I feel almost giddy as I write this post. This is my bread and butter. This is where I shine, you guys. I have a whole podcast about this topic. I love organization and streamlining workflows. My undergraduate degree was in organizational leadership. Are you picking up on the fact that I’m an organizational freak yet? I have no shame. Getting your shit organized at work will not only make you better at what you do, but it will make you enjoy the process all that much more. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with consulting clients who are so frustrated and think they hate a certain element of their job only to realize it was the workflow they actually hated. Efficiency takes practice, it’s a learned skill for most people. But while organization at work isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, I want to share with you some of my top tips for getting your shit together and making lemonade out of lemons in your work life.
Use a project management app
I’m just going to get the big daddy out of the way. Project management apps are a game changer. My favorite to use is Asana because it’s so customizable for teams and for individuals. No matter what type of job you do, Asana has a functionality that can keep you organized. Whether you use it as a to-do list for your own daily tasks or you use it to organize your tech company’s next SCRUM, it’s a clean, easy-to-use program that helps you get a bird’s eye view of what is currently on your plate and what is on deck. I think that’s the biggest thing people overlook, is viewing the big picture, not just what is currently in front of you. Having a project management system that allows you to think one step ahead will help you be extra prepared and in tune with your work flow. No one likes to be caught by surprise, and no one likes to miss deadlines. Using a system like Asana to help you keep your eye on what’s ahead is the best thing you can do for your overall organization.
Batch your tasks + get to “Inbox Zero”
Your inbox is the biggest time suck of your workday. Because so many of us feel like as soon as we see that “ping” we need to respond. But that often happens when we are in the middle of another task, which causes us to lose focus and productivity. Switching back and forth from one task to the other isn’t productive. Batch your daily reoccurring tasks like managing your inbox and watch how much better you feel. I check my email three times per day: when I first turn on my computer, once in the afternoon and once before I am done working for the day. This also helps me to always keep my inbox at zero and not get overwhelmed with a flurry of emails at any given time. If it helps you, schedule this into your day. Set an alarm on your desktop or your phone and dedicate that time to getting your inbox to zero before moving on with your day.
Divide your workspace into zones
Keeping your desk neat and tidy is one thing, but it won’t be a magical cure for helping you get more organized at work. It’s actually really helpful to divide your workspace into an invisible “grid” of sorts. Depending on the size of your space, try a 3×3 grid to start.
I like to leave a bigger space in the middle, but you can finagle it however works for you. If you have a desktop, the bottom middle quadrant is perfect for your keyboard, but if you use a laptop, leave it open for workspace and writing. The key here is to be disciplined about keeping everything in its assigned zone. If you find things are starting to wander, get the space “back to ready” before you take your next break.
Create a file naming system
This is one of my personal pet peeves, but also it can be crucial for organization at work. If you manage multiple versions of the same document or image, your naming system needs to be clear. Give context to your file names that help you quickly recognize or search for them. Bonus: If you work with anything that has an online shop or you work in social media, file names are one of the best ways to boost your SEO, so keep that in mind when selecting your next file name.
Dedicate those final 15 minutes to tomorrow
No, those last 15 minutes aren’t for deep breaths before you head back out into the world. They’re to set yourself up for success tomorrow. In the last 15 minutes before you leave for the day, put things away: file papers, return items to other offices, bring recyclables or trash to where it needs to go, rewrite your to-do list. I personally keep a daily to-do list and anything that didn’t get crossed off that day automatically rolls over to the next day, which I create prior to ending my day. It’s only a small chunk of your time, but it will help ensure you will come to work the next morning with a neat work area and a direction for the day.
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