Get organized and on track in the workplace

It doesn't matter how smart you are or whether you have an iPhone in a multitasking world. If you can't organize your day to handle information and get things done, you will burn yourself out trying to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Here are tips from experts to make you better at managing your workday. McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Schedule a 2 p.m. check-in. A midafternoon review allows you to know what needs to get done before 5 p.m. and if you need to extend your workday. It also allows you to manage the expectations of others. If you make a goal of leaving work on time at least two days a week, a 2 p.m. check-in should help you make this a reality. Set a reminder alarm.

Organize your to-do list every day. The list should include manageable items that can be completed, such as "prepare exhibits for monthly report," rather than just "work on report."

Don't set yourself up for failure with an unrealistically long list. You may need to rewrite a task on the next day's list until it gets done.

Make a not-to-do list. "Every individual gets into a habit that at the time it was created made sense but since has outlived its usefulness," says Noah Blumenthal, author of Be the Hero: Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and Life. For some, that habit may be reading e-mail exchanges you no longer need to be part of, checking Facebook at the start of every morning, listening to a co-worker whine or stopping for a cup of coffee.

Live in your calendar. People spend their entire days tethered to their in-boxes and lose sight of what they are supposed to be doing, says Dan Markovitz, president of the productivity consulting firm TimeBack Management.

"If you keep your calendar front and center, you will know what you should be doing," he says. Markovitz recommends changing your software setting of your software program so the calendar opens first rather than your e-mail in-box.

"The first thing you need to see is what you are supposed to do today instead of everything from everyone who needs a piece of you." When your calendar is visible, it gives you the opportunity to make smart decisions.

Organize your day. When you block off time on your calendar for major events, don't jam your day full of activities. Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, says many people underestimate the time it takes to get tasks done and the number of unexpected events that come up each day.

If a problem arises that doesn't need to be handled by that evening, she recommends suggesting to your boss or client that you take it up the next day when everyone is fresh. "Use your interpersonal skills to help them see the benefit."

Check e-mail on a schedule. Most workers waste time answering every e-mail or text message as it arrives. Even worse, they respond without fully thinking through their response. Create a schedule and fall into a routine for checking your in-box. "Spending your day responding to e-mail is not a substitute for sitting and working. E-mail is not most people's job," says Markovitz.

To keep up with e-mail, organize it in file folders. If the message needs more thought, move it to your to-do list. If you want to acknowledge receipt, respond with "got it." If it's for reference, print it out. If it's a meeting, move it to your calendar.

Know your purpose. Before you make a phone call or go into a meeting, know what you want to accomplish. "A lot of people walk out of meetings feeling exhausted because the meeting didn't start with a clear plan for what had to be achieved," says Stuart R. Levine, business consultant and author of Cut to the Chase.

He also recommends identifying the most important thing you want to get done each day, and doing it first.

Use time management tools. Software such as Outlook lets you schedule events easily and can be set to remind you of appointments in advance. Business coach Pat Morgan puts everything in her Outlook — whether it's writing a thank-you note, attending a meeting or making a phone call. If she can't get to the task, she will reschedule it on her Outlook calendar. "I take care of things because I don't want to see a reminder pop up again."

Get organized and on track in the workplace 01/17/10 [Last modified: Sunday, January 17, 2010 3:30am]

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