Recently I joked about walking into my new job as a whole new person. There were no preconceived notions about what I looked like or how I behaved, so I could have pulled it off! Well, except for the “acting” and the “lying” parts!
Without changing the way I present myself, there are lots of ways I can turn over a new leaf. I have developed dozens of bad habits on the job, and it is high time to undo them.
I have 9200 items in my inbox. I’m not kidding. I need to keep hundreds of emails for documentation. Hundreds, but not thousands. I delete minor emails right away (like the ones that say “thanks” or “works for me”) and I actually reply to most emails quickly. I just never get rid of them.
I have one good email habit, which is that I don’t leave my email open all day and reply to every message in real time. That way I can focus on some larger projects without distractions. I catch up on my email at least 4 times a day, which is still a lot!
I will never have an empty inbox, but I could ensure that every email kept is for a reason.
Our workplace recently switched to Outlook which has a pretty good To Do List feature and reminders, so that should help me out, too.
My Desk Top
Not my computer desk top – I mean the actual top of my desk! It was completely empty when I arrived two weeks ago, and now has neat little stacks of paper. History will surely repeat itself and I will end up with toppling stacks of papers and not be able to find anything. I am trying to start a few modest little good habits. For example, instead of jotting phone numbers to call on scraps of paper, I’m putting them into a phone calls notebook and checking off when I’ve returned the calls. (I could just as easily do this in a list app or a contact manager.) I aim to have a neatly organized desk top with everything I need actually retrievable!
My Filing Cabinet
At my last job, I inherited files that documented the entire history of the organization. I didn’t dare get rid of them. I just eliminated duplicate files and organized it all. No one said I had to keep it, but it didn’t seem right to throw away history. This time, my predecessor wasn’t a pack rat! There is literally only one file drawer of papers. Which leads me to the next item:
A Paperless Office?
I’m appalled by all the documents I print and the copies I make. Sometimes I need a copy in front of me at a meeting, but in my own office, I do not. I have a real opportunity to strive for a paperless office. That means:
An Electronic Filing System
I took a records management course which convinced me of the need for proper file names. Whenever people send me files, I rename them so they fit into my system. Since the file names describe what is in them, the titles are all keyword searchable. If, like me, you receive or send a lot of monthly reports, you know that the best way of naming files with dates is:
Library Circulation Statitics 2013_08_17 and Library Circulation Statistics 2013_09_17 because then all the dates line up nicely in chronological order!
The Two Minute Rule
A best practice in Getting Things Done (GTD) is: if a task will take you two minutes or less, don’t add it to a list – just do it! I find this works great for emails, phone calls, verifying facts with someone, putting equipment away, and so on. Better than thinking at the end of the day, “Hey, I should have said yes to that meeting request.”
I used to carry a big backpack to work every day containing library books (coming or going), a lunch and snacks, sometimes extra clothes or shoes for the weather, documents I need with me for a meeting, and so on. Now I am working close to home and don’t want to be loaded up like a burro for the walk!
This needs its own category. I used to bring a second breakfast to work, because I got up so early, and two snacks, and a lunch. I didn’t want to leave snacky foods in my desk because I just knew I’d eat them all in one go! Now I get up later and leave later, and have only one breakfast, and make do with an apple for a snack, and go home for lunch. So I hope my days of Dar’s Office Snack Bar are over!
Finally, I used to have a very private office. My new one opens into a shared area with lots of staff coming and going all day. I am on display unless I get anti-social and close my door! I like that because everyone can see what my desk top looks like and how much paper I am wasting and whether I am eating cookies all day! So I feel much more accountable.
I may look and act like my same old self at the new job, but there is lots of room for improvement in how I accomplish my work! I will check in later to say how I’m doing.
What good work habits do you recommend?