Becoming more organized at work can help to improve your productivity and decrease stress.
But what’s the best way to actually go about becoming more organized?
We asked 12 experts to reveal their top tips on how to be more organized at work. Here’s what they said.
Better Planning Leads to Better Organization
Jenny Massey, Snowy Pines White Labs
Proper organization comes from good planning. If you plan out your day, week and month, you’ll find yourself being a lot more organized in your day-to-day.
Start by looking at the month as a whole, write down important due dates, meetings, days off, etc. Then fill in the gaps of assignments and tasks that will need to be done throughout the month.
Give yourself personal due dates with time in between the actual deadline. This gives you time to get the work done while also having enough time to review it and make edits prior to officially sending it in.
Next is the weekly planning. Start your Mondays off by looking at what was done the week prior, what needs to be done this week, and what still needs to be done before the end of the month. Have a tentative plan of what your week is going to look like.
Last is the day-to-day. Once you are done with your workday, spend an extra 15 minutes or so planning out the following day. Have a tentative schedule of when you are going to be working on what, and try to stick to it.
Organize Your Digital Desktop As Well As Your Physical One
Dawn George, Evernote Certified Consultant
Start by organizing your computer desktop. Think of your computer desktop like you would your physical desktop. If it’s covered with documents and junk, it’s hard to find what you need when you need it. Delete unneeded files, create folders, and file, file, file.
Download Evernote (you can start with the free version) and drag files that you want to save but don’t want cluttering your desktop into Evernote’s desktop version where it doesn’t take up any space.
Clear out your downloads folder. Delete unneeded files and drag files into Evernote’s desktop app that you might need again later. You may find several duplicate files in your downloads folder, as we often end up downloading files and documents more than once.
You can use a tool called Duplicate Files Fixer, which finds and deletes duplicate files (photo, audio, etc.) that are often stored in the downloads folder, to free up storage. As well as clearing the files in your download, this may also help your computer work faster by deleting bulky files (especially large ones like videos and high-resolution images) that eat up memory.
Uninstall unwanted apps and programs. You know those free apps or programs that you never use? Why not delete them? They can slow you down and distract you from the task at hand, so don’t be afraid to get rid of them. You can always download them again if you ever need them in future.
There are too many apps promising to solve our stresses and strains. It’s much better to find a few apps that save you time and make you more productive — learn them thoroughly and stick with them. You should also remove excess applications on your dock or taskbar so you only see the shortcuts you really need, based on what you use the most.
Getting rid of unwanted apps and programs and only having the ones you really need on your taskbar will remove clutter and could also increase computer speed.
Clear out your email inbox. Delete emails you no longer need and forward emails you want to save to Evernote. You can easily find them again with Evernote’s powerful search feature.
Unsubscribe to e-newsletters that no longer interest you. Many of us end up signing up for several e-newsletters over time, but we may not be so good at unsubscribing when we need to. This creates digital clutter that fills up your email inbox, both distracting you and slowing you down when you need to search for the email you want.
If you regularly receive an e-newsletter, think about whether it really interests you and adds some value to your life.
Each e-newsletter should serve a clear purpose. Searching for the word “unsubscribe” in your email program is an easy way to start searching for e-newsletters.
Empty the trash and recycling bin on your desktop. Have you ever emptied your recycling bin? If you have, can you honestly say you do it regularly? If you get into the habit of regularly emptying your recycling bin, it will help you save time when you need to find and retrieve deleted items.
And just like your downloads folder, getting rid of large files (e.g. videos and high-resolution images) could help to speed up your computer.
Unfollow people and accounts from social media. Social media is like the horizon – it goes on and on and on. This means you should think carefully about how to avoid taking up too much of your time.
One simple step is to unfollow social media accounts you don’t really gain much from following – especially ones that are negative or uninteresting. Just like e-newsletters, think about what you really gain by spending your time following and engaging with a person or brand on social media.
If the answer is not a lot, unfollow – save your time and attention for something more interesting or important in your life. Ultimately, following these steps and investing the time and effort to declutter your virtual space will help you become more calm, focused and organized at work.
‘Reset’ Your To-Do List Daily
Richard ‘Capt’n’ Henderson, Founder and Owner of the Home Business Podcast
Start off each day with a ‘to-do list reset’. Go over all of your short-term tasks, such as what you are targeting to get done this workweek.
And then set priorities for the workday. Your daily to-do list will change daily! This to-do list reset works by keeping you focused on what is important, versus what is urgent.
Start Your Day The Right Way
Ashwin Sokke, Co-founder of WOW Skin Science
My number one tip to achieve success and organization at work is to focus on a healthy and balanced mindset.
Dedicating time to myself before jumping into the workday helps to get rid of any previous anxiety or stress from the previous day, increasing my likelihood to succeed by allowing me to start my day with a clear and focused mind.
Waking up an hour earlier in the morning and setting aside time for physical exercise, followed by a 10 to 15 minute meditation practice has truly been transformative for my productivity and organization abilities as well as my mental and physical health.
I follow my workout and meditation with a healthy and nutritious breakfast. I like to enjoy the time I have to myself and be present whilst eating, resisting the urge to be on my phone or use any technology.
I have been following this rule for years and share it with everyone because it is so simple and easy to implement yet so significant when it comes to productivity and overall success.
Use Tools Such As Google Keep
Rex Freiberger, CEO at Gadget Review
Much of my office is virtual these days and I’ve found it useful to have some kind of organization and structure for everything I need throughout the day.
One of the things that often slips out of my grasp is the ability to retain quick notes I’ve made.
Many integrations will add things to a calendar automatically, and that’s great for specific events and meetings. But if I get a Slack message that has important information in it, I don’t want to have to scroll through for an hour to find it. I also can’t just write things down quickly during a Zoom meeting and hope to know where that scrap of paper will be later on.
I’ve started using Google Keep to take down notes, save snippets of information I know I’ll need, and organize everything so I can easily find it when I need it later.
It’s been a big help. I’m far less likely now to lose something crucial and have to go searching for it exhaustively.
Prioritize Your Tasks Properly
April Ann Quiñones, Founder of Lifeboss.net
List down your tasks in order of priority. Label the tasks as A, B, or C. This is Brian Tracy’s ABC Method.
A) should be the most impactful or the most urgent tasks. (If you don’t do these tasks, serious consequences may await). Then label it B) if it’s something you should do (except that it only has mild consequences).
Lastly, C) tasks are those that are nice to do (there’s no consequence at all whether the task is completed that day or not).
Don’t forget to sequence your A tasks according to the level of importance or urgency by putting numbers like A1, A2, and so on. Start with A1 and keep at it.
Use The Pomodoro Technique. I personally use Tomato Timer. The Pomodoro Technique involves taking a five-minute break for every 25 minutes of work. But I don’t use this ratio. I do 50 minutes of work and then a 15-minute break.
You can customize yours through Tomato Timer. Just stick to 25 minutes of focused work minimum.
Use Trello. (I mean who doesn’t these days?)
Use chrome extensions like News Feed Eradicator for Facebook and DF Tube. Your social media newsfeed will be erased. These can further minimize distractions while working.
Keep your work station clean. It matters!
Get The Important Stuff Done First
Wesley Oaks, Founder of Oddly Cute Pets
Keep Notes. Use your smartphone to keep notes of the most important tasks and complete these tasks first. This way, if you don’t complete anything else that day, you will have at least completed some of the most important tasks.
Declutter. Remove anything unnecessary in your work environment and keep your work area clean. Less clutter means less stress and a quicker smoother work process.
Simplify or Automate. Pinpoint the repetitive tasks in your job and find a way to make the process better or automate it. Locate one of these tasks, improve it, and repeat until your processes are streamlined.
Focus On Doing Fewer (But Important) Tasks Well
Peg Sadie MA, Psychotherapist and Self-Care Coach
As a self-care coach one of the main issues I deal with is feeling overwhelmed. I approach work productivity with my clients not by how they can better organize their day but by what they can remove from it in order to be more successful.
People think that by fitting more things into their workday they’ll be more productive but actually the opposite is true.
You end up doing a bunch of things not very well instead of focusing on fewer things that create more impact. Here are three tips.
Go Small. Gary Keller talks about this in his bestselling book, The One Thing. Essentially, focus on fewer things that have greater impact and drop the smaller tasks that don’t contribute as much to moving the needle.
Schedule buffer breaks. Don’t overpack your schedule. Make sure to leave 15 minute buffers in between meetings to regroup your thoughts so you can be fully present.
Do a brain dump. There’s always going to be something left unfinished at the end of the workday.
Instead of trying to multi-task when you arrive first thing, do a brain dump the evening before and prioritize tasks. This way you’ll know exactly what to tackle first when you arrive the next morning.
Set Your Priority For The Day And Do It First
Kim Sneath, The Clutter Coach
Start at home first. Getting to work on time sets your day off on the right foot, so being organized at home first will help you feel on top of things and boost your confidence if you’re not scrambling in flustered and late.
Start the night before. Leave your desk at the end of the day clean and clear. How? Desktop organizers for important file folders, in/out trays for ongoing projects and containers for office supplies let you clear up your desk in five minutes or less. What a great feeling to arrive to in the morning!
Start on the commute in. Decide what your main priority is for the day and tackle that first before checking email or answering phone calls.
With that completed before lunch during your optimum time of focus, you can handle other smaller tasks in the afternoon when your energy isn’t as strong.
Don’t Let Your Inbox Run Your Day
David Adler, Founder and CEO of The Travel Secret
Plan Your Day the Night Before. One simple practice that can make a huge impact for productivity and organization is to plan your workday the night before and prioritize more difficult assignments for earlier in the day so you can get them out of the way because if you already have a plan set out the night before, there’s no room for doubt about how to begin or what to work on first.
Having a plan set out ahead of time and waking up to an organized workplace also sets the tone for the day and can help prevent you from becoming distracted with other small tasks before you actually address your real priorities.
Don’t Let Your Inbox Run Your Day. Being aware of your notification setting and email-checking habits can also make a huge difference on how organized you can be throughout your day because there’s nothing worse than getting pinged every five minutes from social channels or email accounts to the point of being run by your inbox rather than addressing your assignments in a purposeful and more efficient style.
Think About Your Lighting Environment At Work
Helen White, Workplace Design Expert and Co-founder of houseof.com
At the core of being organized at work is ensuring that your workspace is set up to maximise productivity.
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to land yourself a job working in a basement, the winter months are especially tough when you arrive in darkness and leave in darkness.
In these kind of spaces, a SAD lamp can often be a crucial differentiator in making the difference between a meandering, listless day and a productive one.
There are numerous studies citing the importance of our daily dose of sunlight but whilst working we are normally only lucky enough to see this on our lunchtime dash to the local coffee shop.
Having access to sunlight in the office is key to productivity as well as reducing eye strain and headaches.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a window seat then recreate the daylight glow with lighting looking for bulbs with a colour temperature of 5000 Kelvins plus.
Think Carefully About How You Organize Your Desk
Consider how you work when envisioning your workspace. Before you lift a finger organizing, grab a pencil and jot down some key elements that are not part of your current office set-up but think should be. Consider the type of work you do.
For example, if you’re a writer and need to be at a desk most of the day, then you want to ask yourself if the placement of your desk, the type of chair you are using, and the overall ergonomics is optimal. Or, perhaps you’re an artist that draws, paints or sculpts, or a consultant that is on video calls all day – your needs are completely different and your office space should reflect that.
Give everything a home and divide any drawers! Just like with any other space you are organize, to be more organized while at work, it’s important to give all of the items in your office a home.
This means that everything would have a place to go when it is not in use. This process helps to keep clutter at bay, as with any space organized surroundings can keep your mind calm and focused. If you have drawers in your desk, use drawer dividers to maximize every inch of the space.
Dividing the drawers also makes it easier for you to put like items together and to find them when you need them (and quickly). When choosing the drawer dividers that meet your needs, you will need to consider the size and the number of specific items that will reside in your drawers.
Think about what you place within your arm’s reach. To be the most productive in your home office space, it’s important to carefully think about how often you might use the items and where you are putting them. To simplify, you can think about all of the items in your workspace as items that either need to be within arm’s reach or outside of arm’s reach.
If you’re at your desk while reading this, take a moment to look at everything on your desk’s surface. What items are you using every single day? What items do you rarely use?
You want to have the items you need to use most often within arm’s reach and put the items used less often out of the way, preferably out of sight and yet accessible when needed.
Find a planner that works for you, as use it consistently. If you’re never used a planner consistently, it’s time to really consider it.
Trying to manage daily to-do’s without a system is very difficult.
Finding a planner that works for you can be like finding a pair of jeans as it might take patience and trying on a few different options before you find one that works for you. Planning out your monthly, weekly and daily tasks can improve your organization and productivity at work by many multiples.