Career Success

How To Stay Organized

By EverwiseMarch 25, 2015

On the Everwise Answers forum, our community of experienced mentors give advice on the sorts of business cases, dilemmas and questions that our high-potential protégés frequently encounter. These are expert opinions. For more business best practices delivered right to your inbox, sign up here.

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Question: You’re a high-performer who started at an entry-level position, but is quickly taking on more and more projects. How can you properly manage the increased responsibility while continuing to produce quality work?

Jenny started at an entry-level position, but because of her performance keeps getting more responsibility. She likes the expanded role, but is finding it hard to keep track of all her projects using her old methods. What are some ways she can stay organized so she can continue to deliver high-quality work?

Here’s a summary of our mentors’ best advice from the discussion on the Everwise Answers forum.

1. Evaluate

Jenny has been entrusted with more responsibility because she’s been recognized as a high-performer, so she must be doing something right! Knowing this, a good place to start is to “assess what does work about your ‘old’ system of organization,” suggests IT expert Jessie Brouwer.

After that, software development specialist Ravi Subramanian recommends that Jenny look at each of her responsibilities and ask, “How much time am I spending on this? What are the expectations? Am I able to deliver a quality result?” This will help her evaluate each project and determine if she is able to take on more work based on her commitments and skill level.

If she realizes that she can’t take on more, she must learn to decline. “She also needs to say ‘no’ to new assignments sometimes or the quality of her work may be impacted,” advises star manager Sheila Zahraei.

2. Prioritize

Jenny also needs to learn to determine which projects are the most important, which is never as easy as it sounds. As supply chain expert Peter Blok forewarns, “a deadly trap is assuming the loudest or most recent voice is the priority. You need to defer things without loosing track of them.”

To prioritize her projects, technology strategist Tony Puerto suggests she creates a “completion list” with three categories:

  • Urgent: must do projects
  • Important: second priority
  • Non-Essential: can wait

According to Tony, the key is to split “each project into smaller steps and tackle one at a time until there is nothing else that can be done.”

This technique will help breakdown Jenny’s workload into more manageable pieces and so that she can focus on the most important areas.

3. Time Management

Once Jenny has prioritized her projects, she can begin to organize her time appropriately. “To help me manage my day I have set up time blocks for myself, such as only working on follow ups from 9am to 11am,” shares HR specialist Liana E’Akels. For her, this strategy helps her stay focused and keep all her projects moving forward.

To stay on top of the progress and the next step of each project, pharmaceutical industry specialist Lalit Misra says that it’s “key to ensure that you dedicate a fixed time in the day to update all your projects’ status.” This process will help Jenny stay on target and feel less overwhelmed.

Another method is to plan backwards.  Jenny can start with the completion date of the project and then put in necessary reminders and stages of progress. Sales executive Puneet Raman explains that “a clear timeline expectation, when set with stakeholders in the beginning, removes pressure to a large extent.”

4. The Right Software

Many mentors recommended using a project management software. There are plenty on the market, both free and for purchase, so Jenny should explore her options and find the one that works best for her.

Product development specialist Dick Sillman really enjoys Asana, and describes himself as “a satisfied user of their cloud-based team and task organization tools.” Some other possibilities are ToDoist, Microsoft Project, Frankline Planner, OneNote and Wunderlist.

Although tools are important, supply chain specialist Peter Blok reminds Jenny that “a tool is not enough. You need a method of organizing and prioritizing that you can live with. There is no substitute for self-discipline. All the tools and techniques in the world will never help unless you make up your mind to stick to a plan.”

5. Delegate

Just as her managers have delegated work to Jenny, she also needs to pass on some of the work.

“Does she have more help or employees she can delegate her old work to?” asks quality assurance and design expert Vipul Sheth. Jenny should asses whether she is still doing entry-level tasks that are now below her skill level and costing her valuable time.

“Are there some lesser priority projects that she can either delegate or have outsourced?” proposes financial analyst Marge Klingind. This could help free-up Jenny’s time to focus on the more important projects of her expanded role.

Resources

There is plenty of great guidance available about these sorts of challenges, here are a few suggestions:

The Mentors

Thanks to the Everwise mentors for their ideas, and to all the others who shared their recommendations on the forum.

  • Jessie Brouwer (Washington D.C.) project manager at NeoSystems Corp, expert in information technology and services
  • Ravi Subramanian (India) director of embedded systems at GRoboMac, expert in software product development
  • Sheila Zahraei (Canada) associate director at Expertech, able to develop and implement creative solutions to drive the business forward.
  • Peter Blok (New York) executive vice president at Sigmapharm Laboratories, expert in supply chain, process simplification, and optimization
  • Tony Puerto (Wisconsin) principal enterprise solutions architect at CSC, expert in technology strategy development and enterprise architecture
  • Liana E’Akels (Illinois) senior mortgage loan processor at Guaranteed Rate, expert in human resource management and customer service
  • Puneet Raman (India) head of North India sales team for enterprise growth account vertical at Tata Communications, expert in new business acquisition
  • Lalit Misra (India) director at SA-FORD, expert in research, development, and commercial scale manufacturing in the pharmaceutical industry
  • Dick Sillman (California) principal member of technical staff at Parc, expert in user-centric system designs and product development
  • Vipul Sheth (California) vice president at Medtronic, expert in quality assurance and design control
  • Marge Kling (Maryland) owner of Marge Kling CPA, expert in financial analysis and accounting
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