by Amanda LeBlanc
Photo by Beau Gustafson
January is the time of year when getting organized is on everyone’s mind. We are all looking to learn from the mistakes of last year and make this year even better. What’s the number one space people are asking about in January? The office. So I decided to take a peek inside one of the most well-known offices in Birmingham: the office of Mayor William Bell. I have to admit that the office is the hardest place for me to keep straight, even as organized as I am. I was more than excited to talk with a man who has more on his plate than most and find out just how he does it.
Before meeting the mayor, his chief of staff reminded me how much time I was allotted for the interview. That was the first sign of organization on their part, and it indicated that the staff knows just how valuable his time is. Surely, you can imagine how many people want “just a minute” of the mayor’s time. If he did not protect his time and said yes to every person’s request, then he would be overloaded and would not have any time to manage.
When I walked in, I immediately took note of the stateliness and neatness of Bell’s office. There weren’t any piles of paperwork stacked on his desk. The desk was not just for looks. He had plenty of storage and room to work, an important aspect for anyone wanting to keep an office organized.
I dove right in, asking the mayor about the tactics he uses to stay organized amidst a busy schedule and the many moving pieces of running a city. With all of the chaos, he has a few key tips that keep him working effectively:
1. Delegation: “I am not a micromanager,” says Bell. “I surround myself with great people, and I let them do their jobs.” This is the very mindset that makes a great leader even more successful. You cannot do everything yourself; therefore, knowing how to delegate helps you to reach your full potential. Know your staff, how much they can handle, and their strengths. Provide them with the information needed to accomplish the tasks; then let them go to work.
2. Time Management: “I keep up with my schedule on my phone,” he says. “Things change very quickly, and I need to be able to have access to the most up-to-date information and changes as they arise.” Bell understands the importance of knowing his schedule. Although he won’t admit to being extremely organized, he is able to describe, in detail, how each day rolls out, from his breakfast meetings at 7 a.m., to emails at 10 p.m. I am amazed that though he has an unfathomable to-do list, he still manages to keep it all straight.
3. Prioritization: “I have to know the difference between the urgent and the important,” Bell says. Bell gets hundreds of calls and emails a day and encounters many unknown factors. I was impressed with the clarity and confidence Bell projects while keeping his chaotic daily routine under control. Even the way he talks about being organized is short, sweet, and to the point. Prioritization is key. Set aside time each day to deal with the immediate items. Also, know what time you have to answer phone calls and emails. Being productive is not about taking immediate action, but taking the time to deal with each item. There will be urgent items that come up, but be aware of the time that it will take to handle those things.
It’s important to stay focused and manage what you can control. Know yourself and your peak times. If you work well in the mornings, set that time aside for the items that require the most focus. Know each member of your team and what they can handle, and then assign tasks as needed. Be proactive in accomplishing tasks. You control the time you have, so delegate, manage, and prioritize to be an effective you this year!