How to Enhance Your Organisational Skills

Good organisation is all about planning ahead and preparing effectively. When we organise things well, we make the best and most economic use of our time and skills and we also have the satisfaction of having dealt with things with clarity of thought and purpose.

The Space Race

I am put in mind of a story from the Space Race. The Americans and the Russians were competing to be the first to land a man on the moon. One small part of the process for the Americans was a multibillion-dollar program to design a pen that would work in zero gravity so the astronauts could keep records and notes of the mission whilst in space. Because gravity could not be relied on to maintain the ink flow, another solution was needed. This occupied a vast team of highly intelligent engineers and technicians for years. Eventually, after immense hard labour, application and ingenuity, the team was successful and a pen that would write in space was developed. An excellent result all round. What was the solution adopted by the Russians? Well, they just used a pencil!

Planning Stage 1: Clarity on what needs to be done, how and by when

So, we need to be clear on what we are trying to achieve. Here, our values will best inform us: What is important to us, in terms of the desired outcome for the task or project at hand? To do this, we need to apply the right level of priority to the task or project. (There is more on setting priorities in my problem-solving article from February this year). We need also to be comfortable with the extent to which we draw on our resources - both energy and time - to achieve the outcome we are after. It is really important to spend enough time in the planning stage, determining what needs to be done, how and by when. All too often we embark on a project with enthusiasm but without sufficient advance planning, then become dispirited and give up or allow another project or distraction to absorb our attention instead. This leaves the original project uncompleted and still unplanned, making it harder to return to it another time and unnecessarily increasing stress levels.

Planning Stage 2: Building in flexibility and starting in good time

Of course, we always need to build in some flexibility. We need to be able to revise the plan, if necessary, and ensure that we do not leave things until the last minute. Leaving things to the last minute will increase adrenaline and focus to a degree. As a strategy, however, putting things off is often self-defeating: adrenaline and stress levels can rise too high, rendering us unable to think clearly and either unable to complete the task or forcing us to a lower standard than we could have achieved had we started sooner.

Planning Stage 3: The salami technique

A very useful technique for larger tasks or projects is what is known as the salami technique. This involves slicing up a project into small, manageable tasks and dealing with each slice in sequence. This has a number of advantages. It’s very easy to underestimate the amount of time needed for large tasks. The salami technique allows us to assign a more realistic time estimate to each slice. It also makes the whole task or project itself seem less daunting, because it has been broken down into its component parts. This might take a number of different forms: slices of time for large but routine and interruptible tasks (electronic or hard-copy filing or other administrative tasks, for example), or slices for the steps involved in progressing and completing the task or project itself.

So whatever it is you need to organise, if you plan and prepare for it efficiently ahead of time, conditions will be ideal for completing it to the best of your ability. This will give you a real sense of achievement and satisfaction - not only whilst doing it, but also once it is done.