We live busy, busy work lives which often leave us very little time to organize. This can lead to a vicious cycle of never seeming to get ahead, because everything keeps piling up. While it may take some time to put some organizational goals and strategies in place, it will be worth it in the end by eliminating stress and frustration. So, as soon as you can, block out a little time during your day to put some of these tips in place to help organize your office life:
1. Wipe Out Your Work Space Clutter
If your desk looks like a mess, you’re not alone. But cleaning your desk is really the first step to leading a more organized work life. Now, you don’t need to have a clear desk where everything is spic and span and glistening, but a desk where everything is in its place is definitely a plus. This is the case even if you look at your stacks of paper and say “but I know where everything is”; I have no doubt that there is a method to your madness, but you still want your work area to look professional, especially if it’s visible to visitors.
An easy way to keep things in order is to put things away, right away. Designate a space for papers, pens and pencils, office supplies, etc., and stick to them until you form a habit. There are many office accessories available that can help you achieve this goal, such as under desk pencil drawers and mobile or stationary filing cabinets.
Think of your work space the same way you think of your closet at home; if you haven’t used something in a year, throw it out (or give it away to someone who needs it)! Do you really need all of those scribbled papers, old restaurant menus and ketchup packets you shoved into your desk drawer over the last 12 months? Probably not. So set some time aside for a complete desk purge.
3. Go Paperless
A good way to keep your desk from becoming overrun again is by becoming paperless. Chances are that even after purging your desk you will be left with a stack of papers and documents that you just can’t throw away. So, why not scan them and save them on your computer or a USB flash drive and eliminate a lot of mess? If there are papers that you need to hang onto for company (or sentimental) reasons, file them away or put them into labeled binders so they are easily accessible and organized.
4. De-clutter Your Desktop
Does your computer screen look like this?
It’s easy to keep saving things to your desktop because then they are easily accessible… at first. But after a while you will have so many things saved in this one spot that it will take a big chunk of time just for you to sort through it all to find the one thing you need. Get rid of any program shortcuts that you don’t need and just keep a few on your desktop (for example, your email or web browser shortcuts). For the rest of the files, you can categorize them and then create separate folders for them that you can keep in your documents folder. This will make them easy to find, save you a lot of time, and keep you looking professional if someone is standing over your shoulder and asking you to pull something up. If you have a fear of becoming a desktop hoarder again, you may want to consider selecting a nice picture of your family, pets or favorite vacation for your desktop background, that way you will want to show it off rather than cover it with files and shortcuts.
5. Design Your Desk Area
Whatever your work space is, make it your own. Put up pictures of your family or animals. Bring in some of your favorite plants and, if your office allows them, candles. Even if you work in a confined space you can spruce things up with some colorful or interesting office supplies. If you make your workspace comfortable and engaging you can reduce your stress and be more productive.
An easy way to keep your day, week, and month organized is by using either an electronic or paper calendar. Make a habit of not only scheduling out meetings, but important tasks as well. This will keep you from becoming double booked and allow you the time you need to complete your work. You may also want to block out time to tidy up your desk, or clean out your email inbox (this may be a perfect Friday afternoon task). If you use an electronic calendar make sure to take advantage if it has a reminder/alert function. I can’t tell you how much I rely on this to help me remember even the little things throughout the day. It’s important, though, to keep in mind that even if you think you have your day scheduled you will want to be flexible if something new comes up; nothing is ever set in stone.
7. Tap Into Technology
If you use an electronic calendar, why not tap into technology and sync that calendar to your cell phone if you are able? This has come in real handy for me, if I am away from the office and want to schedule an appointment; I can easily access what I need at any time.
There are other ways to use technology to stay organized. Don’t forget about the bookmark function in your internet browser which allows you to save your most visited websites so they are just one click away. I love using this function, especially if I am working on a project and need to visit several websites at a time. It’s important to remember to clean out your bookmarked items every now and then too, otherwise the list will be too long and it will be hard to find what you are looking for which will defeat its purpose.
There are also many apps on the market that can help you stay organized depending on what help you need.
8. Let Lists Work for You
I am a compulsive list maker; I have lists in my pockets, lists in my purse, lists on my computer and lists in my phone. I make lists for just about everything, which works for me. Determine which kinds of list(s) you can benefit from, whether it be daily to-do lists, important project lists, grocery lists, or anything else, and write away. Lists will help you complete your tasks or make sure you get everything you need the next time you stop at the store. Here’s a handy tip, though: make sure you don’t forget your lists (been there, done that, one too many times)!
9. Take On One Task at a Time
While multitasking is often necessary, you shouldn’t make it a habit because then you are really never giving anything 100%. Prioritize your projects and do your best to complete them one at a time. When you schedule things out, you can color code them depending on their urgency (for example, things in red need to be done first), or file them according to their urgency as well. Again, no matter what happens you have to be willing to switch things up at a moment’s notice.
10. Keep Your Eye on the Prize
No matter what the days may throw your way, be sure to stay focused on your goals and moving forward. Each day, week or month you may want to take time to review your progress and determine what is working and what is not. Are the timelines you are setting feasible? Are you still having trouble staying organized in certain areas? What may help this? Another way to review your work is to communicate your progress with your co-workers and/or managers and see if they have feedback that may be helpful. They could have ideas you may not have thought of, and vice versa.
It’s important to find organizational methods that work for you; just because lists work for me, they may not for you. You may need to experiment with different strategies to see what works best, and, as with most change, it could take a while to get into the habit of using them regularly. The timeline will be different for everyone, just know you are taking the steps to become even more successful.
What tools or tricks do you use to stay organized at work? On the other hand, are there methods you tried that just didn’t work for you? Let us know your experiences by commenting below!