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by Alan Hargreaves

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Entries in organisation (6)


Power with a friend

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Getting more from less

In the last few weeks I created the world’s messiest whiteboard. It’s the New Year thing. What’s the strategy going forward? What do I want to do? What should I do? Everything was on there except focus and clarity. It was time to slash and burn some priorities. Luckily I did this with a friend.

Friends are very useful. They know more about you than you think. In particular, they know where the line is between what you are good at and where you are kidding yourself.

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Want to be more productive? Trim the to-do list

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Ever get that feeling you can’t do it all?

You’re right. You can’t. When most of us build a “to do” list, it becomes  an inventory of ideas that physically just can’t be done in the time we give it.

I plan a month in advance. I write all my brilliant ideas on a white board and stand back at look at it. I think “wouldn’t that be a great result?” If I stop there, it’s not long before it’s a rod for my back. There are just too many things on it.

Either consciously or sub-consciously, I know I can’t do it all. The list clutters my mind. It creates distraction, which in turn leads to procrastination. The end result is inertia. No wonder I can’t do it all.

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What happens if you don’t delegate?

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I once asked a colleague of mine how he kept his desk so clean

There was all sorts of clutter on my own desk. I think I knew where everything was, but it didn’t look that great. New piles seemed to sprout like weeds and there was an array of folders parked there like old cars in the bottom paddock. Some had been there for months. Compared to my desk, his looked like a freshly mown lawn.  How did he do it?

The answer was simple enough: Every time a piece of paper landed on his desk, he asked himself ‘Who is the best person to handle this?’. If it wasn’t him, it got sent off to them.

You could argue that that’s about all there is to management.

Deciding what is yours and what is theirs isn’t that hard. There are only two things that should determine your role:

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Personal organisation #101 - the single best idea

Do you know this internal dialogue?

In the meeting: That’s great info. I must look up that website before the next meeting.

Next week: Where did I put that URL? I know I wrote it down in the meeting. Where was it?

The week after: I’d better log on again and print off that download. What did I do with the password? I scribbled it on a post-it note. Where’s that? 

Just prior to the next meeting: What were the key points I took down from that website? I wrote them on a pad. Where’s that pad?

It might not have been a URL. It might have been someone’s contact number, or their address. Or maybe it was the outline of that absolutely brilliant idea you had for a presentation while you were waiting in the departure lounge. It was so clear in my head after I had drawn all the circles and arrows. How did it work again? 

For me, those dialogues stopped in 1995, when someone made a simple suggestion.

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Organise the best day of your life

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What does personal disorganisation feel like?

For me it’s as if I’m lost in a sea of clutter. There’s no clear focus, no sense of priorities and the nagging doubt that I won’t handle everything that’s on my plate. That’s what it feels like. 

What does it look like?

The desk is covered with stacks of stuff, allegedly in order. The in-tray is overflowing. There are piles of unread “must read” material behind me. On the screen there’s a backlog of unanswered emails.

It happens. Often I am on top of things for long periods of time, but business trips, holidays or urgent projects can invite chaos into my office. It’s not just a matter of how bad it feels or looks. My productivity plunges. That’s because I am no longer able to apply four basic management skills.

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