Office Wizard
November 6, 2008 7:35 AM   Subscribe

What's your favorite technique for getting things done in the office. Answers to this question can span the topics of communication, psychology, politics, organization, time management, technology, etc.

For example, I read a technique employed by a famous someone ( can't remember who ), who, without reviewing someone's work, would immediately fire back the question "Is this your best work?", saving his time, and motivating his staff to do better. I stay organized by using Gmail to tag project emails by sending them to ''. I have seen a project manager use sticky notes to organize projects with great success. My boss will purposely posit incorrect assumptions in emails which tend to increase response rates. A coworker usually follows up his emails with phone calls to ensure the message was received and understood. What means have you seen, or employ, that make things happen in your cubicle, office, or corner suite?
posted by jasondigitized to Work & Money (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I use google calendar as a to-do list. I have one calendar that's called "ToDo" that's a different color than my regular calendar and put things on that and move them around if they're not done and change them to the "Done" calendar if they are. At least that's what I try to do.

Is that the kind of thing you mean?
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 7:57 AM on November 6, 2008

I am one of those people who can't stay on top of things at work unless I force myself to stay totally, ridiculously organized. In addition to getting tips from all those "Getting Things Done" websites, I mostly rely (obsessively) on Todoist, Google Notebook, and time-saving stuff like saving drafts of emails I send out frequently. For information that is paper-only, I use a three-tiered inbox and a drawer of color-coded files (each color represents on of the 8 or 9 main things my job entails, with more manila file folders inside each one for specific tasks.

The other thing I make sure I do, which has served me as well as staying organized has, is to make a conscious effort to talk to people at work about things that are important to them. Sometimes it's business ("Hey, how did that presentation go?"), and sometimes it's personal ("How'd your son do at his tennis match?"). It seems superficial, and it is, but so are people. In general, if the people at your job perceive you to be nice, and genuinely interested in them and their concerns, they will be infinitely more forgiving and cooperative. They'll help you even if it's not in their job description or in their personal interest. They'll see you as pleasant to work with, and therefore be more willing to consider your feelings, make accommodations for you, and recommend you for good projects and promotions.

I don't mean to sound totally opportunistic; being nice at work makes me feel good, and it helps that most people I work with are fairly interesting and engaging. But I'm a firm believer in this adage: People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never, ever forget how you made them feel.
posted by Rykey at 8:05 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I use a clipboard with notebook paper as my mousepad so I don't forget to write down everything anyone says to me and everything I have to do.
posted by amethysts at 9:29 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

At work I'm old fashioned and go with sticky notes. I find that they're more in my face than any notes on the computer so I'm more likely to pay attention to them. I'm also more likely to get distracted by computerized notes (ie I'll look at a note in RTM and then try to learn the keyboard commands for updating it).

I like having an agenda more than a calendar. It's just a list of open projects. Sometimes they'll have a couple notes here or there. Some days get there own agenda. Others agendas have lasted whole weeks. For short term projects theres something very satisfying about having a list of 3-5 things to do each day and crossing them off as they finish.
posted by valadil at 11:56 AM on November 6, 2008

This is going to sound counterintuitive, and I imagine some people may not agree with it, but if someone sends me an email about something, needs a reply and is within walking distance, I go over a reply face-to-face. If it's a piece of true business, I get the benefit of the nuance of conversation and can ask rapid questions ... total time less than replying and playing email tag. If it's just a politically-motivated email, I can reply but leave not paper trail that will trap me in their quagmire. I find the benefits of our electronic connectiveness are often a mirage. Face to face still works better, and is much faster, more times than you can imagine.
posted by lpsguy at 12:28 PM on November 6, 2008

As a graphic designer, most of my work is project based, but I imagine my methodology could work for other people. I keep my computer folders organized by month so I can easily access the things I'm working on without getting overwhelmed by cruft and by looking at past projects.

I flag any emails that come in needing either a response or a task completed.

From there, I pick either the project that is due first, or the smallest one and work on it until completion, and repeat.

We use a custom built internal web-based project manager to submit requests for projects and share the needed files, notes and info. Each time someone adds a not to the project the note is emailed to the inboxes of the people attached to the project. When stages have been met, or the project is finished we attach a note with our time spent on the project and mark it as completed.

The basic rule I keep to is to be tidy: to keep my desk and computer workspace as clean as possible, eliminate paperwork (both physical and digital) once the task associated with it is completed, and clear my email flags on a regular basis. I find that if the only physical things I'm looking at at anyone time are immediate reminders of active tasks it's a lot easier to keep track of what I need to be working on at any one time.
posted by nerdcore at 5:02 PM on November 6, 2008

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