Time Management / Organization: How I Stay Organized as a New Worker

A recent study completed by neuroscientists at Princeton University found that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress. By decreasing the ‘clutter’ – i.e. stacks of paper, sticky notes everywhere, full inbox in Outlook, messy Workflow, etc., you will effectively decrease the stress you feel, allowing you to be more productive while at work!

My goal is to help YOU be the BEST worker you can be! I will be covering most of the larger parts/systems that you will work with every day. These are suggestions and ways that I personally use to keep me an organized and highly productive worker. Feel free to build on these suggestions and make it your own!

-Rebekah Sherwin


Keep It Simple

  • Limit your subfolders. I only have 2 subfolders in my workflow:
    • Packets with Issues
    • Ready to Work
  • Name your packets something that makes sense to you
    • I use ‘Pending Medical Review’ for BRR’s and ‘Change to Case’ for FSP-38’s. When each case is completed, I change the name of the packet to ‘ABD Review Completed’ and ‘Change to Case Completed’ then send it to files.
    • If it’s something I have to wait to complete, due to missing verification, etc., I say what’s wrong in the name of the packet, like ‘Medical Review Incomplete – Missing Resource Verification’. When I get what is needed, I rename the packet to ‘Pending Medical Review’ or if I finished it ‘ABD Review Completed’

Keep It Neat

  • Keep your inbox empty or nearly empty. When I get something scanned to me, I put it in a packet as quickly as possible – 5 packets look a lot less daunting than 30 individual items

CWA & G1DX Edits

Print off your CWA daily or every other day and hold on to them for your records.

  • I hold on to mine for a few months, just in case. That way I can see 2 months from now what I had on my CWA today, if needed
  • I print off my G1DX edits at the same time I print my CWA, and staple them together. It’s easier to keep it all together as you go through your day.

Phone Calls

Try to answer the phone while you are at your desk. Usually this keeps a small issue from becoming a very large issue – like the client calling the director’s hotline. It also helps to cut down on the voicemails you receive. (It’s a win-win situation!) Don’t answer the phone when you’re trying to process something. You might click out of a case in FACS and lose all the changes you made.
Also, be mindful to set up your voicemail for the times you can’t answer the phone. When you will be out of the office or the office is closed, change your voicemail message to include the date of your return, and that you will return their calls as quickly as possible.

Monthly Reviews

Develop a system of highlighters so you can tell at a glance what’s going on with your delinquent reviews. I’m still using this system. Below is how mine works:

  • Yellow: needs to be passed by a supervisor/mentor
  • Green: have everything to complete
  • Purple: missing verification
  • Pink: issues other than missing verification (such as client is over income/resources, but I have to wait until after second deadline to close)
  • Blue: nothing has been received (only used between first and second deadlines)

I only do the highlighters once a week – this not an everyday thing!

Pending Cases You Need Passed

Keep a list of cases you worked on and need to have passed

  • I recommend a paper daily log. I tried an excel spreadsheet at first, but after a few weeks of continually adding cases to the list, it became more of a hassle to maintain. I switched to keeping a daily paper log and highlighting the cases as they were passed.

Case Notes

It seems like everyone has a different variation, but try to get a good template for most stuff – it saves a bunch of time AND it reminds you to do something in case you forget! Most of the templates I use came from my mentor:

  • Snap BRR’s
  • Medical Reviews
  • Snap Apps
  • Mailings
  • Closure reasons

Utilize Your Tools and Resources

Reaching out for help isn’t a sign of weakness or a sign that you can’t do your job. There isn’t one person in DHS that knows EVERYTHING about all the programs. Of course, you should try to find the answer yourself, but if you can’t find it, or get frustrated, then ask someone. Chances are they’ve been through the same thing you’re struggling with, and have the answer. Or, they know who does.
Below is a list of some of the resources/tools you have at your disposal:

  • Outlook calendar
    • Set up reminders for meetings, WOD duty, trainings, things you need to complete on cases, etc. that way you will get a reminder 15 minutes before it starts so you have time to prepare.
  • Outlook tasks
    • Again, it will remind you when a task needs to be completed. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you will remember to do something tomorrow! 9 times out of 10 you will forget all or part of what you need to do.
  • Coworkers
    • They have a wealth of knowledge. Tap into that knowledge by asking questions!
  • Intranet
    • Online policy, forms, access to online tools… just some of the ways the intranet
      is beneficial.
  • Post it notes
    • Although this contributes more to the appearance of clutter, if you have to write something down, keep it neat and organized – I have a vertical area I keep my sticky notes.
    • There is even a sticky note app on your computer you can utilize. Saves paper, you can pick different colors, and move it around on the screen. The computer saves it when you log off, so it’s not gone forever. When you are done with it, you just click the ‘x’ in the corner of the sticky note and it’s deleted. So simple!

Go Slow

You will develop a routine, a flow of natural progression, but that takes time. Take it slow for now until you get more comfortable with the systems and the details of your job. As you become more confident in your daily duties, you will find your own stride.

Get a Daily Calendar

Set up appointments, trainings, meetings, reminders, interviews, etc. in a daily calendar. You can take it with you to group meetings (where you can’t access your Outlook calendar) and you can use it when the computers go down. Remember: you can’t take it home. This is to stay in/on your desk at the end of the day due to client confidentiality.

Be Nice to Your Clients

While this may seem redundant, we are here FOR THE CLIENTS. Without the clients, we would not have a job. Most of the clients you will come in contact with are very nice and understanding; some are not. They are humans – not case numbers or items in your workflow. So be nice, patient, and respectful. Treat them as you would like to be treated.

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