Last week, my wife and I had a delightful dinner at a local restaurant. However, the waitress chose not to write down our orders and they were incorrect. That seems to happen almost every time the order is not written down.
We can learn a valuable professional lesson from the waitress: organization is essential, even when it doesn’t seem so. You can distinguish yourself by staying organized whether its your email, your paper files, your schedule, or your time management.
I am surprised when a colleague asks me to forward an email that was already sent. This shows that the employee has not set up a system to organize saved emails. David Silverman has some excellent tips to manage your inbox. For example, he recommends “daily scrubbing” because “I brush my teeth twice a day. And every day, I run through every email in my inbox to see if I can get rid of it.”
We live in a digital world where documents and messages are almost all available on the computer. However, the lesson from the waitress who tried to remember my order is that there is value in writing things down and keeping organized paper files. If you take notes during a meeting, be sure to file that appropriately or type it for the digital file. In the nonprofit sector, we often get written correspondence from donors that needs to be saved. Make sure you are keeping a logical file system – eHow has some tips on where to start. (These are meant for your home but can be applied to your office as well.)
Your schedule is difficult to manage given the meetings, appointments, travel, and events you need to attend. A written system is essential to make sure you are on time for appointments and so you can adequately prepare. I keep a digital calendar but also write down my schedule to ensure that nothing is missed. Be sure to also include any weekly events you attend so as not to double book yourself.
Once you are organized, your life will seem less chaotic and cluttered. You will be able to focus and get more done because you won’t spend time worrying about when you agreed to meet someone, where you put an old email, where you put an invoice from last summer, or that letter from an important donor. Don’t be like the waitress who makes a mistake that could be prevented.
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