Organizational Systems in the Workplace: Why Mine is the Best

You might have figured out a great way to keep track of your to do list at home or at work.  I imagine that there are lots of great systems that are technologically advanced and have extra benefits like reminders and notifications.  I applaud the people who make use of that technology, I’m just not there yet.  I love technology, I really do, but sometimes old school is still my favorite route.

When I started this new job in July, I was sure that a yellow legal pad would be my old school office weapon of choice.  There’s lots of room to write notes about conversations with students, and you can see a ton of information at a glance.  That’s true.

But then I rediscovered the Post-it Note, and I would venture to say that they have changed my life.   

photo by Tja'Sha

Not only can you do awesome things like build paper footballs with Post-it Notes, but you can also organize and reprioritize your thoughts with amazing flexibility. 

With the legal pad, you have to write things in some order on the page.  Even if you write in multiple directions, there are immobile objects on the page once you’ve written anything.  You have to mark things out when you complete working with some information, or even worse, you have to sort through the entire page while trying to remember what you’ve already completed.

Not so with Post-its.  You can arrange and rearrange.  If I were writing an analogy for the SAT, I would say that Post-its are to legal pads as PCs are to typewriters (or if you want it the real SAT way, Post-it Notes : legal pads as PCs : typwriters).  They bring the benefits of technology to the humble notepad.  You can cut and paste and delete in a computer program, and you can do the same with Post-its.  Even better, you can write while you’re looking at student information on the computer.  It saves you from opening one more document and typing back and forth in twenty places.

Instead of creating documents in folders and inserting columns or page breaks or systems, it’s all nice and simple.  There are three desk areas, one for each type of situation I run into:

  1. Upcoming appointments are arranged in chronological order of appointment and placed on top of my computer tower directly in front of me.
  2. The student I’m working with has a Post-it placed to the right of my computer, which allows me to write notes about their situation easily and gives me crucial info at a moment’s notice without leaving the 20 documents I need to keep open to type notes in another spot. 
  3. Other unresolved student questions/situations sit in a cluster to the left of the desk.  I can look at the cluster, think through which student has the most urgent question and respond accordingly.

Then I get to the best part of the work day.  I get to do the ceremonial ripping up of the Post-it, which takes place conveniently when a situation is resolved.  And in one glance I can look at my desk and know exactly how much work I have on my plate.  It’s a beautiful thing. 

You probably have a system that you love just as much for keeping track of work at your job, but I can still say that I (with complete bias) like mine best.

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