You reach success one day at a time, one step at a time. When those steps are organized, you save time and achieve results that are more closely aligned with your goals. Create short- and long-term plans around which you organize your daily activities, and you may be surprised how easily you reach your goals on or before your deadlines. When you have control, you determine the outcomes.
Obtain calendars that you are sure to use, and write down everything you have to do at the time you make an appointment or set a deadline. A desk calendar keeps your plans in front of you at all times, while electronic calendars are portable and can be updated on the run. Use both if it helps. Just be sure to update each calendar when you add a note or make changes. Tap into your cell phone’s daily calendar or download an app to your phone to keep your appointments and tasks organized.
Clean your desk every evening before you leave the office. You’re in the best position to know where papers go and what files can be deleted when it’s fresh in your mind. At the same time, organization allows you to start each day with a clean slate. Clearing up yesterday’s work takes time away from the activities you planned for today.
Develop habits that keep your organizational and planning goals on tracks. For example, with your morning cup of coffee, review all your emails, deleting unwanted messages and highlighting those that require a response. Make a habit of checking your calendar at your front door before you leave the house each day to ensure you have all the necessary tools you need for the day’s planned work.
Create a filing system that makes sense to you and allows you to get to necessary files with as few clicks as necessary. If you still rely on paper files, use folders with bold headings so you easily can put your fingers on the paperwork you need when you need it. Label files according to their function, client names or another system related to your daily work.
Make lists. Create daily and weekly lists and cross off tasks once they’re completed. Seeing your activities finished helps to keep you motivated and on track. Move items that you didn’t complete to the next day when appropriate. At the same time, when you review your lists at the end of the day and the last day of your workweek, you may find some of those items on the list were unnecessary or got done without your input.
Stay on track with your planning and organizational goals with helpful slogans and mantras. Post inspirational sayings on your desk, hanging on your wall and everywhere else you’ll see them to be reminded of why you are such a stickler for planning. Start with the following anonymous quote: “You are where you are because you didn’t plan to be anywhere else.”
Plan for the best outcomes but prepare for interruptions and inconvenient waiting time. Carry an electronic tablet with your calendar or a hard-copy planning calendar so you can quickly review it and shuffle tasks when your daily plans are derailed. Carry a magazine at all times to catch up on work-related reading when you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in a client’s office. Store important phone numbers in your phone or calendar so that you can rearrange appointments or alert others to changes in your plans and create new plans on the spot.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."