Found on FTD: Tidy desk looks professional

After reading an article on Financial Times Deutschland which confirmed that a tidy desk looks professional, I thought it would be nice to translate the key facts and to share these with you.

The author Sabine Meinert reports about a study conducted by the temporary employment agency OfficeTeam. To develop this study, OfficeTeam surveyed 500 HR manager.

OfficeTeam found out that a cluttered desk looks as if the owner is not able to organize his or her desk and this might lead to the association that the person in general is careless, unstructured, and chaotic.

83 percent of all asked managers rated the employee to be less professional in case of a cluttered desk.

In addition to this, not only the desk itself is of interest. The whole office will be scanned and evaluated by superiors. Crowded shelves, high piles of paper, or overflowing trash cans will not support career advancement.

But Sven Hennige, Managing Director at OfficeTeam, warns that a tidy desk itself will not boost a career. In addition to this, high quality and performance is still necessary.

If you are interested in how I uncluttered my desk, please read this post.

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Inspired by existing standards like EN ISO or OHSAS etc. and my previous suggestion for professional performance standards I decided to develop a request for comment for a professional performance standard applicable to all persons.

This is the first draft of my proposal for this standard and I am looking forward to receive your feedback! :-)

Professional Performance Standards – Request for Comment

1. Introduction
The application of a self-management system is a strategic decision of a person to enhance personal performance and to improve cooperation in a business environment.

This standard is designed to prove reliability and honesty of the person.

The defined requirements are generic and shall be applicable to all persons.

2. Personal Commitment
The person shall state to comply with the requirements of this standard.

3. Basic Requirements

3.1. Task Management
The person shall establish and maintain a reliable task management system to register all tasks. These tasks shall be prioritized and scheduled to ensure completion.

3.2. Mail Management

3.2.1. Incoming Mail
The person shall process incoming mail within 24 business hours.

Processing shall be done by “first touch” without returning the incoming mail to inbox.

Processing of incoming mail is defined as:
a) delete mail, if information is not relevant and answering not requested
b) forward mail
c) answer mail
d) transform mail into a task
In case of b) and d) sender shall be informed about processing decision.

3.2.2. Outgoing Mail
The person shall write outgoing mail as short and precise as possible.

The person shall address outgoing mail to relevant addressees only.

3.3. Time Management
The person shall establish and maintain a system to manage available time.

3.4. Office/Desk Management
The person shall ensure privacy of all processed information.

The person shall minimize usage of paper.

3.5. Document Management
The person shall archive documents and records to ensure traceability of the work performed.

3.6. Password Management
The person shall ensure the use of strong passwords.

The person shall protect passwords and keep passwords a personal secret.

3.7. Feedback Management
The person shall evaluate received feedback regarding performance and shall develop measures to improve.

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Last week, I had a discussion with two colleagues about the cooperation difficulties with other colleagues that do not perform in accordance with minimum standards of professional behavior. I often experience that some colleagues – always the same – need weeks to answer mails or simply are not able to complete tasks. Often their desks are completely overwhelmed by printouts and notes and the office looks chaotic. – Do you know this type of colleagues? ;-)

I believe, that beside personal traits everybody is able to work in accordance with minimum professional performance standards. To support this theory, I created a “one pager” with five suggestions for professional performance:

- Professional Performance Standards – Englisch Version (PDF, 21.5 KB)
- Professional Performance Standards – German Version (PDF, 18.0 KB)

In the future, I will use this one pager to give my colleagues an idea about my expectations concerning professional performance and I hope, this will improve the cooperation step by step.

What do you think about these minimum standards? Do you have ideas for additional suggestions?

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Another important area of my life that I am managing continuously is finance. Surprisingly, I realized that it is not naturally for everybody to work on this area and to have an overview about your finances. – This is why I am really interested in your procedures to manage your finances!

About 10 years ago, I started to list my monthly income and expenses in a simple excel table to have an overview about my budget. This table improved from year to year and I am still working with this excel file.

One of the biggest improvements – influenced by Robert T. Kiyosaki’s book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” – was to categorize my expenses into fixed expenses, varible expenses, accruals, and savings. To be honest, I was shocked after evaluating the proportion of the categories and I started to develop measures to reduce my outgoing cashflow (liabilities) and to build up assets. But this is another topic to write about…

To get to the next level, a few weeks ago, I installed a finance software to learn how to manage my finances with software support. I noticed a few nice features, but I am still not satisfied with this software solution.

But anyhow – from my point of view – the most important thing is to have an overview. It does not matter if you are using high sophisticated software or a simple excel sheet. – So, what are you doing to manage your finances? Please post or email your procedures! :-)

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I just checked my 2011 targets in the context of my monthly operational planning and I thought it might be interesting to post an update.

To check my current position, I opened the file that I created during my yearly planning and I went through the targets and measures quickly.

Interestingly, I was able to mark the first targets as achieved and I had to integrate only minor changes into my planning.

Finally, I added one additional task to toodledo to start working on an upcoming target which I scheduled for May 2011.

What about you? Are you on track with your targets for 2011? Feel free to post your status! :-)

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Worldwide WordPress 5k completed

I found the article about the wwwp5k idea written by Sara Rosso on Tuesday after completing a 4.5 km run in the morning. – Just 500 meters missing. ;-) I really liked the idea of joining this world wide event and so I added the task of completing a 5k into toodledo and scheduled it for the weekend with due date on Sunday.  – This might sound strange but this is how I did it! :-) And finally, two hours ago, I completed the 5k!

To be honest, in the past, I did not like to go jogging, but this year, I simply started and I am still doing it since end of February. Are you interested in how I achieved this? It was quite simple:

1. In December – during my yearly planning – I decided to return to the weight that I had three years ago until end of June. Thus, the target of losing weight was set and I had to choose a measure to achieve this. After trying to eat less or to do rope skipping (which killed my back), I ended up with running as my preferred solution.

2. To integrate this measure into my schedule and to create the necessary pressure to go jogging, I added a repetitive “go jogging” task onto my todo list in toodledo.

3. Most important: I downloaded a sports tracker software to my smartphone and I track my exercises with GPS data to evaluate my training progress.  – I love this gadget! And it seems as if this enthusiasm about the software has a positive effect on my feelings about jogging. :-)

Is there somebody out there who has had a similar experince? How did you start with jogging?

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This week, my wife and I took two days off and we went for an extended weekend trip to a beautiful recreation area. But for today, I expected to get lost in a load of emails that flooded my company inbox during the last two days. Thus, I decided to quick start this morning by “speed processing” my inbox to get an overview as fast as possible. – This is how I achieved it:

1. I got up early to be one of the first people in the company to minimize interruptions by colleagues.

2. By screening my inbox for outdated and deletable emails, I could easily delete all newsflashes that came in during the days and I quickly checked for updated appointments or requests that were already answered by colleagues. This reduced my inbox by nearly 30 percent.

3. Finally: Strict application of my inbox processing methodology (delete, delegate, do within 2 minutes, schedule) to get to zero email in my inbox.

To be honest, I was a little bit surprised that I was really able to process all new emails (approx. 60) within less than 55 minutes. But I did! :-)

What is your experience? How do you process your emails after a vacation? Please post or email your experience! Many thanks in advance!

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Incited by a recent article about procrastination by Gregor Groß on imgriff.com which linked to an older article about “Minimal Office Furniture” by Thomas Mauch, I decided to take a picture of my desk in the company to prove that my desk is really lean, clean – and in addition to this – green. ;-)

This is how my desk looked yesterday evening when I left the office. No paper, no unnecessary stuff. Just a clean surrounding for productive and focused work.

If you are interested in reading more about how I achieved this, please see this post.

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Organize your desk – Lean and clean!

Inspired by a colleague who loves to clean up everything, I started to lean and clean my desk as well. Today, I have only my computer (flat screen, notebook, mouse (without mouse pad!), and keyboard), a telephone, a memo cube, and a cup with a ballpoint, a highlighter, and a pencil on my desk. No paper, no other stuff. Also the walls are empty, only one calendar, a clock, and a framed A0 printout of our mission statement.

This lean and clean surrounding helps me to focus onto my work and I feel much more organized and structured. Less distraction, less mess. :-)

To achieve this, I started with putting all the papers and documents onto a big pile and worked through it according to my inbox processing and archiving behavior. I tried to throw away as much stuff as possible. To make this a little bit easier, I store sorted out papers temporarily in a box which I empty from time to time by first-in-first-out principle. This offers the possibility to buffer my trash a little bit and to have the chance to retrieve thrown away papers for some weeks or months. ;-)

After sorting all my papers and after throwing away unnecessary stuff like additional cups, notepads, decoration, and other gadgets, I took a cloth and wiped the table. Perfect!

Since that, I try to keep my desk as clean as possible. I process all incoming documents and meeting notes according to my inbox processing and I archive (and throw away) everything right away. In addition, I try to work online to use as little paper as possible. For all working documents, that I can not avoid, I maintain a folder that I can put into the drawer easily in the evening. – And my desk is lean and clean. :-)

And does it work? Definitely! Feedbacks from colleagues and customers confirm it and my achievements visualize it as well. I am more successful and more productive than ever before. – And I absolutely enjoy it! :-)

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To be honest, I do not have a really good practice for archiving my stuff like e-mail or snail mail, invoices, photos, or other documents and I am absolutely looking for your advice.

At first, I have to differentiate between my private stuff and my company related information. In the company it is a little bit easier: Every year I start a new outlook pst file and set up a structure according to my projects. Within this structure I file all my e-mails and I also record my notes and other offline documentation by using scan to mail and archiving the e-mails afterwards. Finally, as long as there is no retention period, I simply dispose the original paper documentation. That is it. – To prevent me from loosing all my data, I do continuous backups to our fileserver with a company owned backup tool. This is where I also store my working documents like doc, ppt, and xls files.

In my private life, I tend to do it in a similar way by having a large email account and by storing files on a NAS. In addition to this, I file my invoices and other paper records in folders in a cabinet. I do not scan this documentation, at the moment.

In addition to this, I am experimenting with online tools like evernote, dropbox, backblaze and crashplan. – But I am still trying to figure out which one might be the best tool for my needs and I am also a little bit reluctant to upload all my data to the internet.

Please share your experience and send me your practices for archiving and backup by e-mail or simply comment on this post. Many thanks in advance!

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