Back to Basics in Organisational Skills
What makes a person organised? Really organised!
Can it be taught or is it a natural ability a person just ‘has’?
Similarly to prioritisation, organisational skills help us progress on the path we take in all areas of life.
The good news is that organisational skills can be taught and developed. Like anything it takes practice, and here is just a snapshot of how to get started with a ‘back to basics’ guide that might be forgotten or overlooked.
Being clear headed is obvious for the first step to setting out any plan. A muddled mind will present clouded judgements from the start.
Lists - Brain dumping on paper, so that it can be ordered later, allows the mind to flow freely without the worry of forgetting something. I always have my phone nearby for my many lists and reminders but a notebook and pen works just as well.
Decluttering - Unsubscribing to unwanted e-mails as they are received is an efficient way of weeding out unwanted spam.
Strategising - Setting clear objectives for what it is that needs to be achieved will set the scene for a productive session of what the future holds.
Blue sky thinking - Getting that creativity hat to brainstorm ideas without worrying how good or bad they are will organise thoughts on paper. With that, we can develop any that have potential.
Selfcare - The recent buzz word that busy people still have a lot of work to do on. Taking time to do what we enjoy gives us room in our brain to think – with some of the best ideas being formulated when we don’t overthink things!
Discipline - Setting ‘rules’ for ourselves, for only us to break, allows us to set our own standards that can help with a defined mindset.
Self-motivation - Different to discipline, what gets us out of the bed in the morning? Not many people can say that it is purely for what they do for a living, but what comes with that. Achievement and reward are big ‘wins’ for mental strength.
Focus - Time set aside to ensure that proper focus and attention can be given to something of importance should not be dismissed.
Time management has been drummed into me from a young age. My Dad was a stickler for timekeeping which has stuck with me. Being on time is being 5 minutes early!
Prioritisation is something we do subconsciously all the time every day. It only becomes a challenge when we think about it too hard. Prioritising effectively can help us achieve things in a logical order.
Read the 6 Steps to Prioritise Effectively here.
One stop shop - A term I picked up in the hospitality industry, when we are going to do or get something, it is time efficient to get / do anything else at the same time if we can. It will save time and effort in the long run.
Filling time - If we find we only have 5 minutes spare before doing something else (like leaving our desk or joining a meeting), there could be a small task that can be completed in that short period of time. Filing the 10 documents in an in-tray or replying to that one e-mail that takes little thought will tick off another item on the ‘to-do’ list.
Scheduling - Blocking out time for specific tasks keeps the mind focused and discipline maintained. Selfcare might need to be diarised for those that don’t allow themselves the time ‘to be’.
Deadlines - Setting achievable deadlines comes with experience. Once we know how to do the task in hand we can, in turn, set deadlines for ourselves or others to ensure we have enough time to achieve the deadlines set for us. If a client wants something completed by Friday, setting a deadline to have it drafted for review and approval by Wednesday afternoon allows for significant changes to be made and still meet the deadline.
If we can’t find things because they have been misplaced or can’t be found due to a physical mess, we can never start to feel organised and the clutter can easily cause demotivation.
Tidy desk, tidy mind - A good weekly clear out at the end of a working week allow us to enter our working environment at the beginning of the new week feeling ready to go. If things are stacked up and we can’t find things before starting, the uphill struggle presents a disadvantage before the week really gets going.
Simple systems - The key thing here is to keep it simple! Easy to understand and basic for all to maintain will be the best recipe. Co-existing with something that is ‘too clever’ for its purpose is a waste of time. Again and again, systems or procedures have been ‘binned’ because people have made them too complicated. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
“It is okay to delay something that is not quite ready. It will be all the better when it is shared.”
By that, I mean a plan is crucial and if it takes longer to theorise and contemplate the challenges that may occur, the patience and discipline demonstrated at the beginning of any big project will lead to a smoother and more efficient delivery and execution.
Shopping - As crazy as it sounds, if a shopping list is made whilst visualising the aisles and in the order of how we walk around the supermarket, the experience will be quicker and less frustrating. Yes, there will be additional items dumped in the trolley and the ordering may not be 100% accurate but the money and time saved is worth it. A big, maybe monthly supermarket sweep with top-up shops saves a lot of time too. Online shopping is also a great solution.
Menus - planning meals and the menu for the week (or even month) organises us and creates a much less wasteful household.
Objectives and Goals - The distinct differences between objectives and goals sometimes get confused and fogs the brain as to what can and needs to be done right now in order to achieve the ultimate goal.
Maintaining efficiency - Efficiency takes experience but once we are confident in anything we do, the processes of doing it are adapted and improved upon to create an easier, more streamlined and efficient way of completing it. Maintaining this efficiency is organisation itself.
It’s all in the planning - As mentioned before, it might be tempting to rush into a project with the first steps being seemingly straightforward. However, it is important to take a moment to gather our thoughts, sit down with all involved to create a step by step plan in how each part of a project can be achieved with objectives defined and deadlines set.
The more certainty gained at the start of a project will pay off as it progresses - making it much easier to manage any unexpected but inevitable challenges that crop up.
Avoid multi-tasking - We have heard it before with people saying they are good at multi-tasking. It may be that things expected of us in our places of work in the past were more process driven, directional and, dare I say it, more mundane? These days, we are expected to contribute with our own ideas by adding value. Therefore, doing two things at once is never going to achieve flawless results in either task. Time management is the key to productivity, knowing how much time will be required to complete each task competently so we can fill our working day efficiently.
We can’t do anything without people. People need to know what we are doing, when, why and, sometimes, how. Simplistic, but often forgotten, because it can be easy to fall into the ‘doing’ with tunnel vision without explaining to others what is happening. If there is one thing that is essential to being organised, it’s communication.
Being clear, open and honest - Things don’t always go to plan. In fact, they rarely do. Provided communication is clear, open and honest and updates highlighting any challenges that may change the result of something of its delivery date, everyone knows where we are at. It is because people don’t talk that creates frustration and an unnecessary feeling of stress.
Decision making - Whether it is collective or independent, if our decision making is using both intuition and logic, we will learn from our mistakes and not regret what we chose to do. We are never going to get everything right; it is how we react and adapt when mistakes occur that prove our decision making capabilities.
With very little training, people management skills are often overlooked. There is certainly a benefit to being able to manage people from all walks of life.
It might take a certain type of person to do this well but if we stick with treating others the way we wish to be treated (taken from Matthew 7:12) and accepting that we “never really understand a person until [we] consider things from his point of view” (Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee), it should put us in good stead to earn the respect and loyalty of those we manage.
Teamwork - Whether our responsibilities include managing hundreds of people or just ourselves, teamwork exists in all our lives. Taking the scenario of being a ‘solopreneur’, we are our own team and handle all aspects of our business. We might have inner voices encouraging us to complete our CPD Log from a HR perspective or our financial forecast from the Finance Team.
Resource allocation - we can’t be good at everything, which is why outsourcing is beneficial. It allows businesses to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. We, as business owners, can outsource our administration and accounts amongst other things. Companies may outsource project management to specialist teams.
I remember the general rule taught: ‘If we don’t have enough hours in the week, if we don’t have the specialist skills in question or we charge more per hour for our offering than the service we require, we should outsource’.
“Focus on your expertise and let others focus on theirs; your dreams will flourish together.”
Delegation - Trust and confidence is key. We are unlikely to do things in the same way as another person, however, linked to outsourcing if we feel time deprived, delegation is the way forward. Clear, open and honest communication together with well-defined expectations are imperative when delegating. Trusting someone with our work and the confidence we have in order to do that comes with time and experience of working closely with someone.
Collaboration - Discovering like-minded people on our journeys is a ‘find’. Being able to share experiences and stories with someone who holds a similar vision can lead to collaborative partnerships.
Organising our thoughts with someone not only consolidates our knowledge, it also maps out potential opportunities that organise and develop us further.
So, can organisational skills be learnt or are they inherited?
I believe that if you apply the ‘back to basics’ in this very brief synopsis, anyone can learn and develop organisational skills. With regular practice, these become natural and easy.
Once the habits and disciplines are established, a domino effect is created in which things follow on from the other with ease and little effort.
True organisation can only make our lives easier.
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