Teaching employees how to stay organized at work can minimize the cost of procrastination and improve your overall bottom line.
From keeping on top of deadlines and managing competing priorities to simply mastering the constant flow of communications that hit inboxes every day, the challenge of staying organized at work is one every employee faces. In "Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time," author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy explores the role of organization in increasing productivity and overcoming procrastination. One study, as the Global Banking & Finance Review reports, found that employee procrastination and disorganization cost businesses over $100 billion every year.
Here are some of Tracy's strategies to help finance leaders counter this trend and help their teams stay organized and productive.
1. Set the Foundation With Strong Organization
Knowing what you want to accomplish and setting out a plan to get it done is one of the core takeaways from "Eat That Frog." "Your mind," Tracy writes, "your ability to think, plan and decide, is your most powerful tool for overcoming procrastination and increasing productivity. ... The very act of thinking and planning unlocks your mental powers, triggers your creativity, and increases your mental and physical energies."
In other words, investing the time to clarify your goals and commit them to a written plan is the best way to systematically overcome procrastination and stay organized, focused and executing at a top level.
2. Start by Breaking Goals Into Smaller Parts
One of the most important steps in that process is breaking goals down into small, manageable steps. "How do you eat your biggest, ugliest frog?" Tracy writes. "The same way: you break it down into specific step-by-step activities and then you start on the first one." Dividing up larger projects this way not only renders each individual part more approachable, making this a great tool for overcoming procrastination, but also helps generate the kind of momentum that drives productivity.
In fact, the Harvard Business Review describes this approach as a way of making "the cost of effort feel ... smaller" and recommends identifying a project's first step, tying its completion to a treat or reward and removing blockages that prevent you from getting that one step done.
Capturing these steps in a list, Tracy adds, can increase your performance by 25 percent from the first day, effectively helping you reclaim two hours of effective performance per day.
3. Plan Each Day
Once your project map has been laid out, it's important to develop a concrete plan for each day. Tracy advocates a streamlined strategy: Create a to-do list that starts with identifying your most important tasks. According to Tracy's "ABCDE" method, assign each item an importance value and start with the most important task. Write the plan down on paper and then follow it.
The essence, in other words, is to plan the work and work the plan. Done consistently, this can help ensure that you're optimizing your time each and every day, moving the needle forward toward your goals. Compounded organization helps businesses capture their best return on energy invested over the long term.
4. Thoroughly Prepare Before You Begin
Another concept Tracy advocates is preparation before beginning: "Have everything you need at hand before you start. Assemble all the papers, information, tools, work products and numbers you require so that you can get started and keep going." Gathering everything that's essential helps you eliminate everything that's not, enabling you to eliminate obstacles, capitalize on momentum and keep moving forward.
5. Build On Technology
Technology's capabilities can help us stay organized — but they can also distract us. Manage your relationship with technology to avoid letting things like social media waste precious time. Instead, according to Tracy, you should "use your technological tools to confront yourself with what is most important and protect yourself from what is least important." A calendar app and digital to-do list can help you focus, for example, while deleting social media apps from your phone can make it more difficult to procrastinate.
Finance leaders should encourage their workforce to invest in organization. A few minutes spent planning and gathering materials before jumping into a project can ultimately pay big dividends. Building a culture that's focused on having clear plans, expecting workers to be prepared for their tasks and holding everyone responsible for accounting for their days can dramatically improve productivity and the bottom line.
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