Organizing Yourself, Your Office and the Work Routine
It has been a week since you began your new position and you are probably beginning to think about the week-end. Like many of us, you will be taking work home. Most technical or managerial positions, if you want to be successful, require a great deal of extra effort during the initial phase of getting to know your new structures, communications, people, and activities.
Time and reflection are needed in order to get your thoughts organized and head cleared before coming back to work on Monday. Hopefully, it has been a good week. You have learned much about your new organization. Much more must be learned and absorbed. Each new experience has probably led to additional questions. This is not a bad thing! If you are not increasing in questions to be asked, problems to resolve and things to learn, you may not have taken a position that will help you grow personally and professionally!
The orientation training, maybe a touch on safety, huge time spend on complex benefits packages, necessary office rules, etc., so much that you cannot remember much, as it is just a blur for now. Hopefully you will remember when your first pay check is to arrive. This too is normal. We expect people to retain a great deal of information based on one brief encounter. The human “Learning Curve” always comes into play with training. Unless there is some form of refresher, humans will only maintain information that is routinely practiced and used.
Before the week is finished, we have several agenda items to cover. You should be developing a method to structure your activities and time. This structure will help keep you focused on the essential critical tasks and ensure that they are prioritized and organized. Start by writing down all the tasks, assignments, and known issues. This simple action will aid in reducing the overwhelming emotions that can develop and freeze your action planning. The mental anguish of “What have I gotten myself into!” is better controlled when you write things down.
Start the sorting out of your office and files. This action is taught by most time management gurus as a stress reducing and efficiency technique. The small success of simply clearing out unnecessary clutter and having an administrative process begin can be comforting if nothing else. Get things in order! As we referenced in Day 2, this will be an ongoing affair. Nathan remembered a time when he was under high stress. His desk looked like a battlefield with him hiding behind a semi-circular mound of files and paper. After a time management course, he spent a Saturday cleaning, filing, and trashing his office. Everything had a home and could be found. He didn’t realize that colleagues in the office had noted his “work habits”. People remarked that they had thought he had quit seeing the office so neat and organized! People do observe!
If you wish to be seen as an organized, focused person, then, guess what, you have to be organized and focused. Not to the extreme, constant organizing and revising is the opposite of appearing busy through an unorganized area. Either may indicate a person that is hiding behind both debris and clutter or an efficiency shield with nothing truly getting done, only a front being presented. Have you seen a financial or lawyers office? These offices tend to clutter to the walls with much paper.
One of the most important things is to make use of a daily planner, Microsoft Outlook (TM), or other devices to keep notes, set priorities, and maintain your schedule, calls/messages and calendar. This is an art in itself. Finding the balance between a structured day and the need for flexibility is essential. Nathan uses Outlook for calendar, contacts and projects along with a simple composition book to record phone calls, observations, etc. I used Lotus Notes for meeting notification and scheduling. One method that was taught to me by one of my mentors was to take a sheet of paper and simply fold it into 8 sections. This would be your note pad for the day, cheap, and easy to pocket and file. It works quite well if you have to keep hands free most of the time.
You need to use a method that you feel comfortable with. The organization may already dictate the method that you are to use. You may prefer a very formal looking binder or software or whatever works for you. Cell phones, iPods, PDAs, etc., all are beginning to offer applications that make memos and notes, etc. easy to develop as well as sync to a computer.
Why do this? As you begin to establish your organizational “Your Brand”, the meetings, return phone calls, response to questions and other actions are of particular importance in the early days of your job. “Can you be relied on” is on the minds of your colleagues and those that are relying on your expertise.
Organize Your Office With The Information That You Need For Your Job.
As you organize your office, begin the organizing and review of all current and known data that may be associated with your job. This is both in hardcopy and in any electronic versions. Your computer files should be as organized as your paper files. What is the critical information you must have and document to do your job on a daily basis? As example in the safety arena, this could be the various risk management and safety programs, meetings, loss analyses, insurance loss runs (workers’ compensation, auto liability, general liability, and property claims history), accident investigations, and near miss reports. Each specialty requires specific data, quality control data, financial records, human resources, security, etc. Organizer gurus say if it can’t be found, it is no longer knowledge or information, just clutter!
Ask if you can get on any distribution lists and if you have access to online databases for information specific to your job and discipline. These internal reports will provide insights on where to go for underlying issues and problem areas.
Data Is Like Driving a Car Using data is like driving a car while looking into a rearview mirror. However, to begin the work of eliminating repeating types of problems, data analysis is an essential function. The data when properly analyzed provides targeted areas to implement the problem solving and control process. The data can show where “low hanging fruit” is for a few early successes as well as devising long term solutions to hard core issues.
In most cases, you will need a multi-period history of data to begin any type of trending. “Point in Time” data (comparing one time to another) may be interesting but not helpful Evaluate the data and how it has been presented. Is it in an understandable form that provides information for management and employees? Does it communicate a clear picture of the patterns and behaviors over time of the organization? Can you begin to set priorities with the current data? If your analyzing skills are limited, research out Six Sigma Black Belt techniques that can be used develop and analyze data. Data driven decisions and the ability to translate the data into concise reports and presentations is a must learn skill.
Organizing your day – Continue getting out and about
As discussed in Day 4, spend time each day out where the action is occurring, where the work is being done, no matter the role that you play in an organization. All of this acquired data and information is only theory until you can match it with what is happening. Talk to as many people as you can, asking questions and listening intently. Constant networking is essential and the only way to network is to simply make the effort to get around and talk to all levels of the organization.
You may have to begin to suggest corrective actions or intervene when you see specific uncontrolled problem situations. This is why you took the time to get your purpose, mission, responsibilities and authority clear. The first times you have to intervene into an issue will require tack and a bit of diplomacy. Remember that the politics are different in each situation and you have to adjust accordingly. Jumping down someone’s throat, a demeaning approach, being overbearing will shut down future communications. Set a tone that is professional, listen to the “why” a situation exist, explain the issue and make sure that a team approach is desired.
Make the effort to be viewed as a knowledgeable team player and problem solver, not an obstacle. If the observed issue cannot be resolved quickly, work with the area management in finding alternatives.
Day 5 Summary As you organize, begin to align and match your observations with the data and assessments completed. Continue to make sure your manager knows what you are doing! Take time to communicate upward to your management and in all directions to those you work and associate. Organizing isn’t a one shot effort, work at it daily.