Maybe you will think it’s commonplace, but have you ever considered how punctuality is an essential ingredient in your working activity? To me it is your main business card.
Some time ago I was looking for an assistant. After having gone through some Skype calls, I shortlisted the best fits. Can you imagine my surprise when I realised that it took an unacceptable amount of time for the two people who seemed the most qualified on paper to reply to my requests of proposals and documents? The first one promised a reply within 48 hours and made me wait for 5 days (don’t make a promise you can’t keep… maybe I could have accepted those 5 days if she wouldn’t have promised a reply within 48 hours) and the second one made me wait for a long, long month.
Leaving aside the fact that I consider punctuality a simple matter of courtesy and politeness, if in a private environment I could have bore, maybe, a short delay, in a business environment being on time is an absolute prerogative unless unpredictable circumstances arise.
Have you ever asked for information via email and not received a reply in a reasonable time or not at all?
Have you ever been waiting in vain for the delivery of a specific packet, the repair of an appliance or the arrival of a phone call that you had previously agreed upon?
Or have you ever gone to the doctor’s for an appointment and found yourself sitting in the waiting room for long because the doctor was late?
How did you feel? Nervous? Annoyed? In those circumstances, did you get the impression that others didn’t care and respect your commitments and your time?
If the answers to these questions are yes, then we are on the same page. We hate delays, we are obsessed with deadlines, we respect the word given as much as possible.
HOW TO BE ORGANISED IN YOUR OFFICE
So, how can we organise ourselves not to forget anything and to always respect our deadlines?
Here are some simple tips that can help you:
If possible, book the last moment of your day to organise the activities for the following day: make a plan and assign a priority, dividing what you need to do into three categories: urgent, important but not urgent, and to be done sooner or later. Schedule a clearly defined time slot in your agenda according to this order of importance, highlighting and prioritising urgent things. If you can’t get yourself organised so early, at least try to make the planning of you day to be your first task in the morning.
Always plan a slot for any unpredictable and urgent tasks.
When something urgent comes in, immediately evaluate how long it takes you. If you think it’s feasible in less than ten minutes, then do it immediately. Otherwise, put it on your agenda.
Use a project management tool. In the age of digitization, it would be illogical not to take advantage of technology. There are a lot of useful tools on the net that can help us. Some of them are more sophisticated, others are simpler, some are free, for others you have to pay, but they all serve to the purpose. It is just a matter of finding the one that best suits our needs. Many professionals use, for example, Trello. Free, simple, effective, I confess that I love this tool too. It’s able to support you both in very simple projects and, thanks to the integration of applications, in rather complex ones. For Italian readers, you have the advantage of an interface in your language, which is great. Another, more complicated, tool, with an interface only in English, but wonderfully able to handle extremely complex tasks is Airtable. As well as Asana, Teamwork, Monday, Clickup and many others. These tools have the advantage of being able to collect not only deadlines, but also a series of related information such as documents, checklists, payment plans, personal notes on specific projects, etc. They also allow you to work in a team, assign projects to collaborators, and monitor workflow.
Create automation. How many times do you find yourself doing and doing the same things again and how much time does this process make you lose? You know, for example, that with a good setup, there are tools that allow you to automate the compilation of proposals, the onboarding process for your customers, the contracts filling in, and other tasks such as sending and signing the contract, filling out and sending invoices, and so on? In this way, you lose less time and the customer receives the documents without mistakes, with a professional and, above all, punctual and graphic appearance.
Create a handy to do list. It happens frequently to me to receive an email including important data for a particular project after my working hours or when I’m not at my desk. Chances are that we forget we have received it. Some project management tools allow you to automatically forward any incoming e-mails into special “waiting” folders so that it is impossible for you to forget about them. You can then open that folder when planning your daily activity and schedule the new tasks on your agenda.
Delegate. There are things you don’t necessarily have to carry on your shoulders. Giving priority also helps you to understand what can be delegated. Getting help, helps you to free up time and concentration to devote to those most important projects which must be dealt with only by you.
Cheat yourself a little bit. I know, I know… it seems so silly. But I guarantee you that it works! Never make the deadlines on your agenda to coincide exactly with the last and unavoidable deadline. Plan some time for the unexpected. That happens, always and regularly. The migraine, the computer updating for hours, the car that just doesn’t work that day. Never, never, never rely on chance. After all, being a good professional means also being able to foresee the unforeseen!
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