We’re a little more than halfway through 2017, and I can say without a doubt that this has been one of the busiest, most frenetic years on record for me—both in my professional and personal life. In my professional life, new projects, planned initiatives and unexpected fire drills have kept me more than busy. Outside of my career, unexpected life stresses, new opportunities and sudden about-face changes have not let me get a moment’s rest.
It's times like these—when everything is happening at once—that make it important to keep yourself organized and proactive in your approach. When things get unusually busy, especially for extended periods of time, it can be very easy to become distracted, and for typically-routine, systematic processes to veer off course.
According to the Huffington Post, the average office employee spends 1.5 hours per day, or six weeks per year just looking for things (files, paperwork, emails, etc.). According to Information Week, which quoted a Forbes ASAP study, the typical executive wastes 150 hours a year (almost an entire month), searching for lost information. For someone earning $50,000 a year, this loss is equivalent to $3,842 annually.
A 2011 survey by OfficeMax notes that nine out of 10 Americans feel that disorganization and clutter have a negative impact on their work and personal lives, with 77 percent noting it damages productivity. Indeed, amending or correcting the things that fall through the cracks can often take longer than if they were addressed appropriately in the first place. And let’s not forget damaged reputations, potential legal woes, or how easily lost profits and/or exponential fees and fines from things not addressed can add up.
The good news is, it’s never too late to streamline your life—both professionally or personally. Here’s a look at four key things you can do now to spare you headaches later:
Track your work/create a running to-do list
Amazingly, in 2017 there are still quite a few folks who do not have any sort of process for keeping track of the things they need to do. Whether it’s pen and paper or sticky notes, interactive calendars or more advanced solutions like spreadsheets, project management programs or dedicated automated workflows in software programs—do something!
For some, the idea of learning a new process or diving headfirst into what can seem like a confusing software program can set off panic. But rest assured, once you learn the processes and get in a rhythm, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done this years ago. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, have someone walk you through or even set up programs for you so that you can start taking advantage of their value. You’ll quickly find how easy it is to move from one task to another and soon, you’ll find just how productive you can be.
Invest in (and properly train with) technologies that automates processes
As noted above, many software solutions and technologies available today are designed to increase productivity, save time and streamline processes. In construction, these solutions range from leading-edge mobile technologies in the field, to collaboration and document management software to innovative project management solutions to full-suite ERP platforms combining accounting, project management, equipment management, service management, document management, inventory, human resources, payroll and much more.
When evaluating these options, it’s important to look at which of these solutions (and their developers) stay on the cutting-edge. Are these solutions scalable for the future? Do developers consistently reinvest into research and development, continuously improving the products in ways that are virtually seamless to clients? Is round-the-clock support available to help you solve problems? Are there roadmaps for future ideas and developments? If the answers are yes, then the return on investment in these solutions will be far greater—and quicker—than with those that are not as rigorously reinvested into.
Think about it in terms of purchasing a home computer. Would you purchase a model that will be out of date and unsupported in a couple of years from now, or would you invest in one that is adaptable to future technologies being developed now?
And what good is having the latest tools and technologies if you or your team will not use them to their full potential? Rigorously explore solutions complete functionality. Invest in proper training and ensure the rest of your team or company is doing the same. Without buy-in by everyone who is going to use them, even the most advanced solutions will wind up underperforming.
Back yourself up
Of course, with any company, project or other defined work, the most critical element is your data. The last thing you want to do is lose all the hard work and progress you’ve already achieved.
Too often there have been stories of people or organizations that have lost all of their data due to a natural disaster, a hardware or software failure, or even a cyberattack. Make sure you can still work from your data and not lose a step should something unexpected occur. There’s nothing worse for productivity than having to start over from scratch.
Tackle the hard, don’t-want-to-think-about stuff first.
A final tip: When faced with a laundry list of tasks, start with the hardest, most involved ones first. If you’re like me and faced with multiple different projects in a single day or wear multiple hats, then you can find that work stacks up on you quickly. This can create a rabbit hole where you feel like you constantly have more work than you have time for, which can lead to procrastination, which can lead to falling behind schedule, or worse, important work falling through the cracks.
In order to sidestep that rabbit hole, I try and focus on the largest, or most critical tasks first and get them off my plate as soon as possible. By jumping right in, you shake off the distraction of worrying about how it will get done or trying to over-organize/prioritize. Plus, once you get on a roll, by the time these major tasks are completed, you’ll often find you are in a zone and the simpler tasks can be handled quicker and easier. Before you know it, your productivity will reach new heights.
How are you striving to get better organized and what tools are you using to do so?