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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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