- Make Prioritization a Must
Whatever you hope to accomplish in a given day or week, you’ll need to make it a priority and approach it with relentless laser focus. Otherwise, it will be pulled under the current of countless requests, emails, text messages, IMs, tasks, blogs, etc. – you get the gist. If you’ve resolved to become better organized at work, that decision is a great first step – now you’ll need to put the steps below to work.
- Clean Your Desk
If you’re OCD when it comes to cleanliness, you can probably skip this section. For everyone else: make sure your physical desktop is clean and clutter-free. You may be a slob at home, but at work your professional reputation is always on display, so put your best foot forward. Having a clean, mostly clear office desk will allow you to quickly find what you need; otherwise, the mess will keep nagging you in the back of your mind and can even prevent you from fully focusing on your work.
To get a handle on the chaos, come to work 30 minutes earlier than usual and divide the stuff into two piles: things to keep and junk to discard. Once you’ve thrown out the latter, start organizing the remaining pile into at least two more piles: active projects and archived material. Each of those piles can then be sorted into subfolders by project name or date, depending on your needs and preferences. Like any other, organization is a skill that gets better with practice.
- Don’t Forget Your Digital Workspace
Depending on your industry, most of your work and materials may be digital, not physical. So even if your work area is super neat, you may still have a lot of organizing to do with your virtual desktop. Think back to the last time a manager requested a document from you and you scrambled to find it on your computer desktop or shared drive. Chances are, poor folder organization was the time-sucking culprit. Get a handle on the issue once and for all by carving out some time (perhaps a Friday afternoon) to reorganize and rename folders, and delete or archive any inactive documents. Just make sure to communicate your process to anyone who may be impacted to mitigate confusion.
- Make Time For Your Calendar
Part and parcel of a clean digital and physical workspace is an organized calendar. While you may not always be in full control over your schedule, you probably have more power than you realize. One way to keep your work life organized is by thoughtfully scheduling your tasks each day and week. Be mindful of your energy and creative levels: if you’re someone who is sharp and alert in the morning, plan your toughest tasks in the AM. Think about the natural rhythm of work in your department: if Wednesdays are always crazy, schedule a buffer to help you handle the pandemonium (e.g. a 30-minute block of time in the AM and PM). And always have a list of backup tasks (in order of priority) on the off-chance that the day is quieter than expected. At all costs, avoid multi-tasking. Focusing on one task at a time will help you get things done faster, increase your sense of accomplishment, and demonstrate to others that you have the laser-like focus and determination that are so characteristic of successful people.