Off the Clock and On the Job, This Mason Employee Stays Organized

Posted: April 2, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

Peggy Hackett
Peggy Hackett
Photo courtesy of Peggy Hackett

When Peggy Hackett, assistant to the directors of the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, agreed to help a friend organize her apartment, she thought, ‘How bad could this be?’

Hackett went to her friend’s apartment, but little did she know she was about to open the door to 16 inches of clutter covering the apartment floor — and a new career.

Hackett then joined the National Association for Professional Organizers, where she found others with the same interest in making their lives and personal areas organized and peaceful.

In 2003, a few years before she joined Mason, Hackett founded Come to Order Consulting, a professional staging and organizing company. Although most of Hackett’s work was done in homes, she has had experience organizing offices and uses her organizing skills every day when she comes to work at Mason. She still does consulting in her free time.

Hackett started working in the College of Science in December 2006 when the college was only a few months old. She began by getting her files in order and figuring out how she could assist the dean in the most efficient and quickest manner possible.

After a few months, she moved to the Prince William Campus to work with professors Emanuel Petricoin and Lance Liotta, co-directors of the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine.

“I had always liked the team and researchers [in the center]. It is really great! There is a lot going on and they are always busy; that’s what I like,” says Hackett.

At the time she started, they did not have an assistant, so Hackett jumped straight in with both feet.

“It really made sense for me to be on top of things from the beginning. Especially with a new job, I didn’t know what I was getting into, and I didn’t know what was left undone,” explains Hackett. “I had to find my niche and what my role was going to be so I could be prepared to assist them in the most competent way. Getting organized and staying organized helped immensely.”

Hackett says that being organized not only helps in her day-to-day tasks, but it also serves everyone who comes in contact with her.

“Especially working at Mason where there is a lot of going on, you really have to be on your game. You just don’t know what you are going to come up against. You have to know where things are and remain organized not only in your thoughts but also in your deeds. It is a way of life,” says Hackett.

Hackett says one of the things she loves most about working for Mason is that many departments give their employees the opportunity to work from home. Staying organized is essential for having a productive work-at-home day, she notes.

When working from home, she advises, the first rule is not to bring anything confidential. The second rule is it to make sure to take home only what is absolutely necessary. If there is something very important that needs to be worked on, only bring the items that are essential to that task.

“If you are only out for one day, only take what you need for that day and maybe what you need to follow up for the next. Don’t overload,” says Hackett.

The third rule is to keep everything together in some kind of organizing tool such as an accordion file. This will help ensure that nothing gets lost. It also prevents people from leaving behind at home documents that are critical for work the next day.

Below are some tips that Hackett offers to keep your life, work area and mind clutter free.

  • Make sure you handle e-mails correctly. Open and save anything important and immediately discard the junk mail. Creating specific folders for different duties is an easy way to keep e-mails organized and easily accessible. Stay on top of e-mails because it is very easy to skip, miss or accidentally delete e-mails you might need.

  • Having a timeline is critical. Whether it be to finish filing or to complete a task, having a timeline will help you get it done. Every week or two, it is important to go back and make sure you accomplished everything you set out to do.
  • Go vertical. Papers tend to accumulate, but even if you are in a small area such as a cubicle, papers can still be stored in a neat and efficient manner. There are many affordable over-cubicle supplies that are great for storage and filing and still allow you to access papers conveniently. Accordion files are another easy option that offers the same benefits.
  • Labeling is a must. Every time you make a new file make sure you label what it is and what’s in it.

Write to at