Having worked in both a big organization and being self-employed, I have learnt much about staying organized at work. Being organized at work is not only about meeting individual goals or deadlines. When you work in a bigger organization with other colleagues, it is important to be organized to help manage teamwork efficiently. Staying organized not only helps you to improve your own productivity but also meet other colleagues’ needs and company deadlines.
There has been a shift where today, most organizations are demanding for any time, anywhere workplace. Therefore, improving productivity and efficiency has become extremely crucial. Improved productivity and efficiency at the workplace helps you to focus on your own tasks and collaborate with teammates more effectively. For those who work on a contract or task, rather than time-based, improving productivity and efficiency may mean less time spent on the work, therefore, more time for yourself!
Whether it’s about accomplishing goals and maintain a work-life balance or enhancing productivity and lowering daily stress and anxiety, being organized can benefit you in many ways. So, if staying organized seems like a challenge to you, I’m sharing my top 10 most useful tips!
- Write Tomorrow’s To Do List
At the end of the day, I will write a to-do list for tomorrow. This allows me to record the most pressing tasks that needs to be done tomorrow. It allows me to free my mind at the end of the day, knowing that I will get onto the tasks tomorrow. It also allows me, on the next day, to go in jump-starting on the tasks, rather than spending the next 30 minutes figuring out what to do.
There are some days that I just want to go home and I forget to write my tomorrow’s to-do list. That’s okay. It just means I spend some more time the next morning to write down a to-do list. To-Do lists have been my savior in staying organized, which leads me to my next point.
2. Have a Running To-Do List
I have two types of running to-do lists depending on if I’m working in the office or not. A running to-do list is a place where I write down everything I need to do. I found having one place to jot down all my notes allowed me to focus on the task at hand, rather than being reactive to all the small tasks I needed to complete. For example, if a colleague came up to me and asked me to send them a certain document, I would write that down on my running to-do list and do it later when I had finished my task that I was in the middle of doing. Similarly, if I suddenly remembered that I needed to make a booking for a restaurant, I would jot that information down and attend to it later. I found this super helpful as I often have trouble with my memory.
When I am in the office, I have a notebook next to me so I can jot down any notes and my running to-do list. When I am out of the office, I use “To Do” on Microsoft and have a list called “Brain Dump” which allows me to jot down anything that I need.
At the end of the day or when I have some time, I go through my running to-do list and see what I can cross off. This method helped me free up my brain so I could use my brain power to focus on what I needed to do.
3. Check emails twice a day
This is a tricky one. I’m one of those people who do not like having unread notifications. I don’t like the red bubble with the number indicating how many unread emails I have or how many Facebook notifications I have. I like it to be nothing. But that’s also the reason why I found emails very difficult to manage because as soon as I heard or saw the notification, I would be reading it straight away. This also again, made me feel very reactive and pulled me away from tasks that I needed to attend to. Therefore, I decided to close my email app and only check my emails twice a day (and yes, some days it is more than two times).
Instead of checking my emails in the morning, I try to wait until mid-morning or midday before I open up my email inbox. This way, I get some work done before attending to any crises that might be happening in my inbox. At the end of the day (about 1 hour left of the workday), I check my email again so I can again, work through the emails and see what other tasks I need to do before the end of the day.
4. Use one calendar
Use one calendar so you can schedule all your meetings and tasks. This one sounds simple but for me, a person who loves both paper and digital efficiencies, I found this one tricky. I would often write meetings in my diary or online calendar. However, when it came to scheduling meetings, I would have to check both my diary and online calendar. This made it inefficient and honestly, a little silly in front of my colleagues (and sometimes clients). Choose one place as your scheduler and stick with it. If you like having a paper and digital form, that’s okay. Just make sure you definitely write it down in your one consistent scheduler first.
If you have multiple calendars (e.g. personal and work), I use Google Calendars to import them together so I can see it in one account, but still have multiple calendars separate. That means, if I don’t want to think about work, I can untick my work calendar and avoid seeing all the work activities I need to do.
5. Be in your ideal environment
We all have an ideal environment that allows us to be most productive. Yes, we have days that we are more productive than others, but we all have the ideal environment. In today’s society, we are seeing many work from home opportunities, which means, you can be more flexible with your work environment. Yes, it can be hard when there are other distractions in the house, like other family members’ also working from home. However, do you enjoy fresh air, natural lighting, plants, music? You can create your workspace to become more enjoyable and hopefully more productive to your work.
6. Regularly clean up your workspace
I procrastinate by cleaning. Odd? Possibly. Still productive? I guess so.
Regularly cleaning up your physical workspace can help you develop a clear mind. I’m not sure how many people would choose to be in a cluttered work environment surrounded by paper files and coffee mugs. Take the time to clean up your workspace, even if it means taking the dirty coffee mugs to the sink and putting your pens back in the pen holder. You can also use drawers to hide your mess by shoving all your things into one drawer. That’s okay too because at least your desk becomes less physically and visually cluttered.
7. Write a Weekly To-Do Lists
Okay, I’m sure by now you know that I love my to-do lists. I did try and spread this one out from the other ones. But… I love my weekly to-do lists! Weekly to-do lists and goals list allows me to cross off different tasks across the week. Because I’m sure you know, some days you can be more motivated than others. Weekly to-do lists allows me to work through these tasks throughout the week, rather than forcing myself to get them all done in one day.
8. Choose your morning approach to tasks
For those who love productivity hacks, I’m sure you’ve heard of two common ways to approach tasks. 1. Eat the frog first and 2. Start small. Eat the frog first is a technique to address the bigger task first in the morning. Start small means you work on small tasks first and then gradually work on bigger tasks. I have found both to be great methods to approach tasks (depending on how I feel that day).
When I feel productive and energetic in the morning, I will use the “eat the frog first” method. I will choose a big task that I need to complete for the day and start working on that for most of the morning.
However, on days when I feel less productive and really struggling to start the day, I cross off all the small tasks off my list first. This helps build my confidence and momentum to attack bigger tasks as the day goes on.
9. Take a Break
It is okay to take a break. Even if you are super busy with lots of work to do, you can still take a break. Whether it is making a coffee or tea (and waiting for the kettle to boil), talking to your colleague on the way back to your desk, taking a more scenic route to the printer, or walking outside for 10 minutes, a small break from work can make you even more productive.
10. Establish a Routine
One of the most important tips is for you to learn more about yourself in the best times and ways you work. You may be a person who is more productive in the morning or a person who cannot do any heavy cognitive tasks until later in the day. You may find that you are more energetic and enjoy doing phone calls on Mondays compared to Fridays. Establish a routine that works for you and block out times to do your most productive work. For example, you might time block Monday mornings to your client calls and team meetings because you are more people-friendly at the beginning of the week. You might then schedule your Fridays to your individual tasks and work on reports. Whatever the task is, understand when and what works best for you and establish a routine around that.
It can be hard to stay organized at work, especially when it is so chaotic. However, practicing to be organized when it is less busy will equip you when life gets hectic. These are my favourite tips. What’s your favourite tip to stay organized at work?