Staying organized at work can be quite the difficult task. You may have multiple projects you’re working on at once along with your other day to day tasks. If you’re anything like us, you probably get more emails than you can count throughout the day and that’s not to mention all the paperwork and digital copies of files you receive. It can feel like clutter is inevitable; and if you don’t actively work to prevent it, it is. We’re not just referring to clutter on your desk (though we do have a few tips to help with that), we’re also talking about clutter in your computer, clutter throughout your office, and cluttered up lists of things you need to do.
In order to help you not get lost in the clutter, we have scoured the internet and pulled from our personal experience to give you the best organization tips we could find. In order to make this as beneficial to you as possible, we broke it down into four sections: you, your computer, your desk, and your office. That way, if your desk is always in tip top condition, you can just skip on to the next section to save a little time.
You can have the cleanest desk and the best filing system around, but if you and your tasks aren’t organized it won’t matter. Organization at work starts with you. You probably have a lot going on, so keeping all the projects, meetings, and other tasks in order can be a little overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help out:
- Get in the habit of keeping a to-do list so you can see everything that needs to be accomplished in one place.
- Be strategic about carrying your to-do list out. Use the 80/20 rule or the 1-3-5 rule.
- 80/20 Rule: Basically, the 80/20 rule means that 80% of your productivity comes from 20% of the tasks you carry out. It is not an incredibly scientific calculation, but the rule still holds true to most things. So try to decide which 20% of your tasks are most productive and focus on them.
- 1-3-5 Rule: This is a way to go about your to-do list that will not burn you out. Accomplish 1 large task. Then work on 3 medium sized tasks. Finally work on 5 small tasks. Start over.
- Begin your week by setting specific goals for the week.
- Begin your day by going over everything you need to do that day.
- Keep an up-to-date planner. This can be a paper planner, or digital. We personally prefer digital because you don’t have to worry about forgetting it, you can just pull it up on your phone if necessary.
The most overlooked object in the office when it comes to organization is the computer. We are all guilty of saving document after document to the desktop or having our download folder filled to the rim. This is problematic for a number of reasons, the main one being it makes it nearly impossible to find everything you need in a timely manner. Here is how you fix this:
- Create a root folder (DON’T USE “my documents,” the my documents folder is the place where every piece of software you download automatically saves their information, so it will get cluttered). Your root folder will be the only folder you should save to your desktop.
- Within your root folder, you should create other folders. The types of folders you create will vary depending on your job. You may write blogs, so you would have a blog folder. If you have monthly board meetings, you may have a board meeting folder.
- If you do this correctly and have all of your important work documents saved in folders within your root folder, that will make backing your work up much easier. Speaking of backing your work up, you should do this weekly. You never know what may happen, so it’s good to always be prepared.
- Kick the habit of downloading files and just leaving them in your downloads until you need them later. Immediately save these files to the appropriate folder.
We all have messy desks at some point, we are not trying to desk-shame you here. Or, maybe you are the type of person that works well with a slightly messy desk, that’s fine. We are going to suggest a few simple things that will keep you on top of your game, regardless of whether you keep all your pens and paperclips in one place or not. Here are two things you should consider having on your desk whether it’s messy or not:
- Use a desktop calendar. This is useful in a number of ways. For example, somebody calls wanting to set up a meeting, rather than having them wait on the phone while you dig through your planner or bring up your digital calendar, you can just glance at your desk. You can always update your planner or digital calendar later when you have time.
- Have a desktop filing system. We aren’t suggesting you have a filing cabinet on your desk, maybe just a three-tiered filing tray. Label each tray: active, ongoing, complete. As you are working on multiple projects, keep a project folder. While a project is active keep that folder in the active tray. If certain projects are always active (like monthly board meetings), keep it in the ongoing tray. Once you have completed a project, take all unnecessary paperwork out of the project folder and then put the folder in complete. This way you can easily reference past work if necessary.
Keeping your office organized is essential to being organized at work. You can be in the zone getting things done left and right but if you go to mail something and it takes you fifteen minutes to find the right envelopes, it’s probably going to knock you off your game a little bit. It is a good idea to have an organization system in place, it will save you time and stress (and possibly money, this way you won’t buy things just because you can’t find them). Here are some tips for keeping your office organized:
- Throw away all excess clutter.
- Keep all of your mail necessities in one place. Have a specific shelf or drawer for envelopes of all sizes, shipping labels, return address labels, etc.
- Keep all of your backup office supplies in one place: pens, post-its, notepads, paperclips, etc.
- Keep your extra folders and folder labels together.
- Have a filing system. Different people prefer different systems, so we won’t try to tell you what to do other than that you should do something.
To successfully combat clutter, you must stay organized on all four fronts: you, your computer, your desk, and your office. Keep fighting the good fight!