FIRST THINGS FIRST:
GET AND STAY ORGANIZED BY LISA MARIE WAUGH
Earlier in my legal career, I had to deliver handwritten messages (you know a simple pink paper with “Message” at the top) to all the partner attorneys of a law firm. One of them, who shall remain anonymous, takes the prize for most cluttered office and desk. With every delivery to his office, I saw more and more evidence of not only all my previous messages, but some belonging to those other brave legal receptionists before me. Yet, who was I to question? This was one of the best lawyers around and well my boss.
In delivering (and sometimes taking them) I also went from a shy, intimidated soul to full blown smarty pants thanks to him and the other partners. Thus, I always liked to use these deliveries as my opportunity to grow and develop my new-found talent; “I thought you could use a few more of these pink slips!”
My old boss taught me a lot of things for example:
• Don’t hang your dress pants over a hanger as it will leave wrinkles across your pant leg (clearly an obvious laundry blunder not meant for a law firm)
• Do not abbreviate channel and chapter with CH. nor Ch. on messages. Spell the words out as this will avoid your boss missing an interview with the Channel 13 news station;
• Yes, karma comes one day or another so never fall into a trap of talking smack
• The adage “a cluttered desk reflects a cluttered mind” doesn’t always apply (or does it). Take my old boss for example. His office and desk is where he mastered his work. He researched, negotiated, strategized and was very successful there in the clutter of pink slips, books and files as far as the eye could see. Some people must have clutter and chaos, while some don’t. Some don’t have a choice to work in their perfect setting. Lesson learned- a messy desk/work area doesn’t necessarily mean unorganized or disarray. Some thrive off organized chaos.
Don’t misconstrue my message clean and organized is usually the best approach. There’s mental organized chaos and then there is physical. I worked for another attorney who was the complete opposite. From that experience all I am willing to note is that to this day, I can sometimes find myself picking up specks of paper off the office floor- so here’s to a clean desk and office or a messy one AND STAYING ORGANIZED!
Exceptional Organization Skills Required
Getting and staying organized is key to success in all areas of a position no matter how rank and file such position may be. It provides for effective efficiency and confidence in performing responsibilities. (Caveat: Paralegals know however that their duty is to ensure their bosses are equally organized- good luck with that!)
• Patience: Find it. Get it. Use it.
• Positivity: People are drawn to confidence and positivity. Some leaders will even think you are a real bum kisser but the reality is there is no need for negativity and really no room. Always smile when you want to frown or scream. Rise above the smack talking and office politics. Just do your job. If someone steals your chair well steal theirs or get another one.
• Flexibility: Priorities change all day sometimes and sometimes we must wait longer for associates to get us what we need to complete a task- MOVE ON TO THE NEXT ONE (being sure to ‘cya’ and note what/who you are waiting on/ for before you do)
• Be a Team Player: Assistance - even if you don’t have a spare five minutes. Offer your assistance anyway. You might be able to give someone an answer or hand on something they have been struggling with
• Ask Questions: Understand the tasks at hand and how it fits into the bigger picture. If you cannot ask at the time then send a text, an email or give the appropriate person a call. You should be able to clearly explain the task for someone else to do
• Create a check list: Will you need this every day and it will change throughout the day. Make sure you leave room for your comments. Develop a personal legend for important dates, projects, people, milestones, flags (one that no one else needs to know) Make sure you keep a copy of the lists- this can help you down the road for annual reviews. You can proactively review all your successes from that list or they will be useful in the event of internal communication mishaps
• Know or get to know your connections and counterparts: If you are working with partners or teams try to send a quick introductory text and regurgitate your role and provide for an anticipated time that you will have the assignment done or at least be able to connect with them again. This will help not only you down the road with leadership skills, but also, I bet someone will reach back out to you for a follow up or clarification on the bigger picture, etc. all because you sent the introductory email or text
• Be honest: If you don’t have an answer don’t try to bull shit your way through. It’s better to simply note that you will find out the accurate information and get back to someone. (Thank you Mary Rusher & Brian Gibbs)
• Notebooks: Bring that notebook to meetings for notes, ideas, or they come in handy for private silent communication when a co-worker (or your boss is lost in a meeting) etc.
• Dual Monitors: DON’T BE INTIMIDATED. You will never want to fly with a solo monitor once you get started with two! These are so handy dandy when your work is typing intensive and you always have at least 2-3 programs open all the time to get your work done
• Privacy driven habits/Clean desk rule: It’s very important to never leave papers out when you are away from your desk. These should be put away even if you are only leaving for a short time. (Tip: use a binder clip and put them in the drawer till you return.) Flip papers over so only a blank page is showing if someone stops by your desk. Take the time to log out or lock out of your screen if a co-worker stops by. This protects whatever information that you are working on and provides for a professional atmosphere and gives that person your undivided attention for their impromptu visit at your desk. I took a contract at a financial company and people started copying me and keeping their desks free of papers and at the minimum turned over when they were not at their desk.
• Clean: At the close of your day. Leave yourself 10 min to mentally prepare for your morning arrival: 1. Jot down first things you must do or arrange papers accordingly to reflect priority 2. Bind them in order with your check list 3. Shut down the computer (don’t let it sit idle) and wipe down your desk that way everyday will be a fresh morning. Hey you never know how bad that commute may be or if you are going to be late.