Do you consider yourself an organized person?
At the age of 12, my science teacher told me something in front of the whole class that seriously disrupted my self-esteem:
“Csaba, you’re predictable. You’re a straight B student. You never got an A.”
(He did mean that I always got a B from all subjects.)
It’s hard to evoke my childhood memories, but her words told me that I’m nothing extraordinary and that’s my fate.
I was frozen. Her words have been in my ears over the decades.
I wasn’t disorganized. Maybe the problem was my lack of interest.
Since then I got a Ph.D. and much more.
Why did I tell you that story?
Because, as the old saying goes, you’re the master of your fate. You aren’t a disorganized person. Getting organized is a skill that you can develop. You can cultivate habits to stay organized.
Getting organized is a choice.
Here’re 7 tips to get organized at work.
#1: Declutter your desk
A cluttered desk equals to a cluttered mind. And that’s not what you want.
A cleared desk, however, signals to the brain that you’re the master and not the slave to your job.
A container is very helpful to organize your papers by subject, priority, or person. Get rid of the old stuff; file your papers that don’t require taking action but serve as a reference in the future; finally, sort your actionable stuff into a container.
Repeat those steps every week to avoid a messy desk and get organized.
Before printing a file, always ask yourself whether it’s necessary to have it on paper. Digital tools like Evernote can do magic here. Feel free to check my post about how I use Evernote in my daily job.
#2: Set a limit on opening multiple apps/tabs/windows
I never leave more than three tabs open in my web browser, if at all.
It’s so easy to get lost among tabs, reminders, and messages. I simply can’t do any work if dozens of tabs are constantly stealing my attention.
The most challenging part to me was to shut down Outlook for a couple of hours to get serious stuff done. If you leave your email client open, consider blocking pop-ups.
Again, it all comes down to minimalism: let your brain focus on what truly matters.
#3: Build your productivity system
You’re dealing with a constant flow of information. You should, therefore, figure out how to process that stuff.
One of the most popular methods is the Getting Things Done (GTD) model, published by David Allen.
GTD is a work-life management system for stress-free productivity. Every word matter: it’s a productivity system that you can use both at work and home to get organized and minimize stress.
Feel free to read my GTD masterclass series to learn the basics of task management.
For now, you need a trusted place, be it physical or digital, to collect all incoming stuff. Jot down all ideas, incoming pieces of information, and tasks that can be important later. This single act will prevent your mind from wondering and let you concentrate on the given task at the moment.
Whatever system you use, stick with it and make sure that you visit it regularly. You can use sticky notes, a task manager, a bullet journal, or even MS Outlook. Keep it simple and up to date.
To ensure that you don’t miss an important task or deadline anymore, you should do a regular review…
#4: Do a weekly review
That’s one thing to have a trusted system. Another thing is keeping it up to date.
The weekly review is kind of a spring-cleaning when you dive deep into your system, weed out the unimportant stuff, and make sure that the important stuff gets done.
Look at your system and schedule important commitments, follow up outsourced tasks, kick some ass if necessary, get rid of the junk, and plan your week ahead.
If you want to learn more, check out my ultimate guide to perform a thorough weekly review.
#5: Show up early
I know that you’re a night owl, but there’re plenty of reasons to show up early in the office:
- Showing up early means that you leave early (more on that later)
- Showing up early equals to lower traffic
- Showing up early means fewer garlic-breath passengers on the train
- Showing up early means some quiet time to do the deep (important) work
- Showing up early sets you up for a positive and productive day
Once you showed up in the office, you must put a ban on Facebook, email, and the news. Begin your day with the most challenging and important tasks that require some focused time.
Believe me: this is the single most important thing that you can do to supercharge your productivity. So please do the heavy lifting first!
#6: Leave early
Here’s your reward for showing up early. You can leave when colleagues are having their third coffee.
Be prepared to the penetrating eyes when you turn off your computer. (I say it from experience!) They’re greedy but remember: you had already accomplished your first task when they were sitting on the Squatty Potty.
And here’s one more reason to leave early: it forces you to finish with your tasks in due time. No procrastination!
#7: Create boundaries
Boundaries are nothing more than some predefined rules that guide your day. Examples include when to leave, what not to do, what not to accept, and some if-then planning.
Here’re some flesh-and-bone examples:
- No Facebook and email until 10 a.m.
- Leave the office at 4 p.m.
- Say no to meetings without a predefined agenda
- Do not check business email at home
It’s important that you communicate your boundaries. Otherwise, you can’t assume that colleagues and bosses will respect them.
Make sure that you jot down your boundaries and keep them in a place where you could revisit them daily. Some sticky notes, a whiteboard, or Evernote could be of help here.
Feel free to check out how I keep my boundaries in Evernote and get my free templates.
So, here’s your 7-step guide to get organized at work:
- Declutter your desk
- Set a limit on opening multiple apps/tabs/windows
- Build your productivity system
- Do a weekly review
- Show up early
- Leave early
- Create boundaries
More on how to get organized
- 10 Ways to Supercharge Your Productivity and the Only One That Really Matters
- GTD Masterclass―Part I
- GTD Masterclass―Part II