Organization Strategies For The Technical Professional

Organization Strategies For The Technical Professional

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Organization: Principals of Organization for the Technical Professional
Organization is a broad topic that can be broken down in to several different sub categories. When we think of organization, we think of tidy shelves with individual labeled bins for all of our knick knacks, books and magazines or a closet full of neatly folded clothing and shoes meticulously arranged by color, function and style. These are examples of tangible items and only represent one small cross section of organization. Intangible items such as time, relationships, information and finances must also be organized in such a way that will improve our ability to be efficient, effective and ultimately successful.
Throughout this paper I will be exploring three concepts of organization; Organization of time, Organization of the workspace, and the organization of personal finances. In my opinion, these topics will ultimately prove to be the most relevant to the success of a technical professional.

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By far the most important single topic of organization is time. “The most important benefit of time management is that is enables you to feel in control of your life” (Yager 5). This holds true in that you will not be able to manage or organize the other aspects of your life if you do not have the time. In turn, those who effectively manage their time will experience less stress, will be more productive, and ultimately will be able to realize more of their goals (Yager 3).
In order to begin using your time effectively, you need to assess how you are using it currently. By evaluating how your time is spent, you can see how much you are already using and how you are using it. Next, a decision needs to be made on which activities hold the highest and lowest priorities. Tasks that are not moveable, and have a deadline are usually of the highest priority, (paying bills, going to work, attending class etc.). Tasks that contribute to personal relationships, long term goals and projects that have no deadline, (getting together with friends, doing laundry, writing a book ) are usually of medium priority and tasks that do not contribute to any goal and have no deadline at all, (watching TV, surfing the internet, etc.) should be of the lowest priority.
There are several tools that can be useful when organizing time. A daily list of things to do and a calendar or day planner should be enough for most people. Some use technology to their advantage in the form of a smart-phone or a personal digital assistant. Microsoft outlook is another effective tool for time management in that it provides a calendar, a to-do list, all of your contacts and even your email all in one place. These tools give you the ability to visualize the time that you have in a day and allocate blocks of time to certain activities from your to-do list.
Once you have the tools necessary you will need to begin allocating your time systematically. Fill in the blocks of time with the highest priority tasks first. After this is complete, you will have an idea of how much time is available for the other more flexible tasks. You can now begin allocating the free time in your schedule to the medium priority tasks. Finally, the low priority tasks can be allocated to the remaining time (Kuther 1).
It is important to remember that low priority tasks are still important. The idea is to effectively balance your time between things that need to be done, and things that you want to do. Relaxation and fun are an important part of life, and you will find that you actually have plenty of time for those things if you can manage your time in an efficient manner. Effectively organizing your time also allows you to organize other important aspects of your life as well.
After balancing and organizing your time, you will find that you have a lot more than you though you did and will be able to do things that you did not think you had time to do. Similarly, organizing your finances can have the same result. Just as we have budgeted our time to make the most efficient use of it, the same can be done with money.
The first step to organizing finances is to choose a system. Some do it manually, but in this age of information, many people use some form of electronic assistance. One benefit of using software to help with finances is that all of the information that is needed is in one place that is well organized, easy to read and easy to access (Then 1). Products like Quicken® and Microsoft Money® and services such as Wesabe® are good examples of this. If you are a proficient user of Microsoft Excel® you can create your own system as well. There is no best choice for this. The system that you should choose is the system that you will use. (How to Organize…).
Once you have the tools to track your finances, you can begin using them. Separate your expenses into categories, and then prioritize those categories. Expenses such as rent, food and transportation should be of the highest priority, and items that you purchase for recreation such as lattes, movies, CD’s and concert tickets should be of the lowest priority. Most software that is designed to track expenses will show you how much you are spending on each category once you have started using it.
Once you have an idea of how much you spend each month, and how much income you have each month, a detailed budget that includes all of this information can be created. You should spend (on paper), every cent that you make for that month. Keep in mind that “Savings” is an expense in this system. This form of budgeting is called the “Zero-based budget” because the goal is for the sum of your expenses and your income to equal zero, (How to create…). It is important to make a new budget every month, and try to adhere to it as much as possible because financial demands can change from month to month. You also may need to adjust your budget based on actual expenses vs. budgeted expenses.
Organizing time and finances can seem to be a daunting task at first, but will be easier if you have a dedicated area in which to work in that is free of distractions and clutter. In my opinion, having an organized workspace is an extremely important part of having and organized life. You can think of your workspace as a command center for organizing everything else.
The first step in organizing a workspace is to have one. It is best to locate a workspace in a separate room in the house, or in a quiet corner of a room that is not frequently used. This will reduce the distractions from the television, and other activities, and serve to isolate that area for the purpose of working, studying and managing time and finances (Raphael).
In order to organize an efficient workspace, it is important to have the essential tools to do so. The basics include a desk that has as much space and storage that will fit in the space for which it is intended, a comfortable chair, a filing cabinet and a trash can. Other items that will enhance this workspace include a computer, a printer, a telephone and some basic office supplies. When setting up a workspace, placement of items is crucial. The telephone, computer, trash can and office supplies should be within easy reach from a comfortable position (Tischler).
Once a well designed and comfortable workspace is established, the next step is to develop a strategy for handling the paperwork that will threaten to clutter that space. Items such as bills, mail, homework and the like can pile up at astonishing rates. One system for handling this type of information is to use a desktop filing system for active tasks. Vertical file folders, or multiple shelf inboxes can help to arrange active tasks into their respective categories such as “To Read”, “To Pay”, and “Homework”. All mail and paperwork that comes to your desk should be handled immediately and filed into one of these categories (Raphael). The only documents that should be on the desk top should be those that require further action. Other inactive documents should be either archived in a filing cabinet with a logical filing convention that makes sense to you, or thrown in the trash.
Another important aspect of workspace organization that is frequently overlooked is the organization of the information on a personal computer. All computers come with a built in system of logical folders that is designed to easily organize every bit and byte that graces the screen. Taking a few minutes to think about how you want to use this file structure, implementing a filing convention and adhering to it will be beneficial in the long run.
An organized workspace allows for an environment that will enable the organization of time and personal finances, which can ultimately lead to an organized and efficient lifestyle. Having the ability to use the available time efficiently means having more time to complete projects, maintain relationships and excel professionally. Using the tools available to manage personal finances yields a similar result, freeing up more hard earned money for savings, and lifestyle improvements. While getting organized does not guarantee success, it is certainly a valuable and essential skill for the continued development of a technical professional.
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