Tips to Maximize the Work Tools on Your Desk
What do these items have in common?
You may have guessed it — they are essential organizing tools that sit on the top of your desk within arm’s reach and help you efficiently plan and manage your work day.
These work tools will help you focus on the task at hand and help improve your productivity. Each one is used often and needs to be within reach. Everything else, such as paper clutter and miscellaneous items, are distractions and should be moved.
Limit your desk space to the following items:
Task List: A to-do list is a must. This is your #1 work tool. If you don’t do anything else, update and check it several times a day, at least. It doesn’t matter if it is paper or electronic. What does count is a dependable system that keeps all tasks in one place and handy. Tip: some people like to print it out if it is electronic.
When you think of a task, enter it immediately so it doesn’t take up space in your head. And forget about grabbing a sticky note or the back of an envelope. Sticky notes don’t always adhere and the back of an envelope is known to disappear when you need to return a client call and can no longer find the number. Once the task is written down in the same place as all of the others, it is reassuring to know that the task will not be forgotten. And what a great feeling to ü a task once it’s completed.
Note: Some prefer to use a calendar as a combination task list and calendar. That way tasks are designated to a certain date and time and are less likely to fall through the cracks. Statistics show that there is a 75 percent greater chance of a task being completed if it is scheduled on the calendar rather than in your task list according to Sally McGhee in “Take Back Your Life!.” As long as there is a system in place that you are comfortable with and can count on, it does not matter if you use a separate calendar and to-do list or combine them.
When we interviewed 75 productive and organized executives, we discovered that all of them use and depend on to-do lists. It was one of the systems that they had in common. While they set up the lists differently (that was to be expected), each one told us that it helps their productivity to use a to-do list.
Tip: Decide the two or three to-dos that must be done that day. Brian Tracy from “Eat That Frog” calls these your MITs, Most Important Tasks. While there are many more tasks that you would like to accomplish, concentrate first on the ones you identified and get them done. One of these tasks must be related to your goals. Then you can move on to other tasks. At the end of the day, it will feel good knowing that you focused your time and energy on the tasks that matter.
Calendar: As soon as you know about a meeting, add it to the calendar pronto! That goes for personal and business meetings. One calendar is all you need. Otherwise, it is too easy to miss an appointment because it wasn’t in the calendar you were looking at. In Microsoft Outlook, you have the ability to color-code appointments to differentiate personal from business. One quick glance at the calendar and you know your schedule for the day.
Active Projects: What are your current projects? Reserve the organizing unit on your desk for these projects and for reference materials such as a company directory. Keep other projects in your working files drawer close by.
Telephone: Keep a phone log or spiral notebook beside your phone to use as a record of voice mail messages. Or, record the information into a to-do list on your computer that synchs with your cell phone for easy callbacks.
If the caller is someone you will need to call again, take a minute and add the information to your contact list. The next time the person calls, their ID will come up and you can decide whether to take the call.
Supplies: Keep a few items and move the rest to the supply closet or an extra drawer. Save your desktop space for more important items.
Personal Items: Of course, a few photographs or mementoes are a given. They will remind you why you are working and give you a good reason to go home at night. But, only a few.
What’s on the top of your desk? Are they going to help you stay productive and efficient throughout the day?