In the corporate world, you cannot escape from mass emails, landline calls, cellphone calls, post (when it arrives), endless meetings with death by PowerPoint, internal mail and people pitching-up at your desk unannounced. Some days I wonder when I am supposed to do the work I am paid to do.
A survival skill that we are not taught at university, is how to prioritise what is important. It is not possible to read every email with the same intensity unless you want to work a 12 hour day, as I sometimes do. Office administration is the skill that goes in hand with this; finding the information you need when you need it is often more important than remembering the detail of that information.
With this in mind, I embarked on an office clean-out. Files that have no “cover your back” value or records of important decisions or advice, were shredded (this is not an Enron scenario) or I handed them to others who may need them more than me. As a back-up, I do have soft-copies of 11 years of being employed with my current employer. Thankfully, I have a fairly logical protocol for saving soft copies of files and documents.
If you are feeling over-whelmed by office life (at home or at work) here are some tips to streamline things and cut down on wasted time:
⏰ opt-out or unsubscribe from online newsletters. Remain subscribed to ones that add real value
⏰ delete old and new emails; aim to finish each day with an inbox that only has read emails in it, requiring action the next working day
⏰ get rid of a leaning tower of Pisa set of physical inboxes. I had 6 physical inboxes for years, each dealing with a different category requiring my attention. Now I have one physical inbox which is behind my chair so nobody can use it as a dumping ground, including me
⏰ go paperless. This means you do not have to file documents away in ring-binders. Another time saving trick: get a scanner and not a printer
⏰ ruthlessly clean-out filing cabinets and drawers. You only need one of everything (my dad taught me this) and throw away old stationery
⏰ delegate to someone competent and who does not need you to hold her/his hand; test the water by putting this person in the deep end. What you want is survivors and not those begging for a life-jacket. Harsh but true (for me at least)
⏰ detox from office politics (if you work in an office). My leadership coach sent me a saying and for me, it helps to read it every time I think I am going to be swept overboard by office politics: “when you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is!”
⏰ draft correspondence on the basis that whilst it may not be perfect, the content is accurate and “good enough“. Too often we procrastinate unnecessarily over issues such as protocol when others are waiting for your email/letter
⏰ my greatest bugbear is hard copy files marked “general”, miscellaneous” or “various”. These are merely repositories for unwanted paper clutter
⏰ if you have the means or your employer is IT-centric, having 2 PC screens helps with efficiency, avoiding printing and making comparing documents easy
⏰ the hardest one of all for those in a corporate environment: leave work at work. Have a personal deadline for when you will check emails one more time (ideally at work) for the day and then power down. Remember: you work to live and not live to work.
There is life after work. Try not to let your job title or role determine who you are. Work should enhance what is already there, should not diminish it and not give one delusions of grandeur.