Plan, Organize and Prioritize

One of the most important challenges in today’s workplace is how to manage workflow with fewer personnel. As the work continues, the staff has to meet the ongoing tasks before them with the proper preparation each day. As a supervisor, I encourage each of my staff members to make sure that they are doing the following three things each month in order to give them the best chance for reaching their goals and incentives:

1. Plan. The planning prior to the start of the work day should begin in earnest at the end of a previous work day in order for the work to resume the next day without delay. I don’t recommend taking the work home to mull over because that time is best spent relaxing or enjoying family time. That time is needed to depressurize after a full day of work. It is often necessary to recharge and “push the refresh button” for the next workday. Adequate planning involves charting out your to-do list for the next day and finalizing it while you still have “control” of the day.

2. Organize. The best plans are derailed if you have difficulty locating key information or can’t find that important letter under a pile of papers that should have been recycled or discarded long ago. I have found that it is a good practice to use the last half-day of the month to do some housekeeping around your workspace, or perhaps doing it at a time when you can no longer stand the sight of your multiple stacks of paper piles. It may be habitual to keep papers around to provide a sense of security because we genuinely believe that they’re necessary.  That’s OK…just keep making it a point to clean up when you are ready to let go! Create a filing system that will meet the ongoing needs for forms or documents that you will often use, and be consistent in the same way when you need to pull information from your computer. In the process of organizing your workspace, it is a good idea to take the time to familiarize yourself with ways to become more efficient in your communication with clients and interoffice personnel without the need to push paper back and forth. If there is a way to recycle paper instead of trashing it, do it, but make sure that you thoroughly destroy any documentation with sensitive information.

3. Prioritize. Even the best plans get derailed with unforeseen circumstances as the workday progresses. Projects…initiatives…fire drills…these are a way of life at work. You still need the original plan to get back on track when the time comes, but you absolutely have to be able to manage the onslaught of work by setting priorities. How are priorities determined? Remember your goals and how you can achieve them—this is where you begin to assess your priorities. If you are achieving the goals presented before you, it is a virtual certainty that you are accomplishing the exact expectations of your superiors and for the entire department. If you are hitting your goals, you are performing well for the entire company. This is all the more reason to manage your priorities effectively. It will always lead you in the right direction. As an example, from a customer service perspective, phone calls and voice mails always take priority over emails received. Emails can be navigated over time, while phone calls project more of an immediate need from both internal and external customers. It should also be noted that the most pressing issue that comes up is not always the one with the largest dollar value or payoff at stake. Sometimes you have to use old-fashioned good judgment in establishing your priorities. The proper prioritization of your work will help you to avoid backtracking, unnecessary do-overs and loss of your overall momentum. Work your to-do list and number the items by what needs to be done first, second, third, and so on. If a task continues to slip further down on your priority list, make sure that the issue is not coupled with a person on your internal or external customer list.  If there is a person waiting for an answer, have the courtesy to ask the person when they need a response or propose a time…and stick to the timeline. Even in prioritizing your work, you can show that you are willing to go the extra mile with effective communication skills.

Success can be achieved by applying these three fundamental principles over time—plan, organize and prioritize. A person, who plans, stays organized and establishes priorities, will achieve and realize his or her accomplishments and consistently perform at a high level. These characteristics make for successful, goal-oriented team players and even future leaders.

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