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Officiency in the Media

Organize your Work Day - An Interview with Author K.J. McCorry

by Deborah Crawford

Bella Online
Bella Online, www.bellaonline.com
June 2005

Author and professional organizer K.J. McCorry has been organizing all her life! Her mother was an excellent organizer and her father was the "absent-minded Professor" type, so K.J. learned how to organize for both types--those who are naturally organized, and those of us who are, well . . . not.

Organize Your Work Day in No TimeK.J. owns Officiency, Inc. and specializes in simplifying office systems and time management. (Officiency is pronounced like Efficiency only with an O instead of an E.) She has written a book, book Organize your Work Day in No Time and I recently had the opportunity to talk with her. I asked K.J. how the small business and home business owner can organize our work day to be more efficient and productive.

First is learning to be productive without the accountability of working for a boss. We have to develop incentives and motivations for ourselves to get and stay organized. Many of us are time-starved and saving time is a huge incentive to put things where we can quickly find them later without spending twenty minutes looking.

Second, is that many small business owners fail to set up properly in the first place and never find the time to go back and do it later. If you are working at home, it is important to designate a space that is workable, with at least a desk, filing space and a computer. “The proper tools make all the difference,” K.J. emphasized. When we start out, we try to cut costs and buy cheaper or smaller than we really need, and end up outgrowing our workspace and tools very quickly.

We talked about how important computers are to small businesses now, and K.J. suggested that we take some basic computer classes since the technology and programs change so quickly. You should know the basics, like Word and Excel, but also imperative is learning to use electronic contact manager systems and calendars. Outlook or ACT! are two popular examples.

Every business must have a database to track contacts and clients. If you don’t have one, put this on top of your to-do list. Having all your contact information in one place makes any kind of client contact easier—phone calls, emails, sending snail mail, making notes after sales calls, setting up meetings, even making a Christmas list!

Another must-have for the small or home business is a calendar, and K.J. recommends an electronic calendar, but paper can work, too—just as long as you have one! Keeping up with meetings, due dates and other obligations is essential to meeting deadlines and staying on schedule.

After setting up the tools, the next step is to set up your office systems. Many of us do not think through our systems, we just throw something together. If you will create an outline of your system and set up your paper, electronic and email systems so that you have, in K.J.’s words “one world of data”, you will find the systems mesh much more efficiently. For example, you probably have a paper folder for “Marketing” and might have several subcategories under marketing. But, do you have an email folder for Marketing or is everything filed in your In-box along with 435 other messages? Do you have an electronic folder for Marketing or do you just save everything in a documents file or to your desktop?

If you will think about the structure your system needs, your mind will help you since it knows there is a place for it. Otherwise, you end up with an ever-growing “To File” Pile that your mind just does not want to deal with. But with a system, your mind knows where to put it and it takes 2 seconds to file it, not thirty minutes digging for it.

I asked K.J. how we can use organizational principles to help deal with the inevitable distractions involved in working from home. She said “First thing in the morning, make a note of what you want to accomplish that day—no more than 10 things.” When you don’t have a list, your mind is easily distracted—it’s overwhelmed with the hundreds of unwritten to-do’s you keep in your head, and so it decides to do laundry or wash dishes because it’s clear on how to do those things and knows it has accomplished something. With the written list, it is easier for your mind to clearly focus, and it is highly likely that you will meet these objectives.

The second big distraction in working from home is when friends and family call and interrupt your work. It is important to set boundaries and schedule your time to minimize these interruptions. For example, if your children go to school, decide how to handle the time right after they come home. Will you spend an hour with them and go back to work, or stop working for the day, or say hello and get them to working on homework while you finish your work day? Just determining your guidelines and communicating them to family members and friends can save you time and it will help your loved ones too—they will know what is acceptable. Otherwise, they are guessing and you are frustrated.

K.J. said organizing is about habit and practice. Once you have your tools in place, including your workspace, your file systems, your calendar and contact management system, and your established office hours, you can be organized if you are mindful and aware of the gains of staying organized.

She emphasized that breaking organizing down into “Small Chunks” works much better than the typical “Organizing Marathon” we non-organizers try. Choose one thing that would help you the most. For most people, K.J. says that is email, but it could be paper management or returning phone calls, or managing your calendar. Pick the one thing that is most frustrating to you, that you know would help you the most, organize it and practice it for 21 days, and you will have developed a new habit making you more productive and efficient. Then, you can pick another one and repeat the process. If you try to do it all at once, you will quickly revert to your old ways.

K.J.’s book Organize your Work Day in No Time has much more valuable information than we can cover here. You can learn how to visualize your perfect day, how to choose the best systems for you, and how to manage the various tasks you have to do each day. She takes you step by step through various filing systems, using email and calendars, and even covers project management and managing your meetings and phone calls.

And, you can read more about K.J. and her company at her website: Officiency.com.

Content copyright © 2001-2005 by Deborah Crawford. All rights reserved.

This content was written by Deborah Crawford. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Deborah Crawford for details.