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Why your New Year's Resolution should be 'organisation organisation'

Jonny Kates
Jonny Kates, posted on 29.11.12

As a twenty-something male it's not particularly surprising to learn that I leverage technology to my advantage on a daily basis. I work two jobs, have a demanding social life and time consuming hobbies: I am double busy. So when December comes round and I start thinking about New Year's resolutions, it always seems illogical to add more tasks to my routine. Instead, I prefer to focus on streamlining my personal organisation to a heightened sense of efficiency, giving me wiggle room to fit in any new extra-curricular if a gap presents itself (plus gyms aren't really my thing).

The knee-jerk reaction to time related stress is "˜I should do less'. Whilst there are many cases where this is true, this route should only be explored when the "˜I should be more efficient' approach has failed. As leaders of (often small scale) social enterprises, it's crucial to apply this method not just to your personal organisation but to your "˜organisation organisation'.

We are all guilty of falling at productivity hurdles that are inexcusable considering the tools and resources available to us. Here are some quick tips to help you with your organisation's organisation in 2013.

1. Reduce (or at least de-prioritise) internal email

Information overload is one of the main contributors to mental stress and anxiety. One of the primary productivity stumbling blocks that small teams and organisations face is the sheer volume of internal email. If you flick through your inbox, I'm willing to bet that over 75% of your messages are from people at your own organisation. How many of these are actionable or urgent let alone require your attention?

Internal comms is obviously essential, but treating your internal email as a 24/7 feed is hugely inefficient. Instead, take an "˜egg timer' approach to reading your internal unread messages; opening them all only every couple of hours or so and even going so far as to task yourself on action points using a service like Producteev as opposed to dealing with the request straight away. A 10 minute block of email processing followed by two hours of productive work is far more effective than always keeping one eye on your inbox.

2. Meetings are almost always a waste of time

This is a classic productivity tip that has been well versed. Meetings (by definition) consume the time of more than one person. An hour long meeting with four team members swallows up four hours of productivity; not one. They are also often sandwiched in the middle of a "˜working window'; i.e. between 10am and lunch, which can be psychologically disruptive to a worker's regime.

Without a stringently planned start-end time, agenda and follow-up action points; meetings can fast become your organisation's productivity downfall.

When planning a meeting ask yourself whether it is totally necessary; whether as the meeting host you have time to properly prepare and circulate an agenda before the event; and whether attendees should perhaps opt-in rather than being forced to join a meeting that they perhaps will not find useful. Similarly, let people leave meetings if they are no longer needed.

3. Open plan office good; open plan working bad

My last tip relates to the "˜working window' theory above. Depending on the nature of your business, many tasks undertaken by your staff require a high level of mental involvement. An open plan office breeds a cohesive team ethos, but forces all staff in to an "˜open door' stance whereby they can be interrupted at all times.

Consider enforcing a time period - perhaps a Wednesday afternoon for example - where interrupting people at their desk is strictly forbidden. Alternatively, give people a "˜do not disturb' sign which they can display when they are deep in concentration (and diligently abiding by tip #1). This gives everyone a known window when they can schedule their most involved work without distraction.

You could even take this approach to the next level and give staff the option of working one day a week from home. It's horses for courses, but some people's productivity thrives when working out of the office.

I hope some of these tips will be of use and may help you rethink your social enterprise's organisation and efficiency. New Year's resolutions don't always have to be about doing more (re: gyms); promise yourselves that you'll simply do better.


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