13 Habits You Need to Stay Organized

Matthew Snider is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets, a blog to help you achieve your goals. For more tips like these, I encourage you to visit his site.

13 Habits

While staying organized can seem like a daunting task, there are some habits that almost all organized people practice. Adding these habits to your own life will help you get organized and stay that way. You may find that you really struggle in the first few days or weeks, but the reward of living an organized lifestyle will be worth it in the end.

 

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” -Warren Buffett

 

1. Get Started on the Right Foot

People who are organized start out with a routine each morning. That routine may look different for some than it does for others. Some find it helps them to start their day with meditation while others find that exercising helps them get started. Regardless, establishing a pattern that you will follow each day helps you start to get your life together.

 

2. Embrace a Positive Attitude

Everyone has the right to see a cup as half-empty or half-full. People who are organized see the cup as half-full. Then they concentrate on what they can do to make their cup even fuller. Disorganized people see the cup as half-empty and have no real idea of how to make it any fuller. So staying positive is really powerful.

 

Organization Tip: People who are organized see the cup as half-full.

 

3. Address Correspondence Daily

Organized people take care of their correspondence on a daily basis. It does not matter whether it comes by text, email or snail mail, they set aside a specific time of day and handle all their correspondence at that time. During this time, they file information that is most important to them in an organized manner and discard the rest. They understand how to separate relevant and irrelevant information and do so effectively.

 

Organization Tip: Handle correspondence on a daily basis.

 

4. Become Conscientious

According to a study by the Centre for Organisational Excellence, people who are organized are more conscientious. They focus on what they can do to make the world a better place. They also tend to be very self-disciplined. Because of this, they are often content to tell others that they will not handle a task while disorganized people tend to accept too much responsibility.

 

5. Create a Space for Everything

People who are highly organized have a space for everything. That way, they do not waste time looking for anything. They also take the time to put everything back in its place when they are done using it. Most organized people have very few processions because they realize that the more things that they own, the more time it takes to care for them. They also keep the most important things that they need very near to them as this eliminates the need to get up and go find them. When a person gets up from a task, they often become distracted leading to disorganization.

6. Use Storage Systems

While disorganized people tend to throw everything in a big pile to deal with later, organized people keep everything in some sort of container. This helps them know exactly what they need to keep and what they can get rid of because if it does not have a space for it, then it needs to go immediately.

 

7. Become a List Maker

The most organized people create a list that tells them exactly what they need to accomplish. After creating the list, they then set priorities. They are driven to take care of the things that matter most first and then use leftover time to do the rest. They constantly have their lists with them as they do not trust their memories to keep them on the right track. An important part of setting priorities is dealing with the biggest problems first and then moving on from there. They understand when doing their best is good enough and when they must put in an all-out effort. Lifehacker has an amazing article about how to simplify your to-do list.

 

Break the Rules and Upend Business As Usual

Upend Business As Usual

 

Should salaries be public?

Is it possible to eliminate the performance review process?

Should customers come second?

Do open offices work?

 

Most businesses have rules and practices that have developed over many years. Whether inherited from long ago practices or invented by the company, these rules often continue unquestioned.

My friend Dr. David Burkus is a business school professor and author who questions many common business practices. His research reveals that many of the rules are outdated, misguided, and possibly counterproductive. His research looks at the contrarian practices of companies such as Zappos and Netflix where the rules are being rewritten.

 

“Great leaders don’t settle for low levels of efficiency.” –David Burkus

 

From designing office space to eliminating annual performance reviews and unlimited vacation policies, David’s book ignites a debate and conversation.

Some of the “rules” may stand the test of time because they work while others may be held in place based solely on tradition. Regardless, his newest book, Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business As Usual, is a good reminder that it’s time to review all the rules and determine whether they still serve a valid purpose.

 

The Case for Change

David, in one book, you have assembled some of the most contrarian practices being used in business today. What led you to this approach?Under New Management

After I wrote my first book, The Myths of Creativity, in which I talked a bit about practices like hackathons and 20% time that spurred innovation, I started to get even more curious about the things innovative companies were doing that seemed unusual or opposite of best practices. As I travelled down that rabbit hole I found lots of people writing about why the ideas were unique and appealing, but no one was making the case for why these practices work so well. Since organizational psychology is my background, I started to look at these ideas through the lens of human behavior and found compelling reasons for why they might be better than best practices.

Do you believe many of our management practices and principles are outdated? Is this a global view?

Well that depends. As Daniel Pink rightly pointed out in Drive, the shift from industrial work to knowledge work left a lot that needed to change about how we motivate people. I think that shift has broader management implications, which I explore in Under New Management. So yes, if you’re organization does mostly knowledge work, it’s likely that your management practices are rooted in some outdated assumptions.

 

Ban Email and Increase Productivity

Let’s look at email. Does banning email really work? Do these techniques work in larger organizations? Doesn’t moving to other technology tools just move the problem and not address the fact that it is people, not the tool, that cause it?

Email is an amazing tool because it’s cheap and it’s asynchronous. But it’s a difficult tool for exactly that reason. It’s easy to send…so we send it far too much. And because it’s asynchronous, it moved us to a world where we’re always on. There are a lot of other tools that are also cheap and asynchronous, but it’s a matter of how the tool is used.

And yes, to some extent, it’s a people issue. The companies that banned email took a deep look at their communication needs and settled on another tool for internal communication. If you’ve looked at what your team’s communication needs are and email meets those needs….great. But odds are, there’s a better tool out there.

 

“Leaders are discovering that limiting email improves productivity.” –David Burkus

 

13 Counterintuitive Ideas to Upend Business As Usual

  1. Outlaw email.
  2. Put customers second.
  3. Lose the standard vacation policy.
  4. Pay people to quit.
  5. Make salaries transparent.
  6. Ban non-competes.
  7. Ditch performance appraisals.
  8. Hire as a team.
  9. Write the Org chart in pencil.
  10. Close open offices.
  11. Take sabbaticals.
  12. Fire the managers.
  13. Celebrate departures.

 

Eliminate the Performance Appraisal

Detect and Root Out Behavior That Undermines Your Workplace

Simple Sabotage

The year was 1944. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the organization preceding the CIA, published a classified document, The Simple Sabotage Field Manual. The manual was designed to destroy the Axis powers from within. It contained numerous small acts that would wear down the enemy, but it also contained a list of techniques to sabotage organizations. Ironically, these very same techniques often still sabotage modern organizations. People are not intentionally sabotaging their organizations, but they may not even realize that they are engaged in these behaviors.

Authors Bob Frisch, Cary Greene, and Robert M. Galford review the declassified manual. In Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors That Undermine Your Workplace, they show how the same insidious behaviors are damaging organizations today. How to recognize these damaging behaviors and what to do about them is the subject of this fascinating book.

Bob Frisch sheds light on these everyday behaviors that undermine today’s workplace.

 

“Successful organizations make and execute decisions faster than their competitors.”

 

How Good Behaviors Can Become Dangerous

It seems all of us may fall into one of these acts of sabotage at some point or another. How do you recognize these early enough to make a difference?

Good point. And remember, we’re not suggesting you have enemies lurking in your midst doggedly working to bring the organization down. Most of the time, individuals unwittingly employ these tactics – things like ‘doing everything through channels’ or ‘advocating caution.’ These are good behaviors taken to an extreme.

You might think, “This is easy. I’ll just point these things our to my colleagues and the behaviors will stop.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, since these corrosive behaviors often become part of the working culture – and spotting them isn’t easy.

The four steps we talk about in the book to both expose and inoculate any group against sabotage are:

  1. Identify.

Spot sabotage as it occurs. Help others see when a positive behavior crosses the line and becomes counterproductive or destructive.

  1. Calibrate

Put into place the right expectation for tolerance – the range of acceptable behaviors – so that productive behavior is encouraged, but sabotage is prevented.

  1. Remediate.

Give everyone in the organization the permission, language and techniques to call out damaging behaviors in constructive ways.

  1. Inoculate.

Introduce tools, metrics and process changes to prevent sabotage from recurring and to help develop a low-sabotage culture.

Sometimes these are sequential, but more often they have to happen at the same time – it depends on the type of sabotage, who spots it and the group you’re dealing with.

 

“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” –John Kenneth Galbraith

 

Sabotage by Committee

Which one is the most prevalent?

Simple Sabotage_Cover-minIn my experience, the most prevalent form of sabotage is sabotage by committee. Too often leaders avoid making difficult decisions by referring them to committees, which creates a delay in the decision making process. As employees wait for decisions, they may get discouraged and dispirited. Some decisions require the use of a committee, particularly when multiple perspectives and areas of expertise are required. However, referring important decisions to committees creates the significant risk of halting momentum and can give the illusion of kicking the can down the road.

Is frequency or the most prevalent type different by kind of organization? For instance, do you see one more often in a for-profit corporation versus an academic institution or government?

Let me put it this way. When it comes to the prevalence of these sabotage tactics, organizations of various shapes, sizes and types are generally created equal. Over the years we’ve shared the list of OSS tactics with hundreds of friends, colleagues and clients – almost every time, they’ve chuckled and said, “That describes my [department, company, group, board, school or church committee].” We’ve heard them all. And that’s why we wrote the book. In our decades of working with individuals and groups in organizations large, small, public, private and non-profit, we’ve seen these corrosive tactics at work and witnessed the damage they can do in these settings.

 

“Committees can be deadly when they have the appearance that work is taking place when in fact very little is happening.”

 

Sabotage by Obedience

How to Improve Your Communication by Leaps and Bounds

No Cape Needed

Do you know the most common communication mistakes leaders make?

What practical steps can you take right now to be a more effective communicator?

What is the most common mistake we make when using email?

 

“True communication comes from a shared understanding of meaning.” -David Grossman

 

David Grossman is a communications expert. Both David and the firm he founded in 2000, The Grossman Group, have received numerous awards. Prior to founding the firm, he was director of communications for McDonald’s, and he teaches the only graduate course on internal communications in the U.S. at Columbia University.

What you notice when you pick up David’s latest book, No Cape Needed: The Simplest, Smartest, Fastest Steps to Improve How You Communicate by Leaps and Bounds, is that it’s stunning as a physical book. Full of colorful graphics, gorgeous photography, and digestible information, it is one of the reasons I still enjoy the physical book. Not only is it a gorgeous book, but it is full of immediately actionable, useful information. I recently asked David to share some of the wisdom from his book and his consulting practice.

 

“Communication really is a superpower.” -David Grossman

 

Communication is a Superpower

Question: As a kid, you wanted to have superpowers. As an adult you say, “Communication really is a superpower.” Explain why you elevate communication to that status.

I wholeheartedly believe that effective communication is really a way to make a difference.David Grossman

You can use communication to make others feel good about their jobs, to be engaged and excited, to help someone who’s having a hard time get through a rough patch, or to inspire a team. And in essence, you can use communication to make substantial changes that aren’t just about helping a company or team go from ‘good to great’ but instead create a lasting legacy through a new strategic direction.

A lot of people don’t think they can communicate well or don’t think they can develop the skill. But the truth is that it just takes practice. If leaders at all levels of their organizations come to realize that, then great things can happen for their companies. And they can become heroes of their own.

 

Cut-Through-Clutter-No-Cape-Needed-David-Grossman

3 Steps to Improve Your Communication

In your new book, No Cape Needed, what are the top three steps you recommend for improving communication?  

1. Understand your audience.

To truly move employees to action, we have to know what they care about and get into their mindset. As leaders we spend much of our time and effort setting business goals and developing plans to achieve them. Yet the most important element behind everything is your team. If they don’t understand where they fit in, all of our lofty goals will go nowhere.

2. Plan, and then communicate regularly.

Leaders often mistakenly assume that as long as they have ideas, a vision, and a sense of purpose, that will be enough to lead the way forward. If only it were that easy. In truth, good leaders know the importance of planning and clearly spelling out the path ahead. You can wing your communications and take a chance on the results or be planful and purposeful to increase your chances of success ten-fold.

3. Listen and create dialogue.

True communication comes from a shared understanding of meaning. Ask open-ended questions. Listen. Listen some more. Check for understanding.

 

“Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” -John Maxwell

 

3 Common Communication Mistakes

What are some of the common mistakes leaders make when they communicate?

1. They don’t set the context. 

5 Tips to Increase Your Efficiency and Impact

Power Tips to Increase Your Impact

All of us want to be more productive. David Horsager is a productivity expert. His work has been featured in numerous publications from The Wall Street Journal to The Washington Post. His research is focused on the impact of trust, and his client list ranges from the New York Yankees to John Deere.

His latest book is The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day. I recently asked him about five of the thirty-five tips included in his new book.

 

“Lost time is never found again.” -Ben Franklin

 

Manage Your Energy 

Tip 7Tip 7. Managing your energy is something few think about. We are often on autopilot. How do we become more conscious of our energy? What’s the best way to use our energy through the day?

Before you make any changes, you have to become aware of how you are spending your time. Take two weeks and log it. Keep track of both your time usage and the level of energy you feel at that time. Then, take time to study it and make a few adjustments with how you spend your time. Log for another week if you need to in order to gather useful information.

Try scheduling an early morning meeting and then not another until after lunch. See how creating this pocket of time affects your daily productivity and energy levels. Maybe you need to schedule as many meetings as possible on one day so that other days are left more open. I have learned that morning is my most effective time, so that is when I tackle writing, research, and other more difficult projects. I try to protect a morning power hour so I can have at least one uninterrupted hour on my most difficult tasks first thing in the morning. My team knows to try to schedule meetings with me right after lunch. Since I am an extrovert, the people I meet with during that low-energy time of day end up energizing me for the remainder of the afternoon!

You can’t dictate everything about your schedule, but you can influence it to meet your needs. A lot of people squander their most valuable time doing their easiest activities and tackle their toughest tasks when their energy is at a low point. Don’t let that happen to you! Leverage your time and schedule so that it works for you. Awareness and intentionality come first. If you can do this, it will build momentum and your work life will be easier.

 

“Clutter is a result of delayed decisions.” -Audrey Thomas

 

Efficient Email 

unnamed-4Tip 13. Email. Some people really struggle with it. What tips have you seen make a difference for those who find it a challenge?

If you feel you have an e-mail problem, it isn’t going to go away any time soon. Ignoring your lack of a system will compound the problem and affect the rest of your work life. Some people have hundreds if not thousands of e-mails in their inbox. This is a very common area to struggle with because of the sheer number of e-mails we receive every day. Managing it is simpler than you might think once you have a process in place. It’s going to require getting disciplined about it. I know an executive who went from 57,000 emails to 9 in his inbox! He called and said, “I’ve never felt better!” Before you get too overwhelmed thinking about it, consider the following ideas.

  • Get rid of the chime or prompt. Ask yourself: Are the e-mails coming into your inbox worthy of dropping everything to read and respond? If the answer is no, then turn off the notification function.
  • Let them bundle. You think things are urgent, but the cost of interruptions is enormous. See if you can only check e-mail at the top of every hour. So much time is spent managing e-mail. Don’t fall victim to this.
  • Get in the habit of going through these four steps. The minute you open an e-mail, archive or delete if at all possible. Deal with it right away. Don’t read it now and also read it later.
  • File it or archive it. Get it out of your inbox once you’ve replied. It takes your mindshare if it’s always there as a distraction. It’s overwhelming. Feelings of being overwhelmed are the killers of productivity. Try setting up filters for certain e-mails you don’t want to see until you are ready. For example, I auto-filter newsletters for when I have extra time to read on the plane or in a taxi.
  • Flag it for later or attach it to the calendar. If you know you will need to reference it prior to a meeting, flag it for a later date or attach it to your calendar. Again, our mindshare is limited, so avoid constant exposure to something you don’t need to look at for a while. The information will be there for you when you need it.

By the way, e-mail with an emotional context can absorb an enormous amount of time. Leave the emotional conversations for a phone call or an in-person meeting. You will be less likely to be misunderstood and e-mail will be preserved as a means for information sharing – the way it was intended. 

 

“With each sunrise, we start anew.” -Anonymous

 

 

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