Friday, January 23, 2009

Organize Yourself - Part 1


Ever thought why is it so hard for human beings to get organized?  Why do the techniques recommended by Guru’s in this field encounter such resistance from human nature?  May be people are organized to the degree they need to be and to scale up to next level takes lot of effort and determination.
Last month I got an opportunity to learn and play Golf with professionals and trainers from my client organization. It was then I realized how difficult it was for me to take couple of hours off twice a week from my workday schedule in the afternoon. There was clear difference in the way these professional golfers will get their morning tasks to logical end, dress up in their golf attire, organize their clubs, balls, tees and were ready for 1.5 hours of practice session at dot 12:00 noon. And here I was finding myself struggling to get organized to the level these professionals were. I remember more than once I landed on 9 hole golf course half ready and with my office tasks accompanying me on the ground. It was then I decided to change my habits to make myself organize better both at work and play. Following a level of discipline when I doing things or am getting them done is the key to organize myself better. Here I am sharing my nuggets that are helping me to reach up to the level of those professional golfers (Of Course not in playing but in getting on to the golf course on time:))

  1. Behavior Modifications - Two ways to change behavior patterns  a) Forcing yourself until it becomes ingrained b) Gradually shape the behavior by giving yourself reward every time you do things the right way.

  2. Communication - A clear statement of what is expected can save lot of time for everyone. Make sure that a sloppy work by subordinate doesn't go unchallenged because that will increase your workload and add to your time problems.

  3. Live like a monk - Cut off yourself from the outside world, no phone calls, no visitors, no news or mails. Focus on one thing at a time, crack it and reward yourself for the success

  4. Deadlines -  You can greatly increase your effectiveness if you give yourself deadline for each task and do your best to stick to the deadlines. Unless you set yourself a deadline, it isn’t an action program; it is just a vague wish, something you intend to do someday. The problem is "Someday is not a day of the week." Always remember the Parkinson's law - "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." Therefore the assignment to yourself or others should never be open ended. If the job is complex, give yourself intermediate deadlines and lastly respect your deadline to remain motivated.

  5. Break - Make sure you take breaks between a long duration tasks, it will keep you more productive.

  6. Crises - Whenever faced with crisis, ask yourself - "What you can do to avert it next time"

  7. Bottlenecks - a) Be a squeaking wheel - Remind, hint, beg, plead, write memos. Stop pleading to yourself and take some action …. As far as possible get advance permission to nag your boss. This will make thing more pleasant. b) Bypass the system - Always remember the Hooper's law: In a bureaucracy it is always easier to beg forgiveness than to get permission. Use this tool when you are stuck with company systems. c) Announce that you will take action "UNLESS …..” Unless I hear from you to the contrary, here is what I plan to do …..” This saves time for everyone involved, protects you from repercussions and enhances your reputation as "Doer" d) Make it a matter of honor - When someone promises to get the task done and you suspect they won't, just ask, “Can I have your word on that?” or "write a memo of confirmation" e) Use positive reinforcement - Especially works when you are leading a team.

  8. Divide your tasks into categories - a)Important and Urgent: Must be done immediately - Carryout these tasks before 10:30 AM in office  b)Important but not urgent: Attention to this category is what can divide You from ineffective crowd. You should finish these tasks before lunch. Ex: New ideas you would like to suggest to your boss after you have done the initial analysis and fact findings b) That white paper you have been meaning to write etc c)Urgent but not Important: tasks that need immediate attention because you obliged somebody. These tasks have hardly any importance for you but you should still do them on time to keep your word. d)Busy work: These tasks are marginally worth doing but are hoggers of your time e) Waste time: Stay away from these kind of tasks unless other 4 buckets are completely clean. Doing these tasks generally give you false sense of satisfaction ex: watching TV program that is not information or stress buster

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