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Preplanning Next Day's Work
Start your new approach to getting organized by keeping a small legal pad—5” x 7” is a handy size—and a pen or pencil next to the monitor. Head the top of the sheet with the next day, in other words, sitting by my monitor is a pad with the next day, for example, “Friday,” written at the top. When a task that needs to be done the next day occurs to you, jot it down.
The reason for using a pad and pen instead of some kind of electronic memo keeper is ease of access. Human behavior dictates that the more trouble to do something is, the less likely it will be done. Grabbing a pen or pencil to make a note is less trouble than stopping something productive you were doing in order to open some other program, enter the task, save it, close it, and get back to work.
Another reason for using a manual method is it is quite possible you will think of something else that should be done the next day after the computer is turned off. When you are ready to quit for the day, go through the list. Any tasks that are no longer required cross them off. Then number the remaining items in priority order, 1, 2, 3, and so forth.
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Using Planning Software Effectively
The above home office organization step does not mean that one abandons electronic resources. Microsoft Outlook includes several features that help with organizing work flow. Other email software may do the same. In Outlook, clicking on the “Tasks” link opens a window listing current tasks with a box to enter new tasks. Use this feature for things that need to happen at some point in the near future.
The “To-Do Bar” can be kept open on Outlook to display more details about individual near term tasks. Another Outlook feature that will keep you on track with your organizational plan is the Calendar. Use this to enter not just appointments, but simple reminders, such as “Run backup software at 5:00 PM every Friday.” These kinds of reminders are different from true work task lists. Setting the recurrent frequency in this example to be weekly starting with the coming Friday will instantly set up reminders that will pop up on your screen.
While most decent backup software includes and automatic scheduling option, the disadvantage to using it is that there may come times when you really do not want to run a backup at the scheduled time. By using the Calendar option, you can choose to postpone the reminder to a future time.
This example of maximizing the use of scheduling options represents one of the cardinal points of organization. Everything like this that can be done once and takes care of future actions is better than having to think of regularly occurring tasks and set up reminders every time. It also means that you do not have to waste time thinking about this kind of thing at random times, which often will interrupt something more productive.
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Organize Materials Needed Tomorrow Today
Another good approach to home office organization also can take place at the close of day. If space permits, get a desk accessory called an Incline File. This is a small metal holder for file folders with staggered upright slots on an inclined base. Office Depot has a model #393-138-096 that is perfect for the task. If that is too big, use a three-tier sorter box or even a mini-sorter. Don’t use stacking desk trays because it is too easy for things to get buried in them.
Label several file folders with typical jobs that you do on a regular basis. If there is anything in the way of research notes, articles, fact sheets, etc. that will be needed for the list of tomorrow’s tasks drop them tonight into the appropriate folder before leaving the work area. When you come to the associated task the next day, the needed material will be ready to use.
These simple proactive steps to getting organized and improving organizational skills in advance will pay off in time-saving and reduced frustration in the long run.