4 incredibly simple ways to improve your work

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When you come back from a holiday vacation to work, you can get a bit overwhelmed with all of the built up work during the supposedly quiet holiday season.

The good news is that often the work doesn’t quickly get up to the fast pace you’ll see in just a few weeks. So while there is still a bit of a pause, I’d suggest taking some time to improve your work by doing four simple things to clear the deck for the new year.

1. Clean your desktop

I’m one of those people who has the philosophy of “ten minutes, one box.” It means there is nothing there of me that I can’t clear out in ten minutes and with one box — useful the two times I’ve been laid off in my career and been escorted out the door along with my fellow workers. (It also says something about my relationship with companies, but that’s a different story…).

However, there are tons of desks I’ve walked by in Corporate Planet that have so much crap on them it makes you wonder how anything gets done. And managers wonder how anything gets done when they walk by those desks too.

So, clean your desk. Get it to the point where it looks reasonable (not perfect; I’m not like that). Where you know where everything is located. Where there is some space to spread out to work on a project.

There is a tremendous amount of psychic energy tied up in all that stuff on your desktop. Get some of that space back.

2. Fix your task management system

If your like me, by the time the year comes to an end, your task management system doesn’t look like the one you started with at the beginning of last year.

Maybe that’s a good thing because your a master of your task management system, but more likely, your system needs a lot of cold, hard work. Things like cleaning up your categories, getting rid of done projects, reviewing that “Someday/Maybe” list to see what’s in there that should go on the “never” list and get deleted.

Related to this is your workflow using your task list. Stuff like:

  • How you get your action items from your email (because 80% of your work comes from email, right?) on to your task management system.
  • How you track your action items you’ve given to others for their input and then follow-up on the delegation.
  • How you review the tasks in your system and decide which ones you’ll be working on until the next emergency du joir comes along that day.

The idea here is to get rid of as much friction as possible in getting stuff to your task list, working your tasks, and tracking what’s out there for others to do for getting back to you.

3. Fix your reference files

Speaking of getting rid of friction, how easy is it to find stuff when you need it? You know the stuff…where the status report template is located, that spreadsheet that has the analysis you wanted to save for exactly this moment, or that plan you created and now need to update.

Finding stuff is one of the most frustrating aspects of work when your reference files aren’t set up right. Some people advocate using the search capabilities — especially in email — but I’m not there yet. It takes far longer for the system to search for something then just having a well-defined file system.

So get your SharePoint stuff straightened out to meet the audit you know will be coming. Clean up your home drive of saved files into something that’s logical and workable. Clean out your Evernote notes and notebooks of stuff you don’t need any more.

Organize and throw stuff out. Make room for the new year and get finding files something that doesn’t give you friction.

4. Get your stuff home and out of the office

Over the course of the year, we do a lot of stuff that ends up being ours, but stays on corporate assets. This doesn’t mean you pull the corporate confidential strategy report — it means get your stuff onto your personal assets, not the corporations.

The best example is your self-review you typically have to write for your performance review. Or, for that matter, your performance review.

Another could easily be the resume of your work on file in your corporate system. Often, these resumes are very company specific — which is golden information for contributing to your job search resume.

But the deal is this: stuff on corporate assets belong to the corporation. It’s not like when you get laid off and you get escorted out the door that you will be able to retrieve your performance reviews, resumes, status reports, and stuff like that which is really about you and your job performance. See: ten minutes, one box. Get that stuff on your assets because it is your asset.

The idea behind these four simple things to improve your work is simple: just like the clothes in your closet, you throw out the old, organize what’s left, and find what room is left for what’s coming up next.

If you don’t, you end up with a stuffed closet with no room for anything to add. It’s the same with your work. Get cleaning!

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