Lately we’ve been stuck at work for long, long, long hours, each of us working in different proyects and basically girlbossing the hell out of our jobs. That got me thinking that, while I always find lots of posts online about tips for freelance workers and cool bloggers, I hardly come across any corporate job/long hours at a sad desk/I can’t stand my coworkers organizational tips posts. And since we’ve been feeling on fire workwise, we’ve put together some clues, hints and suggestions for those of you who work in an office, because maybe yout job is not very flashy but it’s surely necessary for the correct development of our society. Normal people, the world needs us. We matter.
Get a useful, pragmatic, cut to the chase paper calendar or diary. Nowadays there are lots of beautiful, Instagram worthy calendars, but my advice is: buy one that is simple, has plenty of space to write and take notes and doesn’t distract you. The point of a good calendar is to keep you focused, not distract you with stickers, pompons and cute illustrations. That’s nice for your everyday life, hobbies and other fun things, but when it comes to work, be practical.
Avoid inbox nightmares: check and organize your inbox as soon as you arrive to the office. That’s a basic, I guess, but it really sets the mood for the day and helps you plan the work ahead. During the day and as a general rule, I answer immediately every mail that requires less that a minute of writing. It’s a way of getting rid of easy mails right away.
Friday is for boring tasks: we all have a particular task that we hate. Leave that for Friday. In my case, I have to deal with a particular irritating app on a regular basis so I leave everything that has to do with that for Friday mornings. I’m usually happier on Fridays and I know that my reward (the weekend) is just there, so it makes easier to put up with.
Keep track of unanswered mails: this is where your paper calendar comes in very handy. If I send an Email, let’s say on Monday, I will estimate a reasonable day when I should have an answer and write down in said day in my calendar: Have I had an answer from xxx? This way I can send a follow-up or make a call if necessary and I never forget what the mail was about or which information I still don’t have. If I send a follow-up, I will do the same and continue to do so until I get my answer. This is a great tip when you are searching funding sources, because the more persistent you are, the better chances you have of getting what you want. However, remeber to be extra polite and friendly!
Group together your tasks and manage your time accordingly. Nowadays we all handle different projects and tasks at the same time. One thing leads to another and once you start doing one task, another related chore will come up, and then another demand and so on. Let’s say you have to organize a book presentation: you have to get in touch with the author, the publisher, a library which will sell the books, and organize travel, accommodation and press for your event. Well, choose your time to do a little bit of everything every day, but all together. Don’t send the mail to the author, then make a call about other project, then come back and talk to the publisher, then ask your boss about the general budget for next year and then continue with the press of your book presentation. Dedicate a realistic amount of time to one project each day. You will be more focused in that particular project and you will be less likely to forget important details.
Distinguish between what is urgent and what is important: we usually give more importance to what it’s urgent. It usually takes up most of our time and energy but beware! You might be leaving what is important behind. On a daily basis you can have some little bombs exploding in your desk, things that require your immediate attention. That’s normal. But bear in mind the bigger picture and plan ahead. Don’t forget to dedicate your time to what is important. Maybe the budget for next year, an important contract with a supplier, a long term agreement with a client… Maybe those things aren’t a red flag in your routine now, but they will be in the long term if you don’t pay them the right attention.
Avoid Internet and social media: my personal phone is discreetly waiting for me in my purse while I work. I don’ check WhatsApp, social media and those other fun and tempting siren calls while I’m on my desk working. My family and friends know that if something important comes up, they have to call me. And actual, old fashioned phone call. This might sound obvious but specially during hard days at the office, you might feel the urge to reach for your phone! Hide it! besides, you don’t want to be the person your boss catches by surprise while scrolling though Instagram.
Ask: I’ve never been afraid to ask for help in my work space. In my personal life that’s another thing, but when it comes to my job, if I don’t know, I ask. I don’t like to waste time. I ask, I get the information or help I need, I learn and I keep working. There’s always people with more expertise, colleagues that have dealt with that complicated partner, customers that can give you feedback… I have to admit that I’m always reluctant when it comes to that colleague that will throw that help in your face a few days later in front of the others. We all have that person around at one point. But you have to be the bigger person, put on a big (yet fake) smile and think that the end result is worth it.
Eat and drink something: don’t work while hungry or thirsty. Just don’t. Keep snacks on hand, drink water and get up to grab a coffee with a nice colleage. Use those moments to have a laugh or call the colleague mentioned in the paragraph above every name on the book. It’s not the healthiest thing to do, but hey, it’s part of the office fun and we all do it. But it’s wrong. But it feels good.
Divide your tasks in smaller ones and don’t let the amount of work get to you. If you work in an office, chances are that your main tasks include mails and phone calls. As I mentioned before here, simplifying is key. Instead of the overwhelming “I have this huge responsability at work and therefore I have to make thousands of things”, try thinking: “ok, all I have to do is send a few Emails and make a few calls and then grab a cup of coffe if I have time”. See? You can do it! Easy peasy! Think about the small parts of the big picture and accomplish them one at a time.
Work in a clean space: you don’t have to put together a Pinterest worthy desk with lots of copper details, just try to avoid clutter and thousands of papers on your desk. Clean space, clean mind. Is that easy.
Finally, review your calendar for the next day before leaving. Write down the important things to do, so that they don’t get lost among the urgent ones, take notes of the day and check if you have any meeting the next day. And remember, once you leave, you leave. Don’t bring work home. I did it for a very long time and it just kept my anxiety levels over the top. Remember that your work is important but your happiness is even more important. Keep that in mind and put things in perspective. If you are a mess one day, the next one will be better!