“I’m the least organized person ever! I have hard time keeping track of what I’m supposed to do, and I’m afraid I’m going to forget something. Can you help?” – Josh from Battle Creek, MI
With so much information coming in from face-to-face conversations, phone calls, emails, social networks and the web, it’s understandable that so many people have a hard time keeping all of their tasks and ideas organized. Trying to manage all of this information – particularly without a dedicated system – can be mentally exhausting.
Here are five strategies to consider in your quest for getting more organized:
Keep a prioritized task list. A task list is your ultimate weapon in your battle to get organized. It doesn’t have to be formal or fancy — just something that gets your to-do items out of your head and your inbox. Consider grouping your list by priority – items that need to get done today or in the near future versus items that aren’t due until later.
Manage your list electronically. Toss that paper to-do list in the trash. Today, there are a wide variety of mobile apps, web-based tools and software programs that allow you keep track of and better organize your to-do lists. Not only does this cut down on clutter and benefit the planet, but most of these programs allow you to access your list on the go – meaning you can add to it at home or while standing in line at the grocery store and have it sync up on all devices. Popular options include Evernote, Microsoft’s OneNote, Wunderlist, Toodledo and Astrid.
Forget multitasking. There’s a difference between managing multiple priorities and literally trying to do several tasks at the same time. Multitasking reduces productivity and reduces the quality of your work. You’re better off scheduling chunks of time (15 or 30 minutes) to devote to specific tasks rather than spending a few minutes answering email, then a few minutes updating that spreadsheet, then a few minutes back on email, then a few minutes making a phone call, etc.
Ensure your desk is (relatively) clean. Not only can it be harder to find important documents when they’re buried under piles of paper, but staring at a messy workspace each day can cause your mind to feel even more chaotic. If you find the idea of keeping a tidy desk overwhelming, don’t stress! Take 10 minutes at the end of each workweek to do basic de-cluttering.
Maximize storage opportunities. This includes both hard-copy and electronic storage. If you work with a lot of documents, make sure you have access to file folders, organizers, and storage cabinets or bins – this can help you collect work on specific projects and put it out of sight when you no longer need it. Make sure your computer document and inbox folders are similarly organized, and take 15 minutes each day to make sure you sort your emails and files accordingly.
Readers: Do you have other strategies you use to stay organized at work? Share your ideas in the comment section below.