Ok, so your office is clutter-free, you have great file systems, a great task list, you're delegating more, you're using your time wisely and you have little or no email in your Inbox.
You're not apologizing to people for not calling them back. You're not missing deadlines, you're not late for meetings or losing key information. You're completely caught up and on top of your game and you don't want your work day to spin out of control again.
So what do you do now?
The most important thing to remember about maintaining systems, once you have them, is that they don't take care of themselves. YOU have to take care of THEM. No need to buy them gifts or take them dinner... just give them a little attention each day and make sure they're doing ok.
Setting up new systems is not a case of "set it and forget it." In order for you to do your best job, you need your systems to always be current, up to date and ready to support you at a moment's notice. To keep systems like this, you need to give them daily attention. Yes... I said DAILY.
Here are five things to remember to do every day so that your systems stick around and support you for a long time to come.
1.) Paper and files. You get new information constantly. This includes articles, files, projects, papers, voice mails, emails, attachments and more. Build time into your day to file these in existing files or make new files as SOON as you recognize that you need one. This goes for both paper AND electronic files. No matter what, please don't let this information build up! You may regret it later.
2.) Tasks. You will get new tasks every day, change existing ones and complete others. Build time throughout the day to review an electronic task to check progress, especially at the end of the day.
3.) Contacts. You may collect new contact information or business cards frequently, so make time to enter them into your computer as soon as you receive the new information or schedule it for once a week. If you have LOTS of contacts to enter, consider using a card scanner or delegating the data entry to someone else.
4.) E-mail. You'll continue to get lots of email, so take time to review it. Get a process in place that allows you peace of mind - - to know you've SEEN it and DEALT with it. And DON'T leave your e-mail in the Inbox! An Inbox is for bringing e-mail IN, not for use as a file cabinet or to-do list.
5.) Time. Do you see a common theme in the first four on this list? The key to maintaining the systems you have and getting ahead is time.
You and I are familiar with the time management verbs: "make time, save time, block time, keep time, manage time, etc..." What we really need to do is PROTECT time. Time is such a finite thing. We can't have more or less of it.
The best thing we can do is protect it so that we can use it wisely. The way to do this is with time blocking on your calendar, so don't hesitate to give yourself some much needed quiet time to actually get things done!
You may think that all you'll be doing is maintaining systems, but I'm here to tell you that you're not. The faster you are at making decisions and the more you maintain your systems regularly, the more you'll be getting things DONE and getting things GONE at the same time.
You'll become so fast at knowing exactly where things should go in your systems, that it becomes second nature to get it there and move on. Eventually, you won't even have to think twice about it.