The Working With… Podcast

Once You’ve got Yourself Organised, How Do You Stay Organised?

April 25, 2022

This week, we’re focusing on doing the work instead of organising the work. 


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Episode 227 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 227 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

Most productivity advice, tips and tricks focus on how to organise your work. And while this is important to some degree, it is the least important part of the three areas—collecting, organising and doing. 

You see, you can have the best organisation structure and still be unproductive. That’s because in order to keep everything organised you spend far too much time organising and adjusting. You might feel good while you are collecting all your files and notes and moving them into an organisational structure, but you won’t be getting anything done. 

Obsessively organising your stuff is another form of procrastination because it means you are not getting your work done.

And that’s what this week’s episode is all about. 

So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Jade. Jade asks: Hi Carl, I’ve recently finished your From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 Days course, and now I feel organised (I now know where everything is), but I don’t feel productive. How do you keep everything organised and get your work done? 

Hi Jade, thank you for your question.

Congratulations on completing the Disorganised To Productivity Mastery in 3 Days course. I know with that course you now have everything you need to build a great system.

And you are now ready to move to the automation part of productivity. You see, when we start doing something new—such as having all our files, documents, notes and everything else organised and in a place where we can find them, it will mean that you will need to consciously think before you do anything. 

You will need to think about where you will put something and that takes time. 

However, this is just a part of the learning process. You’re changing old habits for new ones. The key here is to consistently do some organising each day. This will likely involve processing the files and documents on your desktop into their rightful place. It will also entail clearing your inboxes and making sure everything is in its rightful place. 

When you first start doing this, it will take quite a lot of time. However, if you are consistent with this, you will get faster. 

Now a lesson I learned years ago when I was in sales. During my induction training with one company, they sent me out with one of their salespeople for a day. That day coincided with the expense reporting day and I vividly remember the salesperson training me pulling up in a car park after lunch and suggested I go for a walk for a couple of hours. 

She then opened the glove box and out poured what seemed to be hundreds of receipts. She had to transfer those receipts from that glove box onto an expense reporting form. 

That taught me a valuable lesson. Don’t pile work up. Do a little every day and instead of it taking you two to three hours up close to a deadline, it will take you less than ten minutes to add that day’s receipts to the expense report. 

To give you another example, many years ago, when I first began using a digital task manager, it could take as much as forty minutes to clear its inbox each day. When you tagged on all the notes I had written, I was spending more than an hour just organising my stuff. 

However, I stuck to it. Over time, my clearing time dropped. I learned what to collect, what could be added directly to a project note during meetings and what didn’t need looking at every day. Now, I can clear ten to fifteen tasks in my inbox in around five minutes. 

When it comes to clearing my notes’ inbox, I generally do this once a week. Notes are less urgent, so do not need processing as frequently as tasks do. And if I did collect a note that related to an active project, I could easily add that to the project notebook when I next work on the project.

And that’s really what it’s about. Find effective and efficient ways to manage the work that is coming in. Over time, you will also learn what to say “no” to, which will reduce the number of inputs coming into your system. 

The biggest benefit to getting everything organised is the time saved trying to find stuff. However, your new organisation system is going to take time to become second nature. It’s only then that you will feel the “system” itself is in the background so you can now focus your attention on what’s in front of you. 

However, with all that said, something you could ask yourself now is where do you feel your system is slow? Where do you find you spend most of your time when you are organising? Here we will all be different. For some, how they manage and organise their email is a bump in the road. Getting quick at clearing your inbox and making decisions such as what is it? And what do I need to do with it? Takes a little time to become automatic. 

Again, with consistency, you soon learn the patterns and can make decisions about whether you need to take action on an email or not. Likewise with those bigger requests from bosses or clients. The requests that will need an afternoon of deep focus. What do you do with those? 

When we first begin, we will hesitate and likely think too much about these kinds of requests. As you apply your system, though, they become much easier to make and, more importantly, you become faster at making those decisions. 

Now there is one area I haven’t spoken about and that is learning how to search your devices and your apps. Search has come a long way over the last five years or so. Long gone are the days when a downloaded file would disappear somewhere on your hard drive and would take hours to locate. Now, as long as you know roughly the date you downloaded it, a title or keyword: within a second or two, you’ve found the file. This is again moving you towards automating your system. 

It’s always difficult to change old habits, and one of the worst habits to have is to go through all your file folders looking for files and documents. A far quicker way is to trust your computer. It knows where everything is. On a Mac, all you need do is hit the COMMAND key and Space bar, and you get a little search box. Type in what you are looking for, and boom! You have what you are looking for. 

I’m not entirely sure how this works on Windows, but I know Windows does something very similar. Learning how to do this will dramatically speed up your work. 

Another part of feeling productive is in what you are completing each day. If the majority of what you are completing are low-value tasks, you are not going to feel very productive at the end of the day. This is where daily planning comes in. When you do the daily planning, make sure that you have one or two meaningful tasks on there that will move a project or goal forward. 

You do not want to be overloading your task manager with high-value meaningful tasks—that’s likely to leave you feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, and you will not be able to do everything in one day. But, choose a project that needs working on and create a task that says something like “work on Project X”. That gives you a lot of wriggle room. Often you will find all you have done is planned out the next steps. 

For instance, if I find a project has stalled for whatever reason, just going into the project note and reviewing my notes, I will soon see what needs to be done next, and I can add that ‘next action’, if you like, to my task manager. It’s a quick, satisfying way to get projects moving forward. 

But what are meaningful tasks, and where do they come from? Generally, these tasks will one from one of three places. Your goals, your Areas of Focus or projects. As long as you have a good mix of tasks that comes from these three places, you will find that you get to the end of the day and feel fulfilled and satisfied with the day. 

If you fill your days with low-value admin type tasks, you are going to feel unfulfilled and unhappy with what you have done that day. 

Now, I’m not saying you fill your days with high-value project or goal tasks, that would leave you with a lot of admin being neglected, and that will always come back and bite you. It’s about the mix. Let me give you an example.

If you made sure you had two to three hours each day for high-value important project work, an hour for dealing with your communications and perhaps thirty minutes for admin, you would soon find yourself being very productive at work. 

If you then added forty-five minutes for daily exercise (a good walk is enough), some time for your family and friends and a little time for your own personal development, you would still have time for a good night’s sleep. 

You don’t need to fill every hour of every day with activities. You just need to identify what’s important to you and make sure you have sufficient time each day for those activities. 

I hope that has helped, Jade. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.


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