Are you one of those super organized people whose motto is, a place for everything and everything in it’s place? That’s awesome if you are. But not all of us operate that way. And lets be real, you don’t, or you wouldn’t have searched the internet for tips on how to be more organized. So I’m fairly confident in saying, hello fellow unorganized person! I’m glad you found this blog post.
It’s cool, we’re all different. The unfortunate thing about it is that all of us would benefit from being more organized. So this is one of those things that stinks if you are one of those people who aren’t. Lack of organization will have an impact on every area of our lives. If you aren’t organized at work, it can cause real trouble.
As someone who has always struggled with staying organized, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out work organization. These are the things I have found to work for me.
Tips to Get Organized at Work
It starts with your brain
You can’t be organized on the outside if you aren’t organized on the inside. So start with your brain. Try these things to make sure you aren’t sabotaging your organization attempts.
- Get plenty of sleep. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, while you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. Sleep helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.
- Take lots of short breaks during the day. Every hour take a quick lap around the office or just stand up and move around a little. I’ve had jobs where I couldn’t just roam around so if you have a job like that, find excuses. Go to the bathroom (even if you don’t need to) or make a trip to the coffee pot or water cooler. If you have some things to discuss with other co-workers or documents that need to be taken here or there, spread out those tasks out throughout the day.
- Try not to multi-task. I know this is a tough one. Multi-tasking is so glorified these days. I’ve even recently seen this “skill” as a requirement in job postings. But the truth is, our brains aren’t actually capable of multi-tasking. We are capable of quick thinking, switching back and forth between tasks rapidly, but that comes at a cost. According to research, our brains aren’t made to work that way. Researchers say that interrupting the cognitive process of attention and focus results in more mistakes and an overall slower total time for goal achievement. Of course, if your job is fast paced and tasks are always changing, you’ll have to manage. But as much as you can you should try to focus on one task at a time (more on that later).
Make your work space work for you
Just like your brain can affect your work, your work space can actually affect your brain. Even though I struggle to stay organized, I can’t get a single thing done in an unorganized space (you can see my ongoing dilemma). One thing I’ve found to be true no matter what kind of job I have, there’s a specific way things need to be organized for it to benefit me. Each time I’ve started a new job I have had to redo the previous person’s system of organization in order to be productive at my job. This is what I’ve learned about work space and organizational systems.
- Don’t be afraid to say, “This isn’t working for me.” Your boss wants you to be efficient and productive at your job. I’m sure there are some cases in which this won’t be possible, but some where it’s just a matter of speaking up. I’ve had a few jobs where I was responsible for keeping records of my own clients or customers. It was in the company’s best interests for me to implement a process of organization and tracking that worked for me. Obviously, if that system has to be shared with someone else, you’ll want to do it together. But if you have the option of creating your own system, do it.
- Clean, declutter, and organize your work space in a way that makes you most productive. Make sure everything you need is within arm’s reach. Anything you use regularly — your pens, stapler, white out, planner, coffee, water etc. I don’t know what kind of work you do or what items you need. Just think about all the things you reach for while you’re working and put them in close proximity.
- Make sure your space is comfortable and visually motivating. I don’t know if this matters to everyone, but it matters to me. If I don’t like the space I’m in, it’s hard for me to concentrate and be productive. Personalize your space as much as possible (without cluttering).
Use your time wisely
Organizing your time at work will mean the difference between productivity and chaos. If you don’t use your time wisely, all the organization in the world won’t help you get your work done.
- Make a to-do list at the end of the day. I’m starting with the end of the day because I like to plan a day ahead for things I know I have to get done the next day. That way, in the morning I can look at my list first thing and decide where to start. Your list might include things that you couldn’t get done the day before and things you are anticipating. Either way, write it all day ahead of time so you can get a good start the next day.
- Schedule your day. To this day, no matter what job I do, if I don’t make at least a tentative schedule of what I’ll do, when, I will jump around from task to task all day and hardly complete anything at all. Even though I’ll feel like I’ve been super busy all day.
- Using a timer to complete tasks. Once you have your schedule you need a plan to execute it. If your job allows for you to have super focused work time without (or with limited) interruptions, take advantage of that. Set a timer for 20-30 minutes at a time (or longer depending on your tasks) and knock out each thing on your list in the order you have it scheduled.
Learning how to get organized is the easy part. Learning to stay organized is what takes practice. It’s really easy to get out of the habit of putting things away, sticking to your schedule, etc. Start and end each work day intentionally. At the end of your day, make sure everything is put away in it’s place and you’ve made your list of things that need to be done the next day. The next morning, go straight to your list and plan how you’ll attack it. It might take some time to find the right organization system for you, but don’t give up. Soon you’ll fall into a rhythm that will make work life much easier.