
*Image Credit: Snarkerati
P.S. Here’s a picture of my Marvin mug, a little faded due to age (not you and me, of course…we’re glowing with wisdom!). It sits next to the phone on a shelf in my green kitchen. Yes, the walls are really painted green…soon to be really green and eco-friendly.