To succeed as an administrative professional, you need to be accountable not only to yourself but also to your employer, coworkers, customers and clients. In order to do this effectively, you need good planning and organizational skills to make the day flow productively, manage your workload and complete your tasks on time.
What are Organizational Skills?
Organizational skills involve being self-disciplined, setting attainable goals, keeping your workspace neat and orderly and exhibiting professionalism. Having good organizational skills is one of the most important soft skills you can cultivate as they help you manage your workload effectively, stay accountable to your employer and complete your tasks in a timely manner. The good news is that organizational skills can be learned just like any other soft skill with a little planning and organizational awareness.
Importance of Planning and Organizational Skills
Make sure your Office Demonstrates Ergonomic Principals – As the administrative office professional, you will be spending a significant amount of time working at a computer so it’s important that you develop a plan that supports ergonomic principles. If your workspace is arranged ergonomically, it will do wonders for how you feel and work through-out the day. It’s a well know fact that ergonomics increases productivity by allowing you to work at a faster pace, make fewer errors, become more positive and have higher energy levels which will enhance your organizational skills. Good office ergonomics involves the arrangement of your computer equipment and furniture so you can be efficient and productive. Therefore, chair height, equipment spacing, lighting and desk posture all make a difference.
Use a Planner – Get a planner in place and keep it with you at all times for organizing your work and to keep track of appointments, meetings, reminders, deadlines and other timelines required at work.
Maintain an Orderly Filing System – Whether you’re using an old fashioned inbox or outbox or transmitting files electronically, make sure you have a way of organizing incoming and outgoing work. Set this up according to what’s easiest for you to maintain and make sure your supervisor and co-workers understand the process.
How to Improve your Organizational Skills
1. Set Achievable Goals
Setting goals is one of the most important organizational skills you can obtain as goal setting requires a level of self-discipline that will help motivate you to focus on what needs to be done. It is a well known fact that individuals who set documented goals for themselves are usually more successful in both their personal and professional life than those who do not. Also, people who set and finish goals tend to get more done and often earn more money than people who don’t set goals.
2. Keep your Desk and Work Area Neat and Clean
As an administrative professional, you are responsible for keeping your desk and all workstations nearby clean and organized. Try to keep your work area clean and uncluttered and avoid leaving confidential documents like the company phone list, conference schedules or other confidential information visible. Make sure anything that you are currently not working on like files and documents are filed away so you exhibit a good impression to your co-workers and visitors to your company.
Keep personal items such as photos and other items to a minimum. While it’s OK to have one or two photos and maybe a plant or two close by, don’t go overboard as it will add to the clutter. Keep other items that you use frequently like your stapler or three hole punch within easy reach.
While many documents are now filed digitally, keep any paper documents and files that you use frequently in your immediate desk draw. Make sure they are clearly labelled so you don’t waste time finding them when needed.
At the end of the day, it’s always a good practice to make sure you leave your work area neat and tidy. Consider wiping down your phone and computer keyboard with sanitizes to avoid spreading or catching any germs that are going around. Review the work you must do the following day and wrap up your assignments and tasks to a point where they will be easy to pick up the next day. Always strive to leave your office with an uncluttered desk, an updated appointment calendar and an updated To Do List.
3. Prioritize your Work
One thing we can always be guaranteed in life is change and you may need to adjust your priorities and goals depending on the needs the organization you work for. Maybe your top priority and goal was to complete the department expense reports on time every Friday by 4:00 pm but now your boss has asked you to do a task he/she considers more important. It’s important that you realign your goals with the overall goals of your boss or department with the ultimate goal of re-focusing on your main goal as soon as you can.
Assigning priorities is usually one of the most difficult tasks for the office professional and often requires judgement as some tasks can have more pressing deadlines than others. However, knowing the difference between what must be done immediately (most important) and what can wait (less important, routine tasks) will be key to your time management and organizational skills. Many experts agree that establishing priorities with your manager is essential. While there are many thoughts on how to set priorities, organizing your tasks into categories can be helpful such as : (A) what must be done immediately, (B) what must be done today, (C) what may be done as soon as time allows and (D) what may be completed at a later date.
4. Be Accountable
Accountability is the acceptance of responsibility for one’s own actions (Investipedia). If you say you will do something or complete a particular task, make sure you do it, do it well and on time. Being accountable requires being organized and staying on top of your projects and deadlines. Allow enough time to proofread your work and deliver your best work possible.
5. Stay Motivated
If you can stay motivated while working on your tasks and projects, you are more likely to meet your deadlines and be accountable for your actions. Diane S. Rankin and Kellie A Shumack, in their book, The Administrative Professional, suggest taking the time to pause and measure your progress as a way to keep you focused on what you want to achieve. The idea is that if you can accomplish small steps along the way, it will help to keep you motivated to keep moving forward. It will also allow you to assess what you may need to change or re-evaluate in order to meet your goal or deadline.
6. Manage your Workload and Tasks with a To Do List
It’s important to keep a list of the tasks and the details associated with them by completing a To Do List. Many people manage their To Do lists on paper or in a spreadsheet but there is a much more effective way. Managing the action items on your to-do list in Outlook, for yourself and others, has never been easier when you use the Tasks feature in Outlook 2016. The Tasks feature keeps track of what you need to do with your tasks list and will also remind you of any up and coming deadlines. It can also record what percentage of a task you’ve completed and can even send emails that assigns tasks to other people. Make sure you plan each task well before you begin and proofread each finished task for correctness before you check it off and release it.
7. Avoid Procrastination
Procrastination is a very unproductive behavior that causes you to delay working on your assignments, projects and tasks. According to mindtools.com, some people are so chronically affected by procrastination that it stops them from fulfilling their potential and disrupts their careers. Don’t let this happen to you. Take the necessary steps to learn the reasons why we procrastinate and tips on how to stop procrastinating.
8. Group similar tasks but work at just one task at a time
One strategy is to group work that requires the same degree of concentration, such as answering phone calls, checking email, and social media inquiries as this will increase your effectiveness. Also, scheduling more difficult work assignments so you can work on just one task until it is completed will provide you with a greater sense of satisfaction and will save you time in the long run.
9. Cope with Interruptions and distractions
Interruptions are a part of everyday life when working in a busy office environment. It’s inevitable that your phone will ring, your boss will ask you a question or a co-worker will need assistance. It’s impossible to eliminate distractions all together so creating a plan on how to manage them is key. Focusing on one task at a time can help so do not multi-task by checking emails, texts, Facebook or other social media sites while you’re working on your priority tasks. Schedule a separate time each day to check emails, voicemail or cell phone messages. Keep your desk organized and de-cluttered so you don’t get flustered as you work, as not being able to find something you immediately need is a huge time waster.
10. Maintain a Good Work Ethic
Maintaining a good work ethic is actually quite straight forward such as arriving to work on time and performing your absolute best on your job duties. Doing this however, requires being organized in your personal and private life as well as at work. Try not to let the demands of your personal life like doctors appointments, home repairs, etc., interfere with your work time. Everyone needs a day off once in a while for appointments or family reasons so make an ethical decision to request a vacation day or personal day off instead of calling in sick. Also, do not conduct personal business on company time. Companies today can monitor both your email and internet activity so organize your time to do your online shopping and personal emails at home so you can stay focused and organized at work.
Organizational Skills and Stress
Manage your Stress Level – Stress can have a huge impact or our productivity and ability to stay organized at work and often times we blame it on the job. Maybe you feel the job has too much pressure, there’s too many calls coming in, too many upset customers, it’s just too busy and you can’t keep up. Maybe you feel like your supervisor isn’t supporting you or your co-workers are just too difficult. There’s a lack of teamwork and you plain and simply don’t like your job. While many of these job related factors may be true, many experts agree that not all the stress experienced by workers is actually work related. There may, in fact, be several non related factors in play.
So what role can you play in reducing your stress on the job? Some things to consider are:
- Are you getting enough sleep? Maybe go to bed a little earlier
- Are you drinking too much tea or coffee?
- Are you getting enough exercise? Sometimes just a 20 minute walk a day can do wonders for your attitude.
- Are you eating a healthy diet?
- Do you drink or smoke?
Yes, reducing your stress can play a big role in improving your organizational skills.
Office Skills Classes to Improve your Organizational Skills
To improve your office skills and learn more about how to be organized and other valuable soft skills, take the Soft Skills Training for Administrative Professionals course on officeskills.org.
Author Bio: Dawn Bieser is the Founder and Virtual Office Professional of officeskills.org. Dawn enjoys using her skills in education and technology to help individuals, entrepreneurs and small business owners improve their effectiveness and efficiency and gain new skills.
Author Bio: Dawn Bieser is the Founder, Instructor and Virtual Office Professional with OfficeSkills.org. Dawn has been teaching office skills for over two decades, both in the classroom and on her website, officeskills.org. She enjoys using her skills in education and technology to help individuals improve their effectiveness and efficiency and gain new skills. You can find more about her on her About page.