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Organize Your Work in 2009

Organize Your Work in 2009

reginaleeds

    Regina Leeds, the best-selling author of One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Desk to Your Deadlines, the Week-by-Week Guide to Eliminating Office Stress for Good, has a brand new book out that might come in handy as you work on getting your work organized for 2009. It’s called One Year to An Organized Work Life — and it’s different from a lot of the self-help, get-yourself-organized books that are out there.

    There are two factors in this book that convinced me it would be useful to just about anyone. Most important is Regina’s approach: she’s known as the Zen Organizer, and her books are all about getting organized with a Zen approach. Don’t worry — that doesn’t mean that she expects readers to get touchy-feely about which drawer their paperclips go into. Instead, Regina’s references to Zen are a matter of focusing on eliminating stress. The philosophy of Zen is about creating calm — an impossibility when you’re stressed out over a messy desk or a disorganized calendar. To reach a more Zen-like state, Regina walks readers through getting rid of some of that stress.

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    The second factor that makes Regina’s book stand out is the fact that while the book has the word ‘work’ in the title, it takes a holistic approach. Regina makes it clear that a person can’t get his or her work life organized but still be unproductive at home. She quotes a Zen proverb:

    …the way a man does one thing is the way he does everything.

    Throughout the book, Regina makes a point of giving readers the tools to organize their entire lives, even if their current focus is work. After all, you can’t just stop being organized when you leave the office each evening.

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    The Twelve Month Guide

    One Year to an Organized Work Life is organized in twelve chapters, one for each month. Each chapter is broken down even further into individual weeks. For each month, Regina sets out a work habit and a home habit for readers to work on developing. For January, for example, readers are asked to leave their desks every day for at least five minutes and to make their beds at home.

    At first glance, these habits may seem to have little to do with getting yourself organized. Even the work habit is counter-intuitive: you’d think that doing something at your desk is more likely to get your stuff organized faster. But there is a reason behind Regina’s approach. Moving around for five minutes refreshes both your mind and body after hours of staring at paperwork — and knowing that you can step away from your desk for even a few minutes can reduce your stress over trying to deal with everything that has built up.

    But why a home habit? The book is about work, right? Regina includes home habits as a part of that holistic approach I mentioned. If your home is more organized and less stressful, making the transition between home and work is that much easier. In both cases, Regina sets forth relatively simple habits. She also provides some simple advice on developing a new habit, including the advice to repeat the same action every day for 21 days to make it habitual.

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    The Weekly Tasks

    In addition to monthly habits, Regina offers small tasks for readers to complete each week. These tasks range from something you can knock out in thirty minutes to something you may need to dedicate two hours to. The tasks vary: some involve setting goals, others cover reviewing your filing system. Regina devotes several pages to each task, making sure to provide readers with all the tools necessary to complete each task as well as explaining why the task will be useful.

    We are talking about 52 individual tasks here, as well as 24 habits. It seems like a lot of work. I bet some prospective readers are already wondering whether it’s worth their while to spend the next year with One Year to an Organized Life. I think it can be worth the effort, though: setting out to get organized is very difficult without any kind of roadmap. You have to organize your organizational plans and it’s easy to get discouraged in the process. But Regina’s book lays out a clear approach. It might not be the approach you would have planned for yourself, but eliminating the planning phase can get you on the road to organization a lot faster.

    I think Regina’s background has allowed her to create a logical approach to organizing work: she started working as a professional organizer in 1988. While Regina has done a lot of organizing homes, she’s also helped a long list of business professionals get their work under control. While organizing might not be an exact science, Regina has had the opportunity to see what actually works in the real world — and to find out where the pitfalls are. Her book acts as a roadmap around those problems.

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    Finding the Book

    You can find One Year to an Organized Work Life on Amazon, as well as at many brick-and-mortar book stores. It is published by Da Capo Press and weighs in at 304 pages. You can find more information about Regina at her personal website.

    While I might not recommend Regina’s book for every reader, I do think it’s a good basic route to getting your work organized. If that’s one of your goals for 2009, One Year to an Organized Work Life will get you going.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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