Help Someone Be More Organised and Productive: Here’s How

It can be frustrating — not to mention stress inducing — to manage someone who’s disorganised. If your employee’s tendencies are damaging the team’s productivity, you need to address it.

How can you help your scattered direct report develop better systems? How can you drive home the importance of staying on top of meetings, calendars, and emails? And is it even possible to help a person overcome a natural inclination toward disorder?

Here are some tips to help your employee be more organised and productive.

1. What is your motive?

 Why do you want your employee to adopt these practices? Is it for their benefit or yours? The tough thing about motives is that they drive our behaviour. So, if you are trying to get your employee to change ONLY because it will make your life easier, they will probably see that and not receive your feedback. Instead, ask yourself what’s in it for them. Do you care about that outcome as much as the outcome in store for you?

2. Do Something or Don’t.

Do you really want to try to change your employee’s habits? If so, what’s the next action you’ll take? If not, what’s the next action you’ll take to complete the tasks you want done? This may not seem like the most inspiring advice, but I find that next-action thinking is most powerful when people or things around you are not changing. When you adopt “what’s the next action?” as a framework for addressing challenges, you free yourself from any potential victim stories or a helpless mentality. You become more proactive and are far less likely to be perceived as a complainer and get met with resistance

3. Organised living is contagious

The more disorganised and scattered the people in your life are, the more you should work your own system—so you know what’s yours and what’s theirs. Otherwise, their disorganisation might creep into your affairs. I am not suggesting that you pick up the slack for others, but rather that you establish clear boundaries. When you manage your agreements and responsibilities well it tends to rub off on others.

David Allen says, “Getting Things Done moves through osmosis from team member to team member. Imagine the subliminal message that is communicated when a colleague says, ‘Yeah, I’ll get back to you about that,’ and they see you make a note in your Waiting-For list. You can even carefully say, ‘Hang on, let me capture that.’ So, the more put-together you are, the more people get their act together when they start to engage with you.”

4. Communicate Your Intentions Without Adding Pressure.

It’s helpful to communicate what you’re doing. “Hey, I just learned some new stuff. Here are the habits I’m trying to develop. I think they will help me to be better at ______; they will also help me be a better contributor to our family. Could you help me out by dropping tasks that are my responsibility in this basket?” Don’t just explain, demonstrate, too. And be transparent about your own limitations. “You know, I’m not great at remembering stuff, so I’m using tools to capture all my to-dos.”

5. Start Small and Be Flexible. 

If you are trying to get others on board, you might be tempted to introduce the entire Getting Things Done model. Don’t start there. Start with one GTD skill. Work on it together and let them see the benefit on their own, over time. For example, my wife has never attended a Getting Things Done class (I don’t require it for my relationships to continue!). But she sees my habits, and she hears me talk about the skills I use. We had a conversation a while back about how to better capture errands we need to run, items we need to pick up, and activities we’ve committed to. I shared with her my preferred habits and tools, and she didn’t seem all that interested. I then asked her, “What would be the perfect tool for you?” She proceeded to buy a fancy chalkboard to hang on the wall in the kitchen. The board has a calendar and space for an errands list. She loves the way it looks and works, and because she loves the tool, she uses it. And we have a simple process for syncing calendars: on the first of each month, my calendar app alerts me to write important family to-dos on the kitchen chalkboard.

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