Even the most organized people occasionally slip into disorder. Perhaps they neglect to file something or tidy their email inbox, or maybe they allow a stack of papers to grow haphazardly on the corner of their desk. For those of us who struggle with personal organization — whether it’s been a lifetime challenge or something more recent — developing an organizational plan can seem overwhelming.
So, to help you sort through the clutter, here are 14 ways to get (better) organized at work.
- Time block your days. In other words, plan out your calendar so you can work on certain tasks during specific chunks of times. That will help minimize distractions, but you’ll still have enough flexibility to deal with last-minute meetings and requests.
- Establish a routine. Performing certain tasks at the same time every day will increase efficiency and bring structure to your work life. You might start every day by checking and responding to emails, for instance, or reviewing memos.
- Adhere to your schedule. Avoid being sidetracked and deviating from your time block schedule and carefully planned routine. This is especially critical when other people rely on you to perform tasks before they can accomplish theirs.
- Use your email calendar. Input due dates and other deadlines into your email calendar so they’re more noticeable, and set alerts to help remind you of them. In fact, make sure to set alerts for all your calendar appointments.
- Write things down. Ever been sure that you’ll remember something…and then you didn’t? Writing things down is really important — whether it’s in a physical or digital notepad or some other format that works for you.
- Make a color-coded to-do list. Not all tasks are created equally. Color code items on your to-do list based on their priority level, project type, or some other rationale.
- Develop checklists and templates. For recurring projects and tasks, use checklists and templates to standardize and streamline your work and prevent you from skipping steps. And with templates, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel for every project.
- Create a filing system. Physical, digital and email folders will help you organize your work and correspondence. Ensure that the folders are specific enough to be useful.
- Clean up regularly. A clean desk is psychologically important; it helps make you more motivated and focused and more productive because you can find key documents more easily. The trick is to dedicate a little time each week to throwing away unnecessary items and ensuring that your filing system is up to date.
- Get desk organizers. Ever open a desk drawer and find a jumble of, well…stuff? Simple desk organizers that keep pens in one place, paper clips in another, and folders together, for instance, will tidy the mess and open up your workspace. And, yes, that makes you more productive.
- Avoid multitasking. People used to boast about working on many things simultaneously…but no more. In fact, when you focus on only one task or project at a time, you can reduce mistakes and stress and are more likely to meet your deadlines. There’s also something very satisfying about crossing items off your to-do list.
- Take regular breaks. Everyone needs some mental health time during the workday. Get up and walk around or sit outside and enjoy the air for a few minutes. You’ll be more focused and, ultimately, less distracted.
- Set aside specific time for emails. Don’t try to read or respond to emails as soon as they land in your inbox. That’s distracting, and important messages can fall through the cracks. Instead, dedicate blocks of time to checking emails — and hold to them.
- Use the right tools. There are lots of software and project management tools that can keep you focused, organized and more efficient, so ensure that you’re using what’s available to you.
It’s not necessary to follow all 14 tips — maybe only a few resonate with you — but adhering to any of them will help organize your work life. And being organized, as Martha Stewart might say, is a good thing.
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