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3 Organizational Habits of Highly Effective People

A Finnish proverb says: “Happiness is a place between too little and too much.” This gets to the truth of the idea that we all need balance to perform our best.  Being effective in the workplace requires this balance, and the avoidance of “too much.”

We can’t write about habits without a nod to the widely studied work of Stephen Covey.  Through his research, we’re shown that “highly effective” people generally practice 7 habits:

1. Be proactive

2. Begin with the end in mind

3. Put first things first

4. Think Win-Win

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

6. Synergize

7. Sharpen the Saw

These guidelines are classic, and cover most every facet of approaching work and life. For today, we’re discussing how to be better organized, in order to maintain a balanced and manageable life. For this topic, 3 of Covey’s habits apply. We’ll leave

“sharpening the saw” for another day.

Begin with the End in Mind

This habit could also be known as laying your groundwork. It means knowing where you want to go and basing all of your activities and decisions on that guiding idea. Focusing on the outcome to ensure that the work you’re doing is taking you where you want to be. Some of the specific things that fit here are:

– Define vision and values

– Create a mission statement

– Set measurable team and personal goals

– Start projects successfully

– Align goals to priorities

Making these a part of the process is key to outlining the most efficient course for making progress. This helps to provide a framework for organizing any effort.

Put First Things First

It does no good to know your goals and vision if you don’t make them your everyday priority. Keep in mind the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important. Neglecting what’s important to you and only responding to urgent tasks is the quickest way to burnout. Here are some particular habits that can keep you on track:

– Delegate effectively – this may refer to colleagues or to electronic “assistants.” Make use of opportunities to hand off routine tasks.

– Use time-management tools and strategies – Schedule a block of “me-time” first thing in the morning when you can triage the email and social media buildup that arrived overnight.

– Use planning tools to build your roadmap – consolidate your information sources. Use a management tool that allows you to get all of your notifications in one place. Then use a calendar that populates across devices.

Covey wrote: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Don’t let the priorities of others dictate how you spend your time.

Seek First to Understand, Then to be understood

Accurate communication keeps you organized by helping you avoid missteps. The key to really communicating is to cultivate your ability to listen empathically. This lets you identify what matters most to the people you’re working with, and contributes to trust and cooperation.

This sort of listening can take more time on the front end, but not nearly as much time as it takes to back up and correct misunderstandings, or to live with unexpressed and unresolved problems only to have them surface later on.  

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