My Dad used to tell a story about his early days in the workplace. This was well before we all had a computer on our desk (or even in the workplace at all). His solution to managing his workload was to have an in-tray, an out-tray and a “kk” tray. “kk” was his code for “can’t cope”. If he had anything on his desk which he didn’t know how to deal with, he would put it in the “kk” tray. Throughout the day, people would come to his desk, looking for reports and documents. They were invariably in his “kk” tray and would be taken away by someone else. That was his solution to organising his workload.
Now I don’t suggest this is a good way to plan your work, but at least it was an attempt to get organised.
How can being organised help productivity?
We often think that productivity is measured by the speed we get work done. In the UK, productivity levels are falling, yet we still work long hours. So the speed at which we work is only part of the issue.
What would happen if we were more organised (at home, as well as work)? You may feel that you don’t have time to be organised, or that you work better with some chaos around you. Many people deliberately keep piles of paper on their desk, and they always claim to know exactly which pile they can find a particular document. But they might be missing a trick. Just the process of organising the stuff on our desks can help to organise it in our minds. It can also help reduce our stress. Looking at piles of papers can cause our subconscious minds to get overwhelmed at the tasks we see before us.
Time spent getting your employees organised is time well spent
A study in 2017 found that UK employees spend over a quarter of their day searching for information. This might be because the previous expert has left, with the knowledge locked in their head. Or it may be because companies have not invested in retrieval systems or technology to store information.
Imagine if you could reduce that figure. Reducing it by a half would mean your employees were each productive for an hour more each day.
There is a school of thought which says that every hour spent planning and getting organised saves three or four hours of time that would otherwise be wasted. The return on investment is huge for being organised yourself and for putting systems in place to organise your employees.
My 7 point checklist for being organised
If you want to improve productivity in your business, then my 7 point checklist for being organised is this:
- Action things immediately. Don’t ignore papers or emails – action them now or put in a diary entry. Then file the document or put the email in a folder – or destroy them if you don’t need them. This will help to keep desks clear.
- Only action email at specific times during the day, don’t check them constantly. Just because you have an email, it doesn’t need an immediate response. If something is really urgent, then you will get a phone call or a visit.
- Get rid of the to do list(s)– just put an action in your diary. You don’t have to remember everything and you have already planned when it will be achieved. It is one less document to keep hanging around.
- Make full use of technology and organisational structures. Things like setting timers in meetings; single point information retrieval; automation of tasks.
- Take regular breaks and work sensible hours and make your staff do the same. Productivity falls steeply after about six hours, so you need a break in the day to refresh your mind and give productivity a boost.
- “Eat frogs” – (ie. do the unpleasant thing you are dreading first, then it doesn’t hang over you). And you get an energy boost when it is finished which will fuel you through the day.
- Plan your day the night before. Then you are less likely to be sidetracked by “urgent” things cropping up during the day. It also gives a sense of fulfilment at the end of the day, which is a great way to end your day.
How can a strategic HR overhaul help you with productivity?
If you involve an HR strategist in your business plans and initiatives, they can help you to understand the impact of those decisions. We can help you to produce a bespoke strategy which works for your business. That strategic plan provides the basis of policies and guidelines around the particular business area which is under review. In short, we can help you get organised.
A strategic HR plan means you are not rushing to do things at last minute when they become urgent. This ensures you have the right skills and experience within your team to manage any challenges which come your way.
A strategic HR plan could include relevant training requirements for managers and staff. It would also build in some accountability steps to help you keep on track, and provide any relevant overviews and refresher training plans.
If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information on dealing with this – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.
Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR . She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list? Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.