Organization is an often overlooked job skill for an employee. But the ability to plan, prioritize, and achieve goals can save your credit union or CUSO time and money (and you hassle). For some people, organization comes easy; others find it to be challenging. Getting into a routine with your workplace organization can be difficult at first, but if you keep at it you will quickly begin to see an increase in productivity and a decrease in clutter. Try to take it slow at first, starting with one goal and building from there.
So how do you get started? Here are a few tips to help you build a plan to stay organized that works for you and your credit union.
Clean and organize your desk
Your desk is your primary workspace and should be kept free of clutter. Studies have found that office clutter undermines productivity and motivation. There should be space on the desk to spread out a project, which will improve focus.
Focus should not be on just clearing your workspace of clutter, but also on getting your computer desktop organized as well. Grouping documents in folders relative to the projects you’re working on will save you time when you need to locate them later.
Be careful with multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is not completing multiple tasks at once as we have all been told. Multi-tasking is switching your focus from one task to another which can slow down productivity. Everyone will receive urgent projects that need immediate attention; just make sure when the job is completed that you return to the original task and see it through. Always focus on the current task. One way to stay on task is to close your email and put your phone away while you work on a project–the absence of notifications will help to keep you from getting distracted.
Prioritize work projects
Organize your work projects into folders and put in order of priority, focusing your attention on what is most urgent. Set these folders aside on your desk and work on them one at a time. When you have gone as far as you can on one project, set it aside and grab the next folder on the pile. The order of priority may change from day to day, so at the start of your day put the folders in order of priority again. There are no set rules when it comes to organization. Whether you work for a credit union, a CUSO, or another type of business outside of the financial realm, workplace organization needs to be customized for your company or specific role.
Take time to manage your email inbox. For example, I set aside 30 minutes at the start of my work day to go through my inbox. If there are emails that I can respond to and complete in less than 5 minutes, I take care of the request immediately and then delete the email from my inbox. I also have set up folders in Outlook to store emails that require ongoing follow-up so that I can focus on the remaining emails that need my attention today. I set a goal for myself to empty my email inbox daily and review the saved folders for items that require action today. Maybe keeping an empty inbox isn’t realistic for your role, but keeping it at a manageable size will make it both easier to find what’s important and keep you from getting overwhelmed.
Utilize lists or tasks
Do you feel that sometimes we spend more time thinking about and discussing all that needs to get done today, instead of focusing on and completing the task at hand? This can really slow down our productivity levels. To get organized you will need to set up a task game plan. Create a daily, weekly, or monthly task list to remind yourself of important ongoing tasks. You can use a simple checklist or create a task that allows you and your team to manage any project, meet deadlines, and hit goals. Some popular free software applications that specialize in project management are Trello, Asana, Teamwork, and Todoist…just to name a few. For you, maybe creating tasks in Outlook meets your needs. The answer is finding what works for you and your team and taking advantage of these valuable resources.
Templates or spreadsheets
For projects involving an entire team, you may want to create a template or spreadsheet to help track your progress. It will give you a standardized way to get the work done, reducing mistakes and missteps. It also gives management and the entire team a snapshot of project status.
For an example of how using a software template can help to keep a project organized, I spoke with Nicole Hall, the Project and Logistics Manager with CU*Answers Network Services. Her department uses a custom template in ConnectWise to manage credit union routers. Staff on the Network Services team will enter information specific to the credit union such as equipment quotes, router locations (branch), and support documentation for the equipment. With everything in one place, it makes information updating quick and easy.
In my role as an Administrative Assistant, my tasks and duties are in support of all departments within our CUSO. The projects are varied, so my preference is to utilize spreadsheets to track projects and expenses. One recent example of how organization saved me time, as the person who orders office supplies, I was asked to order specific supplies to ensure workplace safety during COVID-19. Since this order was unique, I felt it was important to track the items purchased, date of purchase, and associated costs. I created a simple spreadsheet and entered the data as the orders were placed, the entire process took only seconds.
A few weeks later, our HR manager asked if I could provide her with a general idea of costs associated with hand sanitizers and other COVID-19 related purchases. I was able to immediately send her the spreadsheet I had created showing a complete breakdown of items purchased and their associated costs. Taking a few seconds to document along the way saved me an hour of research time which freed me up to focus on other time sensitive projects.
Don’t ignore data management in your core
Your core processing platform likely comes with myriad ways to collect and organize data, whether that’s in the form of databases or custom fields. It might be easy to get started with good intentions–grand plans of keeping a robust and organized database to pull from. But over time, without constant dedication to the task of maintaining it, you may find it to be unusable data. If you’re going to make the investment in the idea, make the investment in building the habits and routines necessary to keep it up to date.
Paper vs. cloud document storage
Every company talks about going paperless but the task itself is overwhelming and daunting when they look at all the paper stored in their file cabinets. A friend of mine has been working hard to go paperless at her company, so I thought I would get some advice from her on how to get the job done. Brenda VanReenen is the President and CEO of Award Cutter Company Inc. which is a trusted partner of major manufacturers and industrial tool distributers throughout the world in producing tapered endmills.
On the topic of organization, she said, “I started out by taking all important documents that were received in a day (contracts, invoices, receipts, packing slips, correspondence, etc.) and placing them in a folder. At the end of each day I simply scanned everything that was in the folder and organized the documents into folders on our company’s network drive. As time allowed, I would also grab a folder out of the file cabinet to scan and then shred the paper documents.
“After a few short weeks I already noticed how much time was saved when trying to locate documents that had been scanned. Simply typing a few words in the search bar, yielded the results I was looking for. No more rummaging through papers in a file cabinet trying to find a specific document. Scanned documents proved to be extremely valuable while working from home, or on the road. Documents were easily within reach and easy to find on our network drive, so I no longer had to go to the office to get the documents I needed. I could bring them up any time and from anywhere.”
Brenda brings up a good point when it comes to document access. With more and more employees working from home, there’s value in having vital documents stored on a network drive backed up on the cloud for easy access from anywhere. I find that scanning reduces the risk of documents being misfiled or lost and ensuring that company audits go a lot smoother.
Make the commitment to start scanning important documents today. Identify what documents need to be saved and set up a procedure to start the scanning process and continue scanning moving forward.
One day at a time
Rome was not built in a day and building an organizational structure that works for you and your credit union will not be either. If you take just one organizational tool and start to build from there, you will be amazed at the convenience it affords and how quickly things become routine. It will not take long until you start to notice savings in both time and costs.
How will sharpening your organizational skills benefit you and your credit union?