Ever find yourself feeling a little stressed at work/school/home because your to-do list seems to get longer by the minute? The key to relieving some of that stress is staying organized. It’s not for the faint of heart though – staying organized is not a one-and-done solution. It requires a daily commitment to maintain the order you have created (once you get organized). Yes folks, this means having to repeat the same routine every day to avoid the serious trauma of having to re-organize yourself again.
While there are various disciplines to staying organized, my guidelines can help you outline your own system of keeping track of things. By doing so, you’ll find yourself in control of your personal/professional life instead of the other way around.
Clean & Purge
First things first: rid your desk area, station, cubicle, or wherever you work of all things unnecessary. Take an hour every week or month to re-organize the paperwork that is in no doubt taking over every inch of your workstation. Throw away (or recycle) anything that is irrelevant, completed, or old. File things that don’t require immediate action and take note of things that require action on your part. I like to keep two separate stacks, things that have been completed (but not ready to be thrown away) and things that require action on my part. This also helps put into perspective your workload for the day or week.
Stop Buying Those Cute Target Accessories
I’m singling out Target because that’s my weakness when it comes to cute desk accessories. While it’s OK to add some of your personality, chances are, you don’t need that cute set of printed file folders, dog-shaped tape dispenser or 20 pens in different colors. Ask yourself, “do I need this?” You likely have what you need buried in your workstation somewhere. Better yet, make a monthly list of supplies you need, like paper, notebooks, pens, etc. and save some money!
Invest in a Notebook
It can be a spiral notebook, journal, post its, whatever. Brain dump all that needs to get done onto paper. I find it extremely helpful to write it down because with how busy and hectic our days seem to become, I tend to ignore all of my fancy app reminders. Also, there’s quite a feeling of relief and satisfaction when you get to cross out an item after it’s been completed.
Keep a Daily Priority List
Set your priorities at the start of the day and don’t forget the deadlines. Devote no more than 15 minutes to set your priorities for the day without distractions. And set some due dates while you’re at it. Also, if at all possible, don’t multi-task. This is something I struggle with myself but research shows that multi-tasking actually decreases your memory and focus – definitely not a key to success.
Use only ONE calendar
Whether it’s an old-school desk calendar, iCalendar, or Google calendar, be sure to use it religiously. If you find you’re using sticky notes by the end of the month, it’s a good sign your routine is slipping. If you want to go the extra mile – color code your calendar. Apply a different color for different items, such as projects, events, meetings, etc. Trust me, it’ll save you time and help you plan ahead when it comes to buying coffee and donuts as you’re rushing to work that morning.
Take Breaks Throughout the Day
Be aware of your stress (whether work or personal) and learn how to tackle it. I know stress is largely unavoidable but an important life lesson I’ve learned is that life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent what you do with it. Dwelling on your stress can actually make you less productive and can make you procrastinate, which will only lead you to falling behind on your tasks. At CBD, we’re lucky to have an awesome gym to get a quick (or full) workout session in and de-stress. Take 5 minutes to go outside and breathe some air or grab some of your coworkers and take a quick walk around your office building.
One Size DOES NOT Fit All
Most importantly, find a system that works for YOU. While my tips may work perfectly for me, they may not work for you. Define what organization means to you. For example, some can only function with a clean desk, while others don’t mind the mess. If you’re still delivering what you’re supposed to on time without sacrificing quality, then stick with it.
While I consider myself to be fairly organized, there are times when I fall off track, and it’s perfectly okay. If you missed a day, or a week, try to get back to your routine as soon as possible – don’t let it go on for a month or longer. If you’re an organizational freak, what other factors do you consider important for staying organized?