Maintain Focus With a Personal Organizer

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By Harold Taylor

The biggest time problems experienced by business people are interruptions, many of which are self induced.

A study mentioned by Vince Poscente in his book The Age of Speed, involving 36 office workers found, that on average, they spent only 11 minutes of a typical workday focused on a given task before they were interrupted – and once interrupted, it took them nearly half an hour to return to the task, if they did at all. Another study of more than 11,000 office workers revealed that interruptions caused more than 2 hours of lost productivity per day – that’s 25% of the workday wasted.

There are many things you can do to ward off external interruptions, such as engage voice mail, turn off your cell phone and close your office door; but there is still the tendency to interrupt ourselves as ideas pop into our heads, or we suddenly remember we forgot to do something or we think of something we have to get someone else to do.

That’s when a Personal Organizer comes in handy. First of all it gives us someplace to record things other than our To Do list, and allows us to capture information at the time so we don’t forget it. In its simplest form a Personal Organizer is a half-size binder with several forms. These could include note paper, telephone directory pages and others; but here are three of the most useful forms.

Telephone & Visitor’s Log

When talking on the telephone, use a Telephone & Visitor’s Log to record the person’s name and number, the date of the call, a brief summary of the conversation, and any action required as a result of it. Fill it out as you talk on the telephone. The action required section is on the extreme right of the form, where it stands out. When you’ve completed the action, put an X through it. You could also note the date that action was taken for future reference. A log prevents you from having to rely on your memory, ensures that you remember to get the caller’s number in case you have to call back, and provides a permanent record of any promises, prices quoted, or other information that could be of use at a later date. And just as important, it forces you to focus on the call rather than other conversations or noises surrounding you.

Delegation Record

One of the advantages of the Delegation Record is that it eliminates incessant interruptions to yourself and others. While working on a project, and unrelated thoughts pop into our minds, the tendency is to grab for the phone, email, – or even shout to someone across the room. Constant diversions such as these make our workday fragmented and inefficient. By jotting the intruding thought onto a Delegation Record or Communication Record for later action, we don’t forget it nor does it sidetrack us. Once the current task is completed, you could follow up on those other items that you had thought of during the day.

Meeting Participant’s Action Sheet

As a meeting progresses you could use a Meeting Participant’s Action Sheet to summarize the decisions reached, action required, whose responsibility it is to initiate the action, and the date that action is to be completed. With this summary sheet you won’t have to delay action until the minutes are issued. You will also be able to spot any errors in the minutes. And if there are no minutes, these notes are a must. The Meeting Participant’s Action Sheet will also enable you to keep the meeting on track even when you are not the chairperson. If you find the group skipping to an agenda item before a decision had been reached on a previous item, you could quickly bring it to their attention. So it will help keep everyone focused on the meeting.

You could make up your forms based on your needs and place them in a binder in sections with labeled dividers. Or you could purchase one at an office supply store or online. Personal Organizers are also available at many specialty and time management websites.

(C) 2010, Harold Taylor Time Management Consultants Ltd.

Harold Taylor’s website https://www.taylorintime.com Harold Taylor has been speaking, writing and conducting training programs on the topic of effective time management for over 30 years. He has written 16 books, including the Canadian bestseller, Making Time Work For You. He has developed over 50 time management products that have sold in 38 countries around the world.

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