What’s the main thing within your business that gives you that feeling of worry in the pit of your stomach?
For me, it hits at times when I’m not as organised. With the best will and planning in the world, there are times when the tasks build up, there’s more work to arrange and sign off, more projects to deliver, and new initiatives to work on. At this point I feel and recognise the pressure rising, and realise that I’ve let my organisation skills slip.
Often this results in feelings of being overwhelmed by the mass of daily things you have to deal with, which results in a fear of missing something important. Daily things might include:
- 100+ emails arriving in your inbox each day
- Demands on your time from multiple team members
- Keeping on top of who is responsible for completing which tasks this week, this fortnight, or this month
- Business planning you need to do today, tomorrow, next week, next month or in six month’s time
Building a system to get organised and keep you organised is key to your success and happiness.
One of the most overlooked pieces of technology for staying organised is likely to already be at your fingertips. Microsoft Outlook.
Have you or your team ever had Outlook training?
Have you ever adapted the way you work to fit the way Outlook is designed to keep you organised?
Do you truly understand and maximise the use of Outlook features including categories, folders, follow up flags, tasks, custom searches and rules?
The benefits of staying organised in business (and in life) are many:
- Less stress: A feeling of calm by being in control of your own workload and work environment
- Greater productivity: Knowing what you need to do and by when – because your system tells you, without you having to remember
- Better reputation: Getting back to people when expected and not missing deadlines
- Meeting your goals: A better opportunity to plan and monitor progress against your goals
There is science behind this. Spend some time Googling time management and you’ll quickly find out the human brain is not designed to store lists, not designed to prioritise and re-prioritise lists, not designed to remember the tens or hundreds of daily tasks that help to run a successful business.
Getting things out of your head and into some kind of organised system helps make sense of the tasks at hand. MindTools provides some quality resources to help with time management – https://www.mindtools.com/pages/main/newMN_HTE.htm.
There are lots of other task management tools out there, and it’s often tempting to pick up the latest sparkly cloud based task software that claims to be better than the last one. But if you already have Microsoft Outlook and use Microsoft Exchange to host your mailboxes, I encourage you to learn how to use it fully. Watch a slightly cheesy but eye opening video series on how Harry got organised – https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Outlook-Best-Practices-How-Harry-got-organized-eaca7cd4-707c-475a-b308-0cfb1c24686d. Here’s a copy of the introduction to the course:
“Follow Harry as he learns to use Outlook to master the increasing email and time management struggles that come with greater responsibility at work. Harry’s mentor, Renee, demonstrates how to manage email, tasks, and calendar features together in a system. The system is based on the teachings of many productivity experts, and shows best practices for how to use Outlook.”
I put this into practice in July 2014, 8 months ago, and I won’t lie, it took 3 month’s of persistence, hard work, resisting the temptation of trying something different and shiny when the going got tough, and crucially for me to change how I work to make it effective. Whether you like change or not, over the last 15 years if you’ve used a mobile phone, Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook, then you’ve learned a new piece of technology to communicate better and be more productive. You’ve changed how you approach something, and this is no different.
I used to think I was organised, but that was before I started building and trusting my present system for staying organised, which is greatly helped by using Outlook properly. Now I’m more productive and more organised than I ever was before.
Like anything that is difficult to achieve it has its rewards, I now enjoy:
- Less stress: My inbox is usually 25 items or less, so I can see just one page of emails that need my attention
- Greater productivity: I set a follow up flag once for an email I need to return to and then file it away, and Outlook reminds me in 1 day, 2 weeks or 4 months to return to it
- Better reputation: For getting back to people – be it internal members of the team or customers, suppliers and partners
- Increased efficiency: I can find what I need faster because of the folder, category and custom search system I use
By spending a little dedicated time on my system and organisation skills during each day, and planning tomorrow’s work at the end of today – I trust my system, and consistently get more of the important things done.
It’s a great feeling, I achieve more in my working life, I sleep well, it saves me time, and I enjoy more time in my personal life as a result.
The key to your success and happiness – embracing technology to stay organised.
Let me know how you get on!