An informal research study

Organisation and motivation has fascinated me forever. In looking more closely at professional organising I wanted to better understand the organisational pain points people have within their homes and how important the aesthetic was to them.

My aim? To test my assumptions, to dive a little deeply through the experience of others, to get to the nitty gritty to see what I could learn about optimal organisational solutions. So in February 2020 I emailed 20 colleagues and friends to ask if they would help me with this, noting all data would be de-identified.

So what did I learn? Well, lots actually.

What really surprised me above all else?

What stood out for me in this study was a whopping 25% of participants underestimated the (positive) impact that getting more organised (sorting and decluttering) would have on their psyche. They initially rated getting more organised as low in urgency to fix and yet on deeper questioning six out of 20 participants acknowledged what a positive impact better organisation, systems and decluttering would have on their state of mind.

Our brains like us being organised. There lots of research/science on cognitive overload and the effects clutter has on us. The stuff we own exerts some sort of power over us and if we dig below the stuff we find the impression it creates of us. The symbol of how successful, happy, laidback or meticulous we perceive ourselves to be. But now I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s a subject for another article…


Twenty (20) participants – their demographics are as follows:

  • Identifying as 4 male and 16 female; working full time/part time; retired professionals or on maternity leave;
  • Single and partnered;
  • Living with; and without children (ages – toddlers to university students);
  • In freestanding houses, apartments, cottages and farms across Victoria, ACT and NSW.


Fifty per cent of participants saw themselves as 7 or above (on a scale to 10) of Q 3 ‘How organised are you? Six people noted that they were much more organised in their past than they are now, citing chronic illness and getting older as reasons for organisation ‘being not so important now’. Kids leaving home was another reason; ‘I don’t need to be organised anymore; I don’t need to cook or do kids’ washing – I don’t even need to BE at home!’ Conversely, one participant has become more organised with age stating ‘when trying to fit in with family needs, organisation took a back seat. Organisation was never a big deal but when kids left home – I realised how much I liked it – gave me a sense of being calmer with less stress.’

One hundred per cent of people stated the aesthetic of their home was ‘very or extremely important’ to them with one clarifying that ‘aesthetic to me is not just the look but how it all fits together’. The two people who were less than satisfied with the aesthetic in their homes stated this was because their homes were unfinished; ie small building projects were incomplete which led to frustration because ‘the aesthetic isn’t as good as it could be or would be’.

Six areas where people struggle with organisational pain points

Responses to Q 5 ‘What is your biggest struggle with organisation within your home?’ were diverse.

Three people said they didn’t struggle and the remainder gave the following examples:

  • Disorganisation:
    • I don’t know where to start’
    • ‘First issue is I always need a handyman to do a lot of little jobs – ie a list of 10 to get sorted and only then could I concentrate for further organisation.’
  • Lack of space / lack of need:
    • ‘Buying more when there’s no room – or it’s not needed’
    • ‘I had more than 5 bags of rice in my pantry all in different spots’
    • ‘Having to cull / having to work out what to keep or not to keep’
  • Lack of time:
    • ‘Working and managing family life is frenetic’
    • ‘I’m a busy working mum with only so many hours in a day’
  • Partner’s differing level of organisation:
    • ‘Husband is a mild hoarder; it’s in his DNA; his parents were refugees
    • ‘Constantly unsettled by the change my wife needs/creates’
    • ‘He’s the organised one; I’m a bit lazy’
  • House incomplete:
    • Incomplete equals ugly’
    • ‘Nothing I can do to fix it until it’s complete’
  • Procrastination / Laziness / Motivation / Lack of prioritizing:
    • I do the fun jobs first then leave the pile of things till last’
    • ‘Due to chronic health condition’
    • ‘I wait until I’ve got several dishes to wash up rather than just a few… it’s boring; it doesn’t interest me’

Examples of the biggest struggles

Examples of the biggest struggle with organisation included paperwork and dishes, photo collections and technology, robe/linen doors missing, pantries, robes, studies and garages and that dumping ground near the front door.

‘I have a lack of time; only so much space – it can look tidy on the outside; but I’d be as surprised as you are to look inside it and see what’s there. I can barely close certain drawers; I never label boxes; I just put things away in a cupboard and a week later I’ve forgotten what’s in it. It’s also lack of prioritising for me – I know I should do it; but I wouldn’t choose to do it – ‘I’ll do that one day’. 

Buying excessively came up repeatedly:

       ‘I’m buying unneccesary clothes – now getting out of that habit with help of the ‘2nd hand sisters’ 

       ‘I’m looking for ways to reduce marketing – ie emails and notification about shopping specials’

       ‘Kitchen – why do I stock pile/buy in bulk? Preparing for the great depression (intergenerational learning) that is not a reality!’ 

What is the worst thing about this?

The next two sub-questions drilled further into what makes these examples such a challenge and asked what is the worst thing about that?

Visual annoyance was the most common answer; ‘knowing it’s there frustrates me’ followed by not being able to find things; followed by ‘not being able to close my cupboards’.

The worst thing for one person was the concern ‘Am I going to regret throwing that away’. Another lamented ‘I don’t know why procrastination is such a challenge for me; I wish I did.’ And another living solo said ‘the judgement of others is the worst thing (my mother); it often feels like ground hog day.’

Ten people; (50%) of the group rated its importance to solve as a high priority (ratings above 7/10) with polarised quotes below:

‘It’s very important to solve – the aesthetic (and organised look) is very, very important to me – I like to feel good in every room otherwise I get agitated.’

‘Happy wife, happy life.’


‘When you have a whole list of responsibilities relative to other things it is not important.’

The big surprise

Surprisingly however, even though solving the organisational struggle was not given a high priority by 10 people; 16 people if fact answered positively to the question regarding ‘What would it mean in your life to have this solved?’

The comments included:

‘Big benefit as I can tick off a permanent to do list in back of brain’ 

‘Means a calmer life; it’s part of me wanting to make better choices for myself and the planet – have less of a footprint. Learning to appreciate less; which is not what my upbringing taught me (quite the opposite in fact); but that smaller is better and sometimes you feel better with less.’

‘It would mean I would probably eliminate frustration from my life.’

‘I’d rather her have sex with me; I’d rather have a happy relationship than having to have it all my way.’

‘If my house was more organised; if I made organising a priority I reckon I’d feel more of a sense of control. Sometimes that feeling of lack of control is a bit overwhelming.

More control + less overwhelm and I think I would tend to feel a bit calmer.

‘Wouldn’t have to chip away at it/think about it. Would lessen my annoyance/frustration.’

‘Probably an extra 5 hours a week lost on anxiety because of procrastination.’

‘Relief; sense of satisfaction; more pleasant difference to the atmosphere.’

‘Be so relieved – I would feel organised.’

‘A lot happier – (once deck finished) would mean we could save dollars for other things.’

‘It would be terrific – I think clutter is not good for your soul.’

‘Would make my head feel clearer.’

What isn’t working for you?

Q7. What have you tried so far that has not yielded significant benefit?

Examples included:

‘Just tried to make do’

‘Keeping things for a rainy day’

‘Tupperwear containers that are not see through, don’t work.’

‘Doing it myself or getting partner to do it. I don’t have energy, he doesn’t have time. Getting help from family too onerous – everyone has jobs and are busy.’

‘I did throw out /donate books but it just filled up again; I hired a skip and threw out crap but it’s a work in progress’

‘We built a big cupboard in the garage to store everything in but it just filled up straight away; that fixed the garage but not the house. The space I have is over subscribed’

‘Re organisation of kids (in the past) tried getting angry with kids threatening them with missing out on things’

‘One room per month – idea that lasted 2 minutes then I lost interest…’

‘Post it notes and coloured stickers. Moving pile from left to right is seriously unproductive.’

‘Have raised the issue with my partner –  it’s an uncomfortable issue – he doesn’t think it is important.’

‘Re photos – have put them in box – I take it out and then put it away’

What is working for you?

Q8. What have you tried that has resulted in some success?

‘Once upon a time I would clean out all cupboards every six months and clean all walls and ceilings every six months…I’ve always been conscious of getting rid of superfluous.’

‘I don’t know – having a cleaner come in fortnightly has helped’

‘Having space in the pantry; space in front of things.’

‘Learning from others and replicating their ideas; Maree Kondo – little boxes with folded undies and socks worked…checking my connection with things…Putting like things with like; that when I put all my dresses together I really saw just how many I had and how overly abundant that really was; I didn’t need all those dresses. I didn’t wear all those dresses…Also putting winter wardrobe away in suitcase; work for space and also keep them fresh for the change around; you feel like you have a new wardrobe…’

‘Getting rid of a heap of stuff – eliminating; also getting systems/processes in place ie three baskets; one for clean clothes; one for dirty (dark colours) and dirty (light colours) clothes…has worked a treat’

‘I try to target an area regularly, so I deal with what it there.’

‘Do it as I go; pick up after others’

‘Put it into piles/ what we’ll keep/ what we’ll chuck and what I want his opinion on/ give him choices/ involve him in the decision-making process; sometimes it can be overwhelming for him. Put important things into a folder; find a space for it – if something is important you should value it/respect it not just shove it a drawer out of sight’.

‘Wait till it’s totally overwhelming and then do it.’

‘Filing drawers, plastic sleeves for completed/ not completed. Allocate a day a month to do it; not having paperwork in my line of sight all the time. Less worry about how messy it is: doesn’t get put away – until it’s completed. Got a dedicated key spot with this place – it works – it’s perfect.’

‘I’m a collector; everything is in alphabetical order; systematic. With cooking there is a place for everything; everything has a home in the kitchen.’

‘Dressed the area as best we can to make it look okay – rug/furniture; plants; looks as good as it can without being finished.’

‘I try to keep the floor space open; I have a cleaner who comes fortnightly; We used 5 S at work (workplace organisation method) – Sort; Set in order; Shine; Standardise; Sustain.’

‘When I cleaned out that room I did find the letter box key which had been lost for a couple of years…’

What did you do?

Q9. What did you do that made it successful?

‘Taking time to make a phone call’

‘Made the choice to make it a priority’

‘Took action – third stage of pregnancy and nesting helped considerably’

‘Quicker action/ not quite so lazy’

‘It’s all about ‘now’; looking at the positives of committing to doing it’

‘Was careful; involved him; gave him the decision/facilitated his involvement in an easy way for him.’

‘Made it a priority’

‘Moving into smaller home has made me more vigilant re what I buy; that said my bathroom cupboard is still overflowing.’

‘The satisfaction of completing the circle; the flow of the household activities. It’s in eye of the beholder.’

‘I took control’

‘Made myself do it’

‘Took action’

In a perfect world?

Q10. In a perfect world, what would be available to solve this problem?

‘Someone comes to sit with me and make a list of what needs doing around the house and then a conversation about what other changes would suit this stage of your life in terms of inside the house and the garden. This person would have well priced and reliable handy persons and gardeners to make this happen and could give me prices and estimated times for delivery.’

‘Advise from an expert in organisation’

‘Someone like you helping me; having someone in your home with you helping makes a lot of difference.’

‘I would allocate time regularly; re the clutter thing; just not acquiring so much stuff – so quickly.’

‘My world couldn’t be much more perfect; it’s a long-term project; Immediately I see the benefit; in the long run I see the benefit also; committing doesn’t mean every day or every weekend it just means keeping being organised front of mind… the positive is the inspiration I get from the constant change (of furniture and re-arranging stuff).’

‘Perfect storage solutions – somewhere to go to find the right container/ right filing system/ the right aesthetic… if someone had that info; I find it overwhelming looking and measuring and figuring it out.’

‘Bek Goodwin (Bryant) living next door; I reckon if someone came in and did it with me; I would maintain it.’

‘A dishwasher; interaction with someone else – professional.’

‘I would say ‘let’s put cupboard doors on’ and he’d say ‘sure’, and would do it.’

‘The cleaner’

‘Someone to do it for me.’


‘Move into a medium-sized house; cleaner to keep coming; cleansing regularly is so important.’

‘Someone to come and do it for me – someone to get ruthless.’

‘People need to be ready. I have gravitated to small moments of change within your presence. You jab me gently.’


Analysing a slow payer is easy. Each debtor is going to fall into one of the following 4 categories.

  • Memory loss
  • Cash flow difficulties
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Poor Ethics

All you need do is ask the question ‘I note your account hasn’t been paid. Why is that?’

Reason 1: Memory Difficulty

The response is along the lines – ‘sorry I forgot’. Whilst we can imagine this happening as it does to most people at some time or another you need to ask ‘so when can I expect payment?’ Either you will be paid as promised or you won’t. If you do then the situation is contained for now. If you don’t then your debtor has ethical difficulties.

Memory difficulty can also be when YOU have forgotten to use a correct order or job number on your invoice. Approval for payment may then be delayed.

Reason 2: Cash Flow Difficulty

The typical response here is ‘sorry, things are really tight at the moment’. Whilst most of us can relate to this one your debtor had an obligation to discuss this issue with you before their account became overdue. You are therefore entitled to negotiate a payment plan. For example you could say ‘sorry to hear that but unfortunately this doesn’t help me pay my bills. How about you pay half now and half next month?’ Drive your debtor into making a commitment. Confirm it in writing via email.  Always expect a reasonable payment immediately. Either you will receive payments as promised or you won’t. If you do then the situation is contained. If you don’t, then your debtor has ethical difficulties.

Reason 3: Dissatisfaction

The response is along the lines ‘sorry but I wasn’t happy with the job you did’. Like having a cash flow difficulty your debtor had an obligation to discuss this issue with you before their account became overdue. However, what you need to do here is to fix the problem that your debtor has. They then have no excuse for not paying. Once you have fixed the problem you will either receive payment as promised or not. If you do then the situation is contained for now. If you don’t then your debtor has ethical difficulties.

Reason 4: Poor Ethics

The signs your debtor is having ethical difficulties is when they don’t respond to your calls or letters or because they have not kept one of the arrangements made above. Clearly your debtor has an ethical difficulty in making payment. This spells danger to your cash flow. Call in a specialist to help.

Does clutter make you feel overwhelmed & out of control?

Here is a simple checklist to use to create/refine a workspace that is effective, efficient & distraction free!  Check off each item as you complete the instructions & see what a difference it makes to your tendency towards clutter…

DESK management

  • Remove distracting objects from your field of view when sitting at your desk in the ready work position.  Place personal items & pictures in specific locations or behind you out of sight when working.  Remove & store out of sight excess (clutter!) ie pen or pencil holders, tape dispensers, staplers, or other tools that are not used daily.
  • Place your telephone(s) on weak side of desk (if right handed, then on your left side).
    Place your phone directory, next to the telephone.
    Remove note pads, & post-it note pads.
  • Use one calendar commitment system such as a day planner.  Keep your day planner open & ready to use on the desk strong side (right side if you are right handed).  Write all notes, commitments, voice-mails, & other items of interest there on a daily basis.
  • On the inside cover of your diary have a MASTER TO-DO-LIST; a page which is the ongoing list of tasks for you to achieve.
  • Type a list of all the phone numbers, codes, extensions, policy numbers & repeatedly required information & pin above your phone on your pin board. (Instead of several old post-it notes)
  • Grab a plastic-sleeved book and create your ‘bible’ of all the information you need at your fingertips. (I have one at home called, ‘To do, To buy, To get, To fix’ which hold all my bills and papers to be actioned.)
  • Create a place for everything & put it back after you’ve used it.

Aim for effectiveness, not neatness. Neatness as an end in itself can even be risky: Putting things away just to clear clutter off your desk can cause you to lose or forget them. At the end of the day put everything left in one pile for sorting, first thing the next morning.

Clutter is rarely caused by insufficient space or time. The culprit is usually indecisiveness. So be selective about what you bring into your office. If you are clear about what you value & what your goals are, being selective is not hard.

In-Trays & Toaster racks

  • Establish a visibly labelled In-Tray “For Bek” outside the opening to your office area for others to use.
  • Create an ‘URGENT’ In-Tray, an ‘IMPORTANT’ & ‘PENDING’ In-Tray.  Place these trays together, out of eyesight, to avoid eye jumping.  Prioritise all the items in each basket placing the highest priority item on top.  Create & place your ‘FINISHED’ In-Tray where it may be seen. File its contents once a week.
  • Have a toaster rack for clearly labelled manilla folders that are being used today/this week.


  • Establish TALK-TO-Files for each colleague or team member to store notes & communications that will be shared at one or two planned times.  (Kept in Toaster rack)
  • Establish READ-File for articles, updates or other materials you would like to read.  (Kept in Toaster rack)
  • Establish REFERENCE & HISTORICAL files out of sight, in filing cabinets.
  • Use color-coded folders for easy visual identification of files (eg red – projects, blue – people, green – read, etc.).  File alphabetically with titles you are familiar with.

I recommend you label the file properly. The easiest way to do this is to buy a label maker. They are inexpensive, neat, practical, small and easy to store in a drawer when you are done. File your folders alphabetically.

Don’t save paper that you’re not willing to spend time filing: every item needs one of the following actions –

1. Handle it
2. File it,
3. Delegate it
4. Get rid of it

The clean up process can take a lot of time. Obviously, the bigger the clutter and mess, the more effort will be involved in removing the items and applying the four options to each item. However, the reward at the end is well worth it.

At the end of the process, you should be left with a clean work area. The only things that should be left out are the things you are immediately working on. This is very important. At the end of the day, there should be nothing on the top of your desk except your monitor, telephone and minimal accessories such as two pens and two pencils in a holder. The only thing that should ever be on top of a workspace should be the one thing you are actively engaged in. Everything else that you are currently working on should be filed or delegated to someone else.

You can spend up to 40 hours a week sitting in that chair, taking in this space:

It is imperative that –

  •  it serve you
  • it please you
  • it be under your control.

It’s important to realise that control is the goal of organisation. Organization is not a goal – it is a process. Yet there can be no control without understanding.

When the habits of very organised people are closely scrutinized, some basic principles or methods for being organised become apparent.

These people

  • Create a place for everything – then put everything in its place. (An oldie but a goodie)
  • They don’t delay, they make a decision today!  – Procrastination is the enemy of an organised space.
  • One in/one out – an organised space requires a simple system for controlling what comes in and what goes out of your space.
  • Sort like with like – categorizing is an essential skill for organised living.

Did you know?

  • The average office has 19 copies of each document, yes 19.
  • 80% of papers filed are NEVER retrieved again.
  • People waste almost one hour per day trying to find misfiled, mis-labeled or misplaced items.
  • There was 50% more paper in offices in 2005 than there was in 1995.

So at some point soon we are going to turn off our computers, roll up our sleeves and take some control of this space. There may be things about this space that we cannot change but there are still many things we can do to make this area work more efficiently for you.

My aim is:

1.    to cull excess and remove clutter.
2.    to create a visually friendlier environment.
3.    to allow the capacity for more efficiency and flow.

An Organised Space Requires Logical Decision Making

“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide. “ – Napoleon Bonaparte

The achievement of an organised space requires constant decision making in order to set priorities and control the amount of ‘stuff’ coming into and leaving your space.

Historically, decision making has long been recognised as a challenging activity.

Decision making can be made even more challenging because of:

  • emotional interference
  • no knowledge or understanding of the decision making process
  • lack of experience with the decision making process
  • lack of awareness of the questions that need to be asked to promote decision making

Decision making can be thought of as a cognitive process whereby an individual chooses between a number of alternatives so there is a single course of action or outcome.

Logical and informed decision making is essential to gaining control of your situation. Emotional decision making seldom leads to control!

Let’s examine the first reason for difficulty with decision making more clearly to see how it can influence an organised space.

Emotional interference

Human beings might be made of flesh and bone but it is our emotions that control us. Emotions can make it difficult for some people to make even the simplest decisions needed for organised living such as:

“Do I toss or do I keep?”
“If I keep it where do I put it?”
“If I put it somewhere how do I get to it?” etc etc

If you see yourself in this description you are not alone.Most of the decisions made by human beings, in fact, in everyday life are based on what a person is feeling and not what a person is thinking!

Making decisions from an emotional base will very seldom lead to control. The only way to stop the emotional interference is to be aware of its influence. When you are having difficulty with a decision ask yourself these two questions.

  1. What am I thinking about this?
  2. What am I feeling about this?

Reflecting on the answers to these two questions will reveal whether it is the logic or the emotion that is influencing the decision.

That maxim, “Handle each piece of paper only once,” is too extreme to be realistic. But it contains a grain of truth. Do try to take the next action that’s required each time you handle a piece of paper. Either action directly or make a note in your appointment book/master-to-do list, to follow up/call later. Then you’re that much closer to being done with it.

  • Get focussed. Often we are own worst enemies, interrupting ourselves by jumping from one half-finished task to another. Stop doing “the desktop shuffle” – moving papers aimlessly around on your desk. Every time you handle an item, take an action towards completing it.
  • Write down & group your communications with individuals.  Share these communication lists at one or two planned times during the day.
  • Process your messages/email & other paperwork once or twice each day at planned times.
  • Computer files should be organised in file folders just like your paper or e-mail filing system for simplicity & ease of retrieval. Aim to keep your in-box empty. Archive all up till now, for ease & a clean slate. Use the ‘flag option’ in Outlook to choose dates as reminders…If the e-mail can be done in two minutes or less, take action & complete it.  Others may be dragged to the appropriate computer folder such as  URGENT Folder, Important Folder, or PendingFolder. When finished processing e-mails, your inbox should be totally empty.
  • Clean out & remove all unnecessary, closed, or unused files every six months (In your filing cabinet & in your PC)
  • Schedule appointments with yourself to get things done. Commit to spending time on the things you keep “not getting around to.”  When are you at your best & freshest – first thing in the morning maybe? – try to tackle the trickiest jobs then.
  • Beware of perfectionism. Most routine work doesn’t need to be done perfectly. Ask yourself — Is your effort disproportionate to the value of the task? Will other, more important projects be delayed as a result? Can you reduce the frequency or level of detail of this task?

Government Department NSW – Coffs Harbour Branch

The Brief:

Morale was low; the office was cluttered and staff were overwhelmed by excess paperwork and cramped conditions. An office renovation had taken place in 2008 whereby glass dividers were erected partly remedying the excess walkway noise. All contents had been removed and replaced in piles after construction was completed.

What I did:

  • Consulted with each individual in the space to discuss organisational bottle necks – ie what worked and what didn’t?
  • I organised, as the third party, a 4 hour period of time when everyone stopped work and concentrated on removing clutter and excess.
  • A fresh but subtle lime green colour was painted on two small but significant feature walls.
  • Each workstation had a fabric covered pinboard created and screwed into the divider. The purpose was threefold – to absorb more noise, to create individual privacy and to add a bright fresh place for information to be pinned. Staff were encouraged to put things that inspired them in this space also – ie their photos, prints, animations and favourite quotes.
  • Large leafy hardy potplants were purchased/collected – most of which were growing in water environments. Every monitor now had a large plant on an elevated platform, behind it.
  • The Main pinboard which was located in a tight walkway was painted the same fresh vibrant green rather than the previous dark purple, which immediately opened up the area, making it more inviting.
  • OH&S Pinboard was created in the walk way for appropriate information and policy adherance.
  • LIBRARY – Typically there are at least 16 copies of EVERY document in ANY office. 2 Libraries were created – one for the 80 Care Workers and one for the 6 Case Managers. All the major documents – awards, procedures etc were all collected from each station and one primary set was then assembled, collated and colour coded for each group to use.
  • Organisational tips and checklists were created for each workstation. I worked with each Case manager individually to reach a set place whereby they felt and could see, an enormous difference in their environment.

The feedback was overwhelming:

You have done an awesome job on the office! It was unbelievable to leave it Wednesday pm and walk in this am with a totally different look and feel. Everyone loves it!” 

“…I particularly like the plants and the green stripe dividers are nice and soothing…”

Once you’ve set goals, priorities, and a plan for achieving tasks, it’s important to take a critical look at how you perform those tasks. Ask a coworker to observe your work habits for one week and provide some constructive feedback; you might be surprised at what you learn.

Without steps to cultivate and maintain good work habits, your time-management efforts will be defeated. The following tips can help you stay on track:

Conquer the clutter

Schedule 10 to 15 minutes each week to clear your work area of junk mail, old papers, and other accumulated clutter. Change habits that lead to messes. Keep cleaning supplies handy so you can take advantage of the odd free moment to police your work space.

Defuse distractions

Little distractions can add up to a major drain on productivity. If you’re spending too much time on the phone, keep an egg timer at your desk and hold calls to a reasonable limit. Learn how to terminate calls politely. If co-workers often drop in to chat, close your door. If you’re constantly walking around obstacles, consider a change of floor plan. Take steps to reduce distracting noise.

Know thyself

Rivers can’t be forced to flow uphill; nor should you try to work against your inner nature. Schedule the toughest work for your circadian period of peak productivity. Minimize the impact of suboptimal climate control with a fan or small heater. Perhaps better or different lighting would boost your efficiency.

Eliminate redundancy

Analyse every process you use to determine if any steps can be eliminated. Common problems include multiple signatures for approval, extra steps designed to circumvent systems or correct problems that could be addressed more directly, and generating multiple copies that are no longer required.

Group and separate

Tedious or redundant tasks can be grouped for increased efficiency: file all at once, bill all at once, order all at once. Large, multifaceted tasks, on the other hand, may be best tackled in small pieces. For example, sort that large stack of paperwork on Monday, process some on Tuesday, some on Wednesday, and so forth until it’s done. Using this approach, even the most daunting tasks become manageable.

Share the burden

Many hands make light work, especially when tackling tedious or large tasks. Performance of dreaded chores like the annual inventory can take on a party atmosphere when many are involved and frequent breaks are scheduled.

Seize the moment. We all have a tendency to put off minor, less important tasks, and we also spend significant chunks of time holding on the phone or waiting in line. Can you see an opportunity here? Make a list of tasks that take five, 10, or 20 minutes, and keep the materials you need to do these tasks handy. That way, when you’re put on hold or stuck in line, you can pull out that small job and finish it up.

Emulate others

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If someone else always seems to be ahead of the game, watch and learn. If someone else has a speedier way of doing something, copy it. If you’re having trouble getting specific jobs done, ask others how they organize and execute the task; perhaps you’ve overlooked some short cuts.

Make work fun

Introducing a bit of fun into your work will make the day easier for you and your customers. Challenge yourself to process one hundred pieces of paper every day for five days. Have a friendly contest with a co-worker to see who can process the most billing statements in an hour with no mistakes. If possible, flip your morning and afternoon schedules for a change of pace.

By incorporating these simple time management strategies into your work day, you’ll be more efficient, more organized-and much less likely to let tasks build up to a crisis level or slip through the cracks.

How many businesses actually take time to work ON their business rather than IN their business? How many projects remain unfinished, because no one has time to do them? Technician, Manager or Entrepreneur: which hat should you wear today?

If only you had someone to take stock and put everything in place; get some clarity about your aims, priorities, problems & strategy. Then imagine having follow through, to ensure those plans come to fruition…sounds good yes? Well imagine no more.

Rebekah Goodwin offers a service that fits this need. After six months in Melbourne last year, Rebekah returned home in October to focus on Small Business Development Services: meeting the particular, differing needs of those small business operators who wear a multitude of hats; juggling priorities, getting their product & service out the door…

Rebekah’s background includes working in the public and private sectors, for small business, corporate and medium sized enterprises in Manufacturing, Recruitment, IT, Sales and Marketing, Training, Hospitality and the Arts industries for over 20 years.

Bellingen Courier Sun – May 2006