Recent College Graduate’s Tip of the Month – March

Spinning Out of Control (Part II)
By Nancy Barry
Author of When Reality Hits: What Employers Want Recent College Graduates to Know

Last month, I talked about the importance of having great organizational skills. I promised to share tips for getting and staying organized in this month’s column. While these tips are primarily targeted for the workplace, they’ll also help you if you’re still in college.

Clear the clutter, clear the mind
There aren’t many people who can operate at their peak if their desk is a mess. If you find you’re spending more time looking for the work you need to do than doing the work, you need to take the time to get organized. If you work with a Type A personality, your messy desk is going to make that person nervous. What if your boss walks by your office and sees your messy desk? Now she may hesitate to give you an exciting new project because she doesn’t think you could handle the extra work, based on the work she saw stacked on your desk. Or what if a client drops by unexpectedly? He walks in your office and sees your messy desk, then walks out wondering if you’re going to be able to handle the big order he was about to place. It could happen.

Fix the things that drive you crazy.
Is your telephone cord too short? Don’t have enough filing space? Is your computer too slow? Make a list of the things that drive you crazy and fix them. If they’re things you can take care of on your own, great. If they require an expenditure that needs to be approved, go to your boss with your list. If you tell her you could be more productive if the things on your list were resolved, chances are she’ll help you. It’s amazing how taking care of the little things that drive us crazy can make our lives happier and improve our productivity.

Have master and daily “to do” lists.
Your master “to do” list will be a comprehensive list of everything you need or want to do. Include everything, and I mean everything. You don’t want to lose any of your great ideas. Take fifteen minutes at the end of every day to prepare a “to do” list for tomorrow. This will come from your master list, along with any new assignments you received today. Evaluate the items on your list, and then prioritize them. Select the three most important things. When you get in the office, make yourself do those three things before you do anything else. (OK, you can get your coffee first!) After you tackle those three, cross them off your list, so you’ll have a feeling of accomplishment. Then, identify the next three and keep the process going.

Schedule time for you.
Block off time on your calendar to get your work done. Everything takes longer than you think it will. If you think it will take an hour to complete a project, block off two hours on your calendar. If you overestimate the time you’ll need, you could be left with a moment of peace. Also, allow time in your day for unexpected crises. Don’t schedule your day so tightly you leave the office frustrated because you didn’t get anything on your list done.

Schedule follow-up time.
If you ask someone who’s been working for a while why he seems so out of control, he’ll probably tell you it’s because he never has time to follow up on commitments he’s made. After you attend a meeting, go straight to your office and summarize your notes while they are fresh in your mind. If you came away with some assignments, put them on your “to do” list. This simple step will help you stay on task and meet your deadlines. And hopefully, it will keep you from spinning out of control.

Out of control? Plan a vacation. (I’m serious!)
Something amazing happens to our productivity level when we know we’re going to be out of the office for a few days. Somehow, we find a way to get all those things on our “to do” list done. Try it. You’ll get caught up and you’ll be headed somewhere fun for a couple of days. When you get back from vacation, try to keep things in order. You’ll be glad you did.

~Nancy Barry
Recent College Graduate Expert, Campus Calm

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