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Getting It Together

A few simple organizing tactics can improve communication and enhance the bottom line.

By Monica Ricci

There are many factors that can cause disorganization in the workplace, such as frequent interruptions and hidden time-stealers. By identifying and combating the activities that create chaos, you and your staff can get more accomplished in less time. Here are five tactics you can recommend to your staff to enhance organization in your business.

Avoid frequent visitors
Interruptions are a major cause of chaos in the workplace. If you and your staff experience frequent interruptions that are eroding productivity and causing chaos, recommend that they establish a quiet period that occurs the same time each day or week.

This is a time to focus on doing important work, taking no phone calls or visitors. It doesn’t have to be long, perhaps only an hour or so, but everyone needs to make it clearly known when they are in the middle of their private work time so that others can plan accordingly. Suggest that each person create a sign to hang on the desk or door that says, “Quiet work period in progress: 11:00 to 12:00” to alert co-workers who are likely to stop and chat.

Consolidate communications
A follow-up to establishing the quiet period is to limit as much visiting and as many phone calls among staff as possible. If people are frequently going back and forth to each other’s desks and calling each other with questions, there is a lot of walking and talking going on, but not a lot of productive work.

To avoid the long-winded caller, encourage your staff to set boundaries at the beginning of the call.

Encourage each person on your staff to consolidate trips by keeping a notebook or folder for co-workers with whom they frequently need to communicate. Label each notebook with a person’s name and every time they have something to ask, tell or consult with that person, they should make a note in their notebook. Then once or twice a day, they can make their rounds, visiting each person whose name is listed in their notebook that day. This system of consolidating communications serves four purposes:

1. It keeps people from running around the office all day, losing productive time.

2. It reduces the number of interruptions and forces people to seek their own answers instead of automatically defaulting to asking someone else.

3. It streamlines communications between co-workers.

4. It creates a written history of the communications within the office.

Set phone limits
Frequently, phone calls can be long and drawn out, wasting time and putting you behind schedule. To avoid the long-winded caller, encourage your staff to set boundaries at the beginning of the call. For example, the individual placing the call could start the conversation by saying, “Hi, Steve, do you have a minute to answer two questions?” This will let Steve know that the caller intends to keep the conversation short and to the point.

Another time-saving phone tactic to use when someone calls you is to set the tone from the beginning by saying, “I am in the middle of some work, but I have one minute I can give you.” Again, this clearly indicates that you are available to the caller, but only for a short time. When you end the call quickly, the caller will not surprised.

Create a phone log
Having to search several places to find the scrap of paper on which you wrote a message or phone number greatly increases the chances of losing the information. Require that your staff create a phone log to record all phone messages and telephone numbers for return calls. Keeping all the information in one place allows you to flip back and forth to see messages from prior days and weeks and serves as a record of whom you talked to, when, and the subject matter discussed.

Consolidate callback times
It is easier for your staff to stay organized and focused when they are doing one thing at a time, as opposed to jumping from task to task. Consolidating your telephone callbacks is a good way to take care of several phone calls quickly. Record a message on your outgoing voicemail that says you will return today’s phone calls “between the hours of X and Y.” This tip allows you to use the phone as a tool for productivity rather than be a slave to it. It also lets people know when they will hear from you.

If you implement these five simple tactics in your workplace, you and your staff will improve your communication, organization, effectiveness and, ultimately, your bottom line.

Monica Ricci, founder of Catalyst Organizing Solutions, is a professional organizer and speaker committed to helping her clients manage their environments. You can reach her at 770-416-6613 or


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