I don’t know about you, but I am not a naturally organized person. For example, as I went through my work day, I might start on some graphics for a website. Then the phone would ring and someone might need me to take pictures. When I got back, I’d then have to upload the pictures, and since I was already working with them, I would go ahead and process the pictures so they’d be ready to publish. As I finish the pictures, I would also check my email and then I’d realize I haven’t checked on a self-study I’d been working through. I also needed to write letters to some prospective clients and do some followup phone calls.

Your day may be like mine used to be, jumping from one task to another, not every completely finishing anything, and working on lots of things. At the end of the day, I used to look back and wonder what I had done all day that made me so tired.

Would you like to get organized and make sure that you get some things accomplished, and have some concrete way to “show” yourself what you’ve gotten done?

There are lots of ways to get and stay organized: some people like to use a PDA, other folks use their computer software, such as Outlook or ACT!, to stay on top of things, and some people (like me!) prefer written lists.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a time management seminar by Franklin Covey, and they supplied me with my first datebook/organizer. Of course, there are many time management seminars you can attend, or you can find tutorials and books that would be very helpful, but the basics are this:

1. Decide what type of system you’re going to use. Any type of tool is going to basically work the same way, whether it’s paper, technology or a combination of both. The system you choose will depend on how you work – are you mostly at your desk during the day, working in your area? Your computer might be the perfect tool to use; you’re already using it and adding another piece of software should integrate well into your day. If you are working between several areas, or if you spend a good bit of your day on the road, either a paper system or a PDA, which would sync with your main computer, would work well.

2. Devote a block of time to get things started. Enter all the information in your system: contact information for all important people, birthdays, days off, vacation time, other important dates such as family get togethers, etc. Also make sure you have a section for on-going goals. To reach those goals, make sure you keep them in front of you. What are you doing now to reach them? Set small steps towards your goals every week. If you don’t have some concrete goals written down, you are only dreaming. Set some goals and put dates on them!

This is also a good time to write down a mission statement for yourself, if you don’t already have one.

3. As you go through your day, enter information as you get it. For example, if I spoke to my insurance company today about an incorrect charge on my bill, and the person tells me that it will definitely be taken care of by end of the week, I’m going to make a note to myself on Friday to check back online to see if the correction has been made. In that note, I’m going to include who I spoke to, what time we spoke and any other pertinent details. If I’m given an assignment that’s going to be due at the end of the month, I’m going to set checkpoints for myself before the due date to check on the progress of the assignment. And if others are involved, I’m going to make sure I check with them.

4. As you meet new contacts, enter them into your system as well – anything and everything you can think of about them. Where do they work? What contact information? What are their interests? Anything that will help you know more about that person will be helpful. You never know when you might be able to pass something along for that person, and believe it or not, that’s the basis of networking. Some folks believe that networking is all about “what’s in it for me”. WRONG!

5. Take 15-30 minutes once a week to organize your week. Remember to enter any appointments you’ve got, and any goals you’re working towards. You also should review your goals, mission statement, etc. Then your first task for the day, each day, is daily planning. This might take only a few minutes, but you should review your tasks and goals for today. Then put priorities on the items you’ve got. As you are assigned new items, you add them to your list.

6. The best part of all? As you start on an item, put a small mark beside it – if you get called away, you’ll be able to find your place on your list. Then when you finish something, check it off. You can see what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve missed as you go through your day. Anything that doesn’t get done today, either gets moved up to another day, or it can be deleted.

As you can see, getting and staying organized is work, but the small amount of time and effort you invest results in huge benefits – you get more done in less time, and you’re less likely to miss anything important!