Productivity is the buzz word of every cubicle, work station and corner office. But how do you get more productive if you already spend every minute of every day in constant action mode? The solution: learn from others. Take some time to understand how to overcome the organisational challenges of managing paperwork, multiple projects and endless to-do lists. Consider these real life case studies and see if the solutions provided can work for you and the people you support.
Dan was recently promoted from the field to be a production manager in a large construction company. While he felt confident in his skills to manage the jobsite crews, he was battling to keep up with daily tasks, reports and paperwork. He contacted me to help him find solutions.
At the first appointment, I saw a common problem when someone takes over a predecessor’s space; lots of files and paper but little knowledge of their importance or usefulness. To deal with this stack I gave Dan the job of reviewing and purging out material for just five minutes each day. As time passed and he became more familiar with the day-to-day work, the stack became easier to discard; keeping only what was truly useful.
Dan displayed another newcomer pitfall placing piles of information on his desk rather than making files right away. We created folders for several forms, active resource material and each of his crews. We also constructed a portfolio kit of forms and supplies he used for pre-project meetings at job sites.
The last fix addressed Dan’s difficulty in remembering to do several recurring tasks each week. I fashioned colourful daily checklists on laminated flip cards he kept in sight next to his computer, providing the visual reminder he needed for daily deadlines.
As a result of our time together, Dan has gained confidence that the work will no longer fall through the cracks. He is maintaining a clutter-free desktop and reports the systems in place are time savers in his day.
Stephen was a fairly new financial analyst looking to grow his practice when we met him. Although he appeared an organised professional, he struggled with handling paperwork.
Upon entering his office, the challenge was apparent. Covering the entire floor were neat paper piles on a variety of subjects. On his walls, taped index cards, Post-it®Notes, and other documents with jottings in the margins.
Although Stephen owned a filing cabinet, he felt it important to keep his active files in sight. The solution — stack his piles vertically using over forty stacking file trays arranged in four columns. Each column was labeled with one of the major categories his active files fell into: Active Clients, Prospective Clients, Printed Brochures and Campaigns.
Next we sorted Stephen’s wall of notes to discover how many were no longer relevant and categorised those that were. We created designated labeled zones on the wall where he could place notes ongoing. Defining these areas by category saved time as he could zone in on a specific section to find what he needed.
The files that had covered the entire floor space in his office were now organised vertically on top of his desk; all within sight and arms reach. The confusion of notes taped all over the walls were now in specific zones, making them a useful tool of information.
Stephen’s productivity improved dramatically and his stress levels were lowered. Several years later, Stephen is still using the tower of trays to successfully manage his profitable and vibrant business.
“My efforts to organise my office have failed repeatedly and I know I am working at a fraction of what I am capable of.” That was the opening line of Jerry’s email seeking help. An upper-level manager with a small sales team, Jerry was challenged by piles of files that distracted him from his work. I quickly determined that he lacked a consistent system for managing paper files.
I began by coaching him to sort his paper files into three distinct categories; Archive, Reference and Motion.
Archive files can be useful on occasion but don’t need to be easily accessible. They went into a nearby file cabinet, placed in an A-Z orientation to simplify retrieval.
The Reference category of documents went into labeled folders in Jerry’s desk file drawer, close, but not cluttering his desktop. Some of the groupings included sales staff, current projects and marketing plans.
Finally, the Motion group was divided into specifically named action folders, held in a multi-sectioned step file located to one side of his desk. The folders allowed him to keep working papers in motion with the typical labels of To Do, Read and Reimburse, but added personalized active files of Next Sales Meeting, Next Biz Trip and Sales Updates.
Interestingly, our weekly meetings were done virtually, without my hands-on help. He now rates his space as calm and peaceful, releasing him to work up to his capabilities.
Good ideas, useful tools and some easy fixes helped these three people. If you are hesitant to try a new system, think of it as an experiment. Await the outcome and then decide if the change should be permanent. If it doesn’t work, just try another experiment, till you get what does work. When you do, watch your productivity soar.
Want to make your office even more effective? Check out our Office organisation productivity tips and tricks.
speaker, media presenter and productivity consultant, is the co-founder of Everything’s Together. Louise works with people who want to improve their productivity by making the most of their time and getting the best use of their space. For more about Louise go to everythingstogether.com, LinkedIn or Facebook.
is a Productivity Strategist, founder of both Chosen Course and Living Peace, LLC, and a graduate of Harvard Divinity School. Erin helps high performers move from exhaustion to excellence. For more about her work visit: chosencourse.com or follow her on Twitter @ChosenCourse.
is a Senior Professional organiser with Living Peace, LLC with a M.S. in Information Science. Gabriela works with clients to develop successful systems, habits, and mindsets for both small office and home. For more about her work visit: living-peace.com or watch her on YouTube at LivingPeaceorganise.
is a nationally accredited productivity coach and speaker distinguished for using her revolutionary Flexible Structure Method to help overwhelmed professionals convert "to-dos" to "to-dones" so they can feel more productive. For more information about her, see mindingyourmatters.com or on LinkedIn. She can also be found on YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Blog Talk Radio and Pinterest.