Let’s face it: Despite our best efforts, we all need a little help getting our shit together at work.
Getting organized can be as simple learning to take better notes or coming up with a better system for filing documents or prioritizing projects. As Keenyn said,
“Being disorganized is like a disease that only gets worse with time. First, you forget to write things down, then you miss major events or deadlines, and before you know it, you are falling behind in your work and personal life because of these snowballing habits.”
It’s important to be proactive about office organization — you don’t want to be that person with the messy desk that can never find what they’re looking for!
Whether you’re in need of a couple adjustments or a serious overhaul, all you need to do is set aside a couple hours on a Friday afternoon. You’ll thank yourself Monday morning when it’s easy to focus because you don’t have a messy desk to distract you!
Here are some quick tips to get organized at work:
1. Invest in your own office supplies.
Sure, your office probably gave you supplies when you first started, but chances are they’re mismatched or thrown together. Nothing helps me feel more organized than heading to the store to pick up a coordinating set of folders, notepads, sticky notes, pens, and highlighters.
The folder that holds my current projects has “Time To Get Stuff Done!” on it, and my pens say “Think Big!” Looking down at these puts a smile on my face and helps me refocus throughout the day.
2. Get yourself a proper pen holder and desk drawer organizer.
Don’t just throw your pens, pencils, staplers, scissors, and sticky notes haphazardly in a drawer! Decorative pen holders and desk drawers are relatively inexpensive. Pick out some that coordinate with your new supplies!
3. Make a physical folder for each project you are working on.
Store your research, notes, to do lists, and important email correspondence in one place, and write important deadlines on the outside of the folder for easy reference.
4. Create a system of folders and subfolders on your computer.
Much like you would with your physical folders, store research, notes, drafts, and final copies in one place.
For easy retrieval, make sure that each of your documents has a clear and descriptive name: it’ll take less time to find your 2017 marketing plan when your documents are labelled 2014_marketingplan, 2015_marketingplan, 2016_marketingplan, and 2017_marketingplan instead of marketing, marketing plan, 2016 marketing, 17 plan – those last four could be anything!
Naming your documents consistently and clearly will help avoid wasting time clicking through each document to see which one is the correct one.
5. Take notes, and make sure they’re clear.
Bring a notepad everywhere with you, and use a separate page for different meetings. Don’t scribble them on random pieces of paper, because you’ll kick yourself later when you can’t find that sticky note you had in your meeting.
Extra organization tip: Use a new notebook for each quarter of the year.
6. Type or scan your notes after meetings, and then recycle the paper copy.
This will help you avoid a desk full of random sticky notes. If your office allows you to bring your laptop into meetings, you can save yourself a step by typing the notes directly on your computer while you’re in the meeting.
7. Enter calendar reminders for more than just appointments and meetings.
I put in reminders and notes for people’s birthdays and anniversaries, and I even put in reminders to follow up with people after meetings or check in on the status of projects. It’s amazing what little things can slip away when you’re caught up in other projects. This helps make sure nothing falls through the cracks, and serves as an excellent visual reminder of upcoming events and tasks.
8. Take control of your email inbox.
If you couldn’t already tell, I have a thing for folders. Organize your emails into folders and subfolders for different projects or categories of projects, and make sure you’re deleting old/irrelevant emails.
9. Write yourself a to list every morning when you walk into work.
Before you even check your inbox for the day, make a note of three to four things you want to get done each day.
10. Write yourself a to do list every night before you leave.
Things happen, and to do lists fall to the wayside throughout the day. Write down all of the things you didn’t get to today that you want to remember to get done in the morning. Keep those items in mind as you’re writing the morning’s to do list.
“How you decide to write it down is up to you, but some easy ways to do it are: make a to-do list each morning at work including all the tasks you need to complete, keep a running list on your fridge, store to-do notes in your phone or enter calendar reminders to pop up and remind you when you need to do something. We also suggest keeping a planner as a way to keep track of your busy life.” — Miranda Russel, Staying Organized When Life Gets Busy
11. Divide your tasks into priorities: low, medium, and high.
Ask your boss for clarification if you’re not sure where to rank some of your projects. While it’s important not to let yourself get caught up in the low priorities if your attention would be better spent on the high priorities, it’s also just as important to make sure the low priorities don’t completely fall off the list because you’re spending time on a huge project.
Take advantage of the first half hour of work to knock out some of the lower hanging fruit so you can focus on the bigger fish later in the day.
12. Develop a morning routine.
Everyone’s routine will be different. I stay organized by spending the first part of my morning opening my email and reading my daily e-newsletter from TheSkimm, and then reading through and responding to the rest of my emails and seeing if there’s anything that needs to be added to my to do list.
13. Clean off your desk as you notice the clutter building up.
This sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised how quickly the mess piles up when you’re not cleaning as you go. Set a time each week, or each day, to get rid of old coffee cups and sticky notes, organize your file folders, etc.
14. Put things back when you’re done with them.
And make sure your coworkers do the same if they borrow something from you!
Those are some of my favorite ways to get (and stay!) organized at work. The next time you have a couple free hours on a Friday afternoon, try out some of these tips and let me know how they work for you.
And be sure to share your own tips in the comments below!
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