We've all been there: too much to do with not enough time.
Most people would probably classify themselves as being relatively organized and it’s listed as a requirement for practically every job out there. So that must mean we’re all masters of organization, right?
Organization can be one of the biggest motivators or deterrents of our productivity, so it’s something we all need to focus on.
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Here are four essentials to help you organize yourself and become more productive at work:
1. Keep it clean
Getting in “the zone” is tough.
There are endless distractions in the office like background conversations, the phone ringing off the hook, and emails constantly popping up into your inbox. We may not have the power to control these types of disruptions, but we do have the power to control our workspace environment.
Take an inventory of your computer, your phone, and your desk. Does everything actually serving a purpose? Do you have duplicate files and folders that can be deleted? Streamline your apps and place them into locations that are intuitive to find. By removing actual and visual clutter from your surroundings, it’ll be easier to stay productive.
Also, when it’s time to get down to business, take a moment to leave other thoughts behind. It’s nearly impossible to focus when you’re preoccupied with something else, so make sure you clear your mind before buckling down.
If you know your thoughts will keep drifting back to something that’s not related to the task at hand, schedule some short breaks for yourself to make sure you’re fresh for what needs to get done.
2. Make lists
How many times have you gone into a grocery store without one and come out with at least three things you didn’t need and without five items you had actually intended to get?
Even if you think you’ll remember everything, it’s easy to get distracted, so make a list to make sure you remember everything you wanted to.
At the beginning of each week and each working day create a list for yourself.
What tasks need to get done? Are some of them specific to a certain day or do they simply need to be finished by the end of the week? Having a visual of what needs to get done will help you stay focused on the essentials.
Once you finish a certain task or project, make sure you physically check it off or cross it out from your list. The satisfaction you’ll get from seeing your list shrink will help keep you motivated.
Since by now you should have a list or maybe even a few, it’s time to prioritize. What has a deadline? What is the most time consuming? What have you been putting off for weeks?
Number or even rewrite your list in order of what has the top priority. It will help keep you on track to accomplishing your goals on time.
Start the most urgent tasks first, then move onto those that are simply the most time consuming, and finish off with whatever is quick and relatively simple.
It’s always difficult to force yourself to start something especially if it’s something that requires lots of time and effort, but once you’ve highly prioritized it and simply begin, it’ll be that much easier to finish.
4. Create a routine
Routines are a natural part of how most of us spend our lives, yet somehow we tend to forget them at work. We can often get caught up in meetings, busy work such as constantly checking email, or even going to the break room for our fifth cup of coffee.
All of these things have a place throughout the work day, but it’s important to realize that our actual work needs to hold the top priority and we need to create a routine around it.
Routinely taking a block of time each day for single-minded work will create a habit of extreme productivity and efficiency.
Schedule time on your calendar each day for deep work. It’ll help others know that you’re not available and allow you to have time to focus on what needs to get done.
If you’re supposed to be doing some research, then turn off your email and phone and get to it. Close all the other unnecessary tabs in your browser and just dive in.
You’ll be amazed that when you focus on a single task and prioritize it for a certain amount of time, you’ll get a surprising amount of work done.
Learning to stay organized and knowing when to ditch bad habits is something we can all benefit from.
Becoming and staying productive is dependent upon how well we’re able to focus, so staying organized by keeping our space tidy, using lists, prioritizing, and establishing a routine will help us achieve our high output goals.