How You Can Get Better Organized at Work
Getting organized – and staying organized – is one of the top goals most people hope to achieve every year. Being organized is a state of mind, but it also requires careful habits and some practice. Those who are incredibly organized aren’t any smarter or more capable than others. Rather, they consistently execute solid organizational habits to remain successful.
Though you may not have accomplished your “get organized” goal for the year, that doesn’t have to stop you from exercising the following organizational skills to create a highly effective daily life.
1. Organize Your Desk
A chaotic desk with overflowing paperwork, invoices, and sticky notes makes for an unorganized frame of mind. The first step in getting organized is to bring order to your most important space: your desk. Clear off your desk, set up a coherent filing system, and ensure everything you need has a place in your office space. Items you need daily should be within arm’s reach. Throw out any unnecessary desk accessories taking up valuable space. To maintain order, end each day by putting all files, work, and other items away before heading out the door. Coming into the office and seeing an organized desk in the morning does wonders for productivity.
2. Create a Labeling System
Speaking of coherent filing system, a great way to keep your work space organized and decluttered is labeling. Labeled files and desk areas help when it comes to cleaning up at the end of the day – you know where each item or document belongs – and continuing to keep a work area organized. Be as specific as possible when labeling folders, items, or documents so items are easy to put away when you’re done working with them.
3. Make Weekly and Daily ‘To Do’ Lists
The best way to stay on track with any project or goal is to see your progress. Create weekly work goals and daily to-do lists which reflect what you are doing during those weeks. This helps you organize and track what’s needed for the work week and how to accomplish all your tasks during work hours. Lists such as these prevent tasks from being forgotten. There’s also something extremely satisfying about crossing items off once they have been done. Write daily lists at the end of each work day so the next day is ready to tackle in the morning.
4. Plan Your Day
In addition to creating different to-do lists, practice and implement some daily time management to ensure workdays are productive. When planning the day, be sure to turn to your calendar and plug in tasks, appointments, and meetings. Include lunch or any other breaks within a daily schedule as well. Planning each part of your day, no matter how small or sizable, helps you to stick to the schedule and cross more tasks off your to-do list. You’ll also never miss a meeting again!
5. Prioritize Your Workload
When scheduling what the day will look like or preparing to tackle your to-do list, stay organized by prioritizing each task. What items are the most demanding and challenging? Those should be placed at the top your day. Which are quick and easy, or have a later deadline than other tasks? These tasks are lower priority, meaning you can save them for the end of the day or a different time altogether. Be sure you leave more than enough time for each task as a buffer zone in the event anything unexpected come up at work.
6. Know Your Most Productive Time
If you want to get a lot done, you need to know when you’re at your best; you need to know your most productive time of the day. Most professionals are aware of their most productive times during the work day. For some, it’s early mornings. For others, it’s late in the day. There’s no “wrong” time to be productive, but you want to tackle your biggest and most mentally challenging work when you’re at your best. Be aware of your productivity times so you can schedule higher-level tasks around these hours of the day.
7. Don’t Waste Time
Waiting for an email approval from your manager? Are there only 15 minutes to spare before heading into a big meeting and you don’t feel like diving into a high-level project just to be interrupted by your schedule. Rather than wasting precious work time on social media, stay efficient by scratching other, less-important items, off your daily list. File papers away, reply to non-urgent emails, or take a few minutes to organize your work space for the next challenging demand of the day. Putting potential spare time to use in small ways keeps you even more organized.
8. Decrease Distractions
Distractions are a part of work life, especially in an office environment. Whether it’s an impromptu meeting, a co-worker who swings by for a chat, or an urgent email that needs to be responded to; weekdays are filled with distractions that take you off the beaten work path. While some are unavoidable, other distractions can be minimized. If you have four walls to your office, close the door when you can. Turning off mobile devices, avoiding social media, and muting the sound on your laptop (to prevent that annoying notification sound) are all ways to minimize distractions while at work.
9. Reduce Paper
Some hard copy items are still needed in this day and age. However, with technology and the internet at everyone’s fingertips, creating an online system to electronically file items away can save time, money, desk space, and the environment. Online cloud storage apps like Dropbox are perfect for cleaning up your desk: you can create folders for every project, all organized and filed away online rather than in your office. It also offers the ability for users to work anytime, anywhere, from any device; whether that be a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
10. Early Bird Catches the Worm
The earlier you wake up, the more you can get done! Waking up early doesn’t necessarily mean you hit the work day running; however, it does mean you can scratch things off your to-do list like working out, eating breakfast, hitting your morning commute ahead of schedule, reading the morning paper, and more non-work tasks. Many famous early risers, like Jeff Bezos and Oprah Winfrey, say that they’re able to get more accomplished each day by rising before the rest of the world. Try setting your alarm clock for an hour earlier each day and fill that time with something enjoyable to get your day started. You’ll feel productive before you even begin working.
11. Use Technology
Technology is a wonderful thing. It can help any professional stay on top of their work and remain organized. For example, if you find yourself constantly struggling before a meeting with audio-visual equipment, use your smartphone to take a picture of the cords plugged in; you’ll have a snapshot of what goes where for the next time. Email yourself reminders around tasks so you don’t forget to place them on your daily to-do list. Set up online calendar reminders and you’ll be notified 10 minutes before any event.
12. Rely on Apps
In addition to using technology to help you each day, you can use different smartphone apps to stay organized. There are countless apps available to keep professionals organized, tackling everything from online document access to to-do lists and reminders. From Evernote, an app designed for taking notes, to Tripit, which helps business travelers organize flights, restaurant reservations, and hotel confirmations, to GroupMe, a business communication tool to keep teams in the loop about projects, there are a variety of ways you can use your smartphone to stay organized.