If I was organised I’d be dangerous!

If I was organised, I’d be dangerous” said a talented young medical doctor.  She managed to be successful without being organised through intelligence and hard work – but struggled to organise other people.

Why be organised?

Learning the basic organising skills below will help you get much more done for God’s kingdom; serve your community; offer leadership; save time you can use for other things; achieve goals; avoid problems and help you get further in your career.  If you do this, your boss will value you more and in time pay you more.

Getting organised requires changing work habits.  You can’t change everything overnight.  Start to learn and apply the following habits and your success will start to multiply.

Much of what follows may sound easy and obvious, but most people don’t do it.  Those who do usually end up in business or organisation management.  Will you be one of them?  As you go through this list, tick off what you are good at and circle what you need to improve.

Plan ahead

  • Write down your goals and tell others about them.  This will hold you accountable to meet them.
  • Set deadlines for each goal.
  • Put your goals somewhere visible to remind you regularly.
  • Break big goals into smaller ones and schedule these in your calendar.

Find ways to save time

  • Make a list of all the activities you need to do regularly.  For each, try to find a system to get it done better and faster.
  • What is important that is not getting done well and on time?  How can you put this ahead of other things?
  • Sort your tasks into order of priority.  Do the important things first.  Priority must be decided based on your goals.  Only in emergencies, let other things be a priority.  Don’t get distracted.
  • What can you delegate to someone else?
  • How can you group similar tasks, to do them faster.
  • What could you do better if you had some training?
  • What can you get done faster using technology?  For example, can you make a template to save time formatting.
  • How can you organise information to find the important stuff quicker when you need it?  For example, maybe sort your phone numbers according to the interests of the people rather than alphabetically.
  • What can you find a sponsor for instead of paying for it yourself?
  • What are you doing that isn’t going to help reach your goals?  Stop now.

Keep good records

Record and file all important information such as dates, telephone numbers and email addresses.  Take notes at every meeting.  Paper remembers better than your brain.  You never know when you will use this information in future.  Don’t go to a meeting without paper to record.

  • Good records also help avoid conflict – when people forget what was agreed.
  • Backup your data regularly and store these in another location.  Assess the consequences of losing your data.

Managing a project

  • Make a list of all the tasks that will need to be done.
  • Mark which tasks must be completed before the next can proceed.
  • For each task, estimate the time it will take in hours spent and the number of days or weeks you can do it over.  You can’t work on big task 24hours a day.  For example, if you can only work an hour a day on a seven-hour task – then the duration of the task is one week.
  • Estimate the minimum and maximum time the total project is going to take.   Then, double your estimate and then multiply by two.  Your project will usually take much longer than you estimate.
  • For each task, consider what could go wrong and think of a backup plan for what you will do if it happens.  For example, what will you do if one of your key workers gets sick?  (Don’t discuss everything that could go wrong with new people – else they may quit.)
  • As you complete each task, tick it off and look at those remaining.  Celebrate milestones of progress.
  • When you estimate costs, budget the maximum you will need to do the job.  If you save money, good – but if you under budget you will have a problem.

When you delegate work

  • Check the persons experience.  Do they have the skills to do the job well?  If not, give them training or find someone else.  If unsure, ask someone they worked for before.
  • Explain to the person exactly what you want done and how their work will be used to benefit the cause.
  • If you delegate work to a group, ensure that one person is responsible to get it done.  (Else no one will do it).
  • Ask them for a reasonable deadline to follow up.  (Else most will forget and get irritated when you follow up).
  • Compare this deadline with your own deadlines for the overall project.  Check there is enough extra time to do it yourself or re-delegate to someone else if they miss their deadline.
  • Give the person a sample of a similar piece of work you would like them to copy.
  • After delegating work give the person the instructions in writing (email, fax or paper) including the details and deadline.  This will help them and avoid arguments.
  • Make a table with the people, tasks and deadline dates for each task you have delegated.  Follow up all the overdue tasks weekly.

If you are delegated work

  • Write down instructions.
  • Ask how your task affects the project.
  • If you are not sure you can meet the deadline, phone your leader and ask for an extension well before the deadline.  (This gives them the chance to delegate to someone else if they can’t delay.)

Manage time, quality and cost

For every project, you must decide the importance of: time, quality and cost.  If you are not sure, discuss with your leader.  Sometimes finishing by deadline is the key issue even and if you must spend twice as much money to do that.  Other times, quality and presentation is important.  Find out how important each aspect is and deliver the right balance.