The following questions were asked during the interview for our chapter in the book, "Masters of Success."
- What are the services that Key Organization Systems provides?
KOS provides time management training and office organizing processes for companies and individual business owners, working with them to create easy-to-use processes for dealing with the overwhelming workloads and the multi-tasking requirements that most businesses face today, from the CEO to the administrative assistants.
The process can be facilitated company-wide or department-wide, or it can be on an individual basis.
- Time management systems and training have been hot topics for many years. What makes your work different?
The difference we bring to becoming more effective time managers is that we provide a very concrete process that can be immediately implemented and we stay to develop it with you.
With us, when the office management actually makes a commitment to get organized, we see the full process put into place as opposed to someone saying, "When I have time..."
- What immediate benefits result when you have worked in an office developing these processes?
The words used by executives and business owners include: "exhilaration", "a feeling of freedom", "a sense of control". In just one day, with our Productivity Quickstart sessions we're changing not only the physical look of the space but the mental outlook. One client with a national remodeling business asked if we told people how light and free they will feel when we're done.
- How does this affect the perceptions of a business's customer or client?
When a customer or client comes into an office and they see a clear, organized space as opposed to stacks and chaos, they have much more confidence in the business's ability to handle their needs.
As an example, with a financial planner, would you have the confidence to trust him with handling your retirement funds when there are unopened statements laying all over the office floor? Attorneys are another example. So many times they arrange for meetings in the conference room simply because there is no space for a client to sit in their office. The client would not feel their case was getting the attention they were paying for if they saw the case files strewn everywhere.
- I understand that there are also physical, long-term benefits that can result from putting organized systems in place. What would some of these be?
In a society where we all have too much to do in too little time, stress is a natural result. We've all become aware of the problems associated with stress. It can lead to illness, absenteeism, and loss of productivity. Stress on one person in an office can lead to stress on the others as they are required to take on work for an absent colleague or deal with the moods and attitudes caused by this pressure.
Now a growing body of scientific research shows that multitasking can actually make you less efficient and, well, stupider. Those "senior moments" we often joke about are becoming a reality - something we've done to ourselves. Chronic high-stress multitasking has been linked to short-term-memory loss. Trying to do 2 or 3 things at once or in quick succession can take longer overall than doing them one at a time, and may leave you with reduced brainpower to perform each task.
- How prevalent today is disorganization within the business world?
Consider that time management statistics show the average business person is wasting over one hour per day-that's one hour per day, per employee-times how many years of this? And one hour is a conservative amount. So if they stopped for even one day, they would gain all that time back in less than two weeks and be working ahead for the remainder of the year.
We've worked with individuals who are admired by others for their organization, yet they themselves know that they could be more productive if they added organizing systems to their daily procedures. We often don't see solutions when we are in the middle of a problem. It can take an outside person to observe a situation and ask, "Why..? or "Have you considered..?"
- Why would people procrastinate on making changes when they know that their current methods of operation are not working as efficiently as possible?
The number one reason is the feeling that they don't have the time to stop what they are doing right now in order to get better organized. They become like the little boy who is lost in the woods. The deeper into the woods he goes, the faster he runs.
There are so many looming deadlines and so many fires to put out that they won't commit the time to get organized right now. Sometimes it's a matter of being reluctant to get outside help, even when you know you can't do it yourself. So often the first reaction when we come into an office is: "Is this the worst you've ever seen..?" You can view some of these offices on our Photos page.
In truth it's usually not an individual's fault that this situation developed. So many things are coming through at one time, and no one has ever given us the simple tools and techniques to change it.
- What's a solution to the inability to find time?
People really do want to be organized. Everyone recognizes when they are not being as effective as possible. It impacts their work and it impacts others' perceptions of them.
However organizing tends to rank as a lower priority over everything else that has become urgent because deadlines are looming. It instead becomes a matter of, "As soon as I have time.." If it isn't actually written into your schedule, there's very little likelihood that it will actually get done.
- What are the financial ramifications of allowing disorganization to continue in the workplace?
The expenditure of money is always a consideration both for companies and individuals, especially in this time when businesses are still struggling to recover from the setbacks of the last few years. Hiring an outside source is an expense. The perception often is, "How hard can organizing be?" A company may feel it has enough personnel to do the job, or it hires an administrative assistant to get this accomplished. The employer believes that it's the job of these individuals to get them organized. Yet consider that the ones doing the hiring are the ones with all the degrees and certifications, and they haven't been able to get themselves organized. How can they hire an assistant, often at a low level of pay, and expect them to not only learn the job but to develop new systems for the organization?
Reality is that most of these new hires are very capable of maintaining, and even tweaking processes, but find it beyond their skill level to develop a full procedure for the office. Instead every business person needs to calculate how many hours are being wasted each day. Translate that into a dollar figure by multiplying number of days in a year times number of employees times number of years. Is it more efficient to have an assistant struggle over a year or two trying to create a sensible system or have someone assist so that you can be operating at peak efficiency now?
- How do you implement this training within a company or department?
In working with a department to develop better organization, we often start with a morning time management training seminar for the entire group. Our initial seminars typically begin by presenting a process that allows you to handle all the "incoming" activities of the day-paper, email, voice mail, verbal requests-and put this into a system that allows lets you easily prioritize and focus on one task at a time.
After the session, everyone goes back to his or her office and begins to put the processes for daily workflow in place. Our staff will circulate so that we spend time with each individual involved until everyone has implemented this process, modified to their own unique job within the company.
- What is the biggest advantage in training a company or a department together?
The advantage to focusing on the whole department is that everyone is "on the same page", so to speak. This provides for accountability within a department. In most organizations now, if one staff member had something unfortunate happen where they were out for 2 weeks or a month without prior notice, no one would have a clue what their work for that first day and the upcoming days was. With a departmental system, any can cover the most immediate concerns, a temp could fill in, and there wouldn't be a major setback.
- How does group training differ from working with an individual?
Sometimes, instead of working with the whole company or department, we have been hired by one individual within a company to come in and work with him or her alone. We also work with single business owners and with home offices. We literally start with the first piece of paper in front of us on the desk, figure out what the next step is, and set up a location for that activity. Since we are not focusing on group interaction and understanding of the system, we are teaching the system as we're implementing it.
- Besides setting up processes for incoming work, what else do you emphasize at this stage?
Our training also provides techniques for effective scheduling. We are four times more effective if we can work on one type of activity at a time. The process of switching back immediately to a task you've just performed, as many multi-taskers try to do, takes longer than switching back after a bit more time has passed (National Institute of Mental Health).
The reason is that the brain has to overcome "inhibitions" it imposed on itself to stop doing the task in the first place: it takes time, in effect, to take off the brakes. If you wait several seconds longer before switching back to the task, the obstacles imposed by that shutting-off process are reduced. We also teach ways to set up blocks of time each day so that we limit our multi-tasking and actually get more done as a result.
- Isn't one of the biggest complaints within companies that they can't get work done because of all the interruptions that occur?
This is a major problem. It's aggravated by conditions in many workplaces today where everyone is being required to take on more work as outgoing staff is not replaced. It becomes like the situation of the frog in the pot of hot water story. When you put the frog in a pot of boiling water, he will jump out. However when the heat is turned up little by little, the frog gets boiled without knowing it. This parallels many of today's workplace circumstances as more responsibilities are added on piece by piece.
We've become overwhelmed without realizing what happened. As part of our processes, we teach techniques for handling telephone calls, email, and visitors. Other interruptions within an office can relate to the layout of the space, so we also take that into consideration when setting up an effective workspace. And people constantly interrupt themselves, so we create an awareness of this. While we will never completely do away with interruptions, 80% of them can be eliminated and the other 20% can be shortened.
- What about email? It seems to be developing into a huge time consuming issue for people in business.
Email has become such an important topic in itself that we now provide seminars to companies dealing specifically with email. We talk about how to write effective email in order to limit return mail, how to utilize the functions of your software program to keep your inbox cleared and tasks prioritized, and how to read online faster. We actually read 30-50% slower online, so learning speed-reading techniques relative to the screen can be a big time-saver.
- What can a client expect after working with you for one or two days?
At the end of our session, whether it's with one individual or the individuals within a company or department, each desk area is cleared, there are no piles around the desk, and usually a new filing system has been instituted.
However, keep in mind that our goal is not the elimination of the piles but in the development of the system. The physical cleanup is a nice result of the new organization. Having this cleared space provides new energy in tackling the day's work. When you come into the office the next day, you will know exactly where to start. No more spending 15 minutes flipping through piles and notes to decide what you absolutely have to do today. This also eliminates those periods of waking up in the middle of the night suddenly wondering if you forgot to do something important! There's a huge reduction in stress.
- What are some of the problems with the common ways of filing today?
Paper management also includes having an effective filing system which would come after you've developed an effective daily system for workflow. What we often see in companies is that each individual has some semblance of a filing system, but no one else can use it to find anything. If you have taken over an office where 2 or 3 people before you worked and you inherited their papers, chances are you've rarely used those files because it's difficult to find things.
An effective filing system has 2 characteristics: 1) you can find anything you've filed within seconds, whether it's a month from now, a year from now, or 10 years from now; 2) you can tell someone else how to find it.
No one has time to search through a file cabinet for 10 or 15 minutes to find a document. In many situations, we use a software program called Paper Tiger that allows you to keep your papers in paper form, but uses the computer to find them, based on multiple keywords. Just as you would enter keywords into Google to find a topic, with this process you would enter a keyword and the software would immediately-within seconds-direct you to a numbered file.
- What advice would you offer to business owners and managers who are focused on increasing their productivity?
If you see that there are pockets of disorganization, don't avoid them or work around them. Even one disorganized person in a group affects all of the others. That person may not have their part of the project done, or may constantly interrupt others asking for information that is currently buried on their desks.
The small cost of getting organized pays big dividends within days. Most businesses are having to do more work with fewer resources. Maximize those resources that are available to you. You'll have increased productivity at the same time that you take a lot of the stress out of the workplace.