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By Katie MacKenzie, Project Coordinator
With the end of the year quickly approaching, soon many of us will be scrambling to close out any end-of-year donations, wrap up any unfinished business and conclude 2014 with (hopefully) a bang! While all of these are noble tasks and important to our organizations, what we find during this time is that our schedules become increasingly full as the Holidays and end of the year loom just around the corner. For some reason, year after year, the 4th quarter continues to catch us off guard.
To ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed and don’t let important to-do’s slip through the cracks during the upcoming Holiday season, here are a just few quick tips for managing your time and staying organized through the end-of-year chaos:
Make a To-Do List and Physically Write it Down
Never underestimate the power of the “to-do” list. Not only does it feel good when you cross something off the list, it helps you to stay organized and focused on your tasks at hand. If you rely solely on your memory to remember everything you have to do throughout the chaos of the 4th quarter – guaranteed something will fall through the cracks.
Look at your to-do list at the beginning of each month and each week, the beginning of each day, and at the end of each day. Looking at your to-do list at the beginning of each month will provide you with the big picture perspective – determining what deadlines and milestones needs to be reached by when. By looking at your list at the beginning of each week, you can break that big picture into a smaller piece by knowing what needs to be accomplished by Friday. By looking at your list at the beginning of each work day, you will be able to know what tasks must be accomplished that day and can measure your progress at the end of the day to ensure you are on track. Each time your look at your list, prioritize what needs to get done first and rank the items in order of importance. Is a report due tomorrow? Maybe you should work on that first. Ordering lunch for the office staff meeting next week – that can wait until later.
Divide up your Day to Focus on Certain Tasks
It is also a helpful practice to divide up your day into certain specified times for certain tasks. For example, instead of allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by all of the emails in your inbox each and every morning, set aside time in your day where you will focus solely on responding to emails – not allowing yourself to be distracted by other tasks.
The same tactic can be employed with phone calls. If you have multiple messages in your voice mailbox, set aside time for when you will listen to and return each of your calls.
By allotting time for specific tasks such as answering email and making phone calls, not only will it enable you to have a little less stress, you will find yourself to be more efficient and productive and be able find more time to actually get things DONE.
Divide up your Days of the Week:
When looking in advance at your calendar, try to divide up the days in your week for specific tasks. Have one or two days when you know you’ll be out of your office soliciting for gifts, meeting folks for coffee and closing asks. Then know which days you’ll be in the office to get paperwork and reports completed, respond to emails and calls, and to hold meetings with colleagues.
Prepare to be Prepared:
At the beginning of each week and each day, you should be aware of what upcoming tasks lay before you. Being organized and managing your time efficiently and effectively requires that you actually take time to prepare to be prepared. For example, at the beginning of every day I take about 30 minutes to look at my to-do list, prioritize, and determine what needs to get done and in what order. At the end of every day, I take another 30 minutes to re-evaluate my to-do list, cross off what tasks have been completed, file away my emails into their prospective folders and make sure I leave the office knowing where each and every one of my tasks stand. The first step in time management and organization is taking the time to make sure that you stay organized and on top of everything.
These are only a few time management and organizational ideas to help keep you organized through the end of the year chaos. However, there are many other time management techniques which you can employ. The secret is to find what works best for you and what allows you to be the most productive, efficient and to get the job, big or small, done.