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30 November 2006

Are You Organized?

Organization has always been one of my strengths (even though my mother and my wife probably have examples of the exact opposite...). I'm not sure where it came from - but I've been told that it could be related to being a first born with a concrete-sequential personality and a healthy dose of perfectionism thrown in. And while being a perfectionist often leads to neurotic behavior, it can also be used in moderation to stay organized and manage your workload well.

In my previous life (a few months ago) I managed an acute unit in a psychiatric hospital and organization was mandatory. I supervised three clinicians providing services to over forty patients in crisis along with managing statistical analysis of a myriad of variables to keep the administration happy.

When I left the mental health field to become the web director at granger things calmed down for about ten minutes. Fifteen minutes into my new position I was thinking about ways to stay organized in this new environment.

One thing I quickly realized the following:

In order to stay organized in any environment you first need to find out what needs organized. -daryl mcmullen 2006 (like that matters...)
This may sound elemental but think about it - all organization is not the same. My organizational strategy and the tools I used at the hospital did not completely transfer to the church environment. The mindset transferred, but many of the strategies and tools did not. Here is a list of the most common things I must keep organized (ranging from macro to micro level tasks in no particular order):
  • Relationships: I manage relationships with co-workers, volunteers, other departments, our Senior Management Team (SMT), our web developers, current and potential vendors along with people inquiring about our website, etc.
  • Data (files/folders/pictures/video/etc.): Over time "stuff" builds up and can become very disorganized. I am directly involved with web files, image/graphics files, video clips, documents converted to PDF, etc.
  • Data (statistics): We are developing strategies to manage the statistics we have access to when it comes to our CMS, our website(s), our eCommerce solution, our enewsletter and our online streaming video usage.
  • Information: In every field there is basic/foundational information (capable of being learned in school or from a textbook) and there is progressive/cutting edge information that's so new it must be managed differently. This is where online content, blogs, tutorials, recently published books, periodicals and the like become very helpful.
  • Web Development: Managing current projects and identifying the next phase of web development.
  • Budget: Managing the cost of our current projects, and leveraging funds for future development.
  • Wish List: Developing "cool" new ideas that may or may not become part of future web development projects.
  • Web Maintenance: Managing the day to day maintenance of the website(s).
  • Doing/Designing: Actual hands on work in terms of maintenance or design work. I spend time in our admin panel adding/scheduling/maintaining content and do a small part of the graphics and flash work on the site.
  • Quality Control: A constant focus in terms of site consistency, functionality and integrity.
In order to stay organized in the above areas - here are some organizational strategies and tools you can use. Some work for me and some don't. Likewise, some may work for you and some may not:
  • Your brain: Keep track of everything in you brain. Doesn't work for me - more power to you if this works in your world!
  • The "2Do List:" The most basic organizational strategy to keep track of stuff and get thing done. Of course this takes place in a myriad of ways. Electronics: desktop, PDA, notebook or even the handy dandy smart phone. Paper: keeping lists on paper is very traditional - but rarely fails you. Whiteboards: awesome way to keep your 2Do list in front of your face all day - but it's not very easy to take with you. Sticky Notes: some people swear by the sticky notes and unless things are written on one of the little yellow squares it won't get finished.
  • Email clients: Another organizational tool is your email client. Microsoft Outlook (for example) powerfully integrates your communication (email) with your 2Do list, your contact list, your working documents, etc. If you can wrap your brain around this sort of integration it can take you to amazing places.
  • One Note: I do not use One Note (a Microsoft product) but I work with people that swear by it. This application takes your electronic organization to new levels by allowing note taking and document creation as it integrates other Microsoft products like Outlook and Word.

Of course the list could go on and on, but I'll stop for now. The key is not to do what everyone else is doing - the key is to find what works for you and do that.

Good luck!