By Rob Farmer, Director, Landis Communications, Inc.
It’s not that I was previously a scramble-brained clutter junkie. But, like any modern-day professional, I was in need of some organization in my life – work life, primarily.
In the Public Relations industry, you either keep up or you get swept aside. There is little argument that ours is a demanding industry – moving at a break-neck pace and constantly changing. P.R. pros must always be ready to react quickly, adapt on the fly and navigate a roaring river of deadlines. This means being prepared. And the best way to be prepared is to be organized.
And so it was that I found myself in need of a better way. And it wasn’t until joining the team at LCI that I was shown the light. In a 15-year career with management responsibilities, I had evolved to rely upon homegrown systems – self taught and self reliant. I knew what worked for me and stubbornly depended on my “proprietary” methods for getting things done. Unfortunately that meant an in-box that was rarely empty and a desk that was always a mess. After all, I had come to P.R. from the world of journalism, where an office piled high with front pages from an era gone by was not only accepted, it was a point of pride.
No more. Today, a cluttered office looks to me less like the workspace of a busy and important individual than it does a fire hazard. And an in-box with no bottom is representative of an in-box operator with no method for finding the bottom. Over past months, with the guidance of the outstanding organizing and productivity consultant Tiffany Holton, I have become happily, obsessively, organized.
For the first time in my professional life, I have been shown a better way than my way. I was no indignant skeptic going into the consultation, but I was apprehensive – unsure of how it might work, or what ingrained habits I would be forced to reconcile. Turns out, those old bugaboos and demons were quick to be shown the exit. In their place are new (still forming) habits that have not only helped my productivity, but also my psyche.
The hectic pace of the workplace is no longer as daunting as it once seemed. Now, I am armed with a strategy to accomplish even the most complex tasks and time-intensive projects. And my office looks more like a place of cool, collected order and less like my 3-year-old daughter’s room after a playdate.
I won’t get into the nitty gritty here – and of course there is no one-size-fits-all method for individual productivity. But here are some VERY top-level tactics that immediately resonated with me:
1. Get the in-box (email and physical) to “zero” every day.
2. Keep only one thing on your desk at a time – the thing you’re working on.
3. Keep your to-do list as short as possible and as long as needed.
4. Prioritize and categorize.
5. If it takes 2 minutes or less, do it NOW.
I can’t say enough about how number 5, ALONE, has made a difference in my life. And when I say “life” I mean that, yes, this has also begun to transform all aspects of my life –trickling out of the office and into my home life (much to the consternation of my wife!).
As the system becomes more ingrained in my DNA (I’m far from being completely evolved!) I’ve started to wonder: Why doesn’t everybody do this? Indeed most people can use some method by which they attempt to make sense of a busy world. In the P.R. realm, a semblance of organization is essential. My new approach to scaling the workload mountain has been transformative. I’d love to hear from my fellow industry colleagues about their secrets to organizational success. What’s your one go-to tactic for staying in control?
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