Whether heading into an office every day or working from home, everyone faces different challenges when it comes to organization. Be it you can’t find a way to stay focused, feel like you’re constantly running out of time or you just feel like you’re not making any progress on your never-ending list of things to do, everyone could use a little organizing in their lives.
Working as an account manager, I’m tasked with juggling several items at once, daily. The immediate reaction I always get is that I must be an amazing multi-tasker or that I must drive myself crazy trying to keep track of all of the moving parts. In truth, I’m neither of these. Instead, I find it best to organize myself starting with a cup of coffee in the morning and incorporating a few best practices as the day unfolds.
Read on for my best tips on how to stay organized and efficient at work – no matter how long your To-Do list gets!
RISE AND SHINE
Develop A Consistent Morning Routine.
Taking a look at how you structure your work day and professional habits makes a huge impact on your performance and productivity. Start with the basics. By waking up at the same time every day and working through your daily routine, you’ll set up practices that are easy to follow and manage, leaving you feeling on track and ready to go. Give yourself enough time to prepare for your day — whether that means time to shower, make coffee at home, or go for a quick run — so that you don’t start your work day feeling already behind and rushed. Set a schedule and stick to it.
Working Remotely? Get Dressed!
Just because you’re not leaving your home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get dressed for your work day. While it may not be necessary to put on that tie or slip on some heels, a little goes a long way to prepare you mentally for your day. Stay out of your pajamas and transition into something a little more business casual to help place you in a different mental state and boost your own productivity.
PLAN YOUR DAY
The Impending “To-Do” List.
You knew it was coming! At the heart of professional organization lies your To-Do list. Take time at the start of your day to write out all of the items you need to tackle. This can be a comprehensive list of all things you currently have on deck for the week, a list of items you want to knock out for the day, or if you’re like me, a list containing even more lists of items like things to do, things to follow up on, things that are HOT…the list goes on. Even if the list looks just the same as it did the day before, writing everything out helps you to refocus and envision what the rest of your day looks like. You can use tools like Evernote (more on this later) to draft everything out digitally, or write everything out with pen and paper. Find the best way for you to maintain and update your list and you can’t go wrong.
Once you have your list together, it’s now time to prioritize. Take a look at all of the items you want to make sure you take care of by the end of the day and generate some rough estimates of how much time you think you’ll need to spend on each. Break this down as best as you can, anywhere from 15-minute tasks to multiple-hour tasks, to make sure you’re not trying to squeeze a 14-hour day into a typical eight. Place all your items in order of importance, start with number one, and work your way down. Setting your expectations for productivity in the time you have available will help focus your mind on what you’ll be working on and help to make a long list of items feel less daunting.
CHOOSE YOUR TOOLS
Organize Your Inbox.
Is your mailbox constantly overflowing with new emails? Create a basic system of archiving, color coding, and filing to make sure nothing gets missed. Similar to many other account managers, I treat my inbox as a complementary To-Do list alongside my pen and paper list. As I receive new messages, each one is marked with a color (usually by client) and left in my inbox until I’ve completed the work needed. Already read something and don’t want to forget to go back to it later? Hit rewind and mark it as unread. Finished up with a project and no longer need that email cluttering your list? Archive the message so that it’s stored in your inbox for later reference, but out of sight!
Keep All Your Notes Together.
When working on multiple projects at once, it’s easy to create new documents and save as you go. A post-it note here, a Word document there, an image file buried somewhere in that email from last month. It’s easy to lose things and spend more time than necessary trying to find them. Consider opting for a tool like Evernote, a personal favorite, for all your notes and quick ideas you need to jot down to get out of your head. Think meeting notes, blog drafts, To-Do lists, images, Word files, and more – all organized under one synced platform. I also give bonus points for a seamlessly synced app between mobile and desktop, and a search bar that can find just about anything you’re looking for.
Don’t let any deadlines pass you by without you knowing about it. Set clear deadlines and milestone reminders to make sure you’re on track with expectations. If there’s a large project with a final due date at the end of the month, figure out what the smaller milestones look like and set attainable calendar reminders to check in on these. I prefer to use tools like Google Calendar so that all of my reminders are instantly synced to my phone notifications and email.
STAY ON TRACK
This may seem like a typo, but hear me out. There have been several studies conducted to explore this idea in depth. As it stands, multitasking will hurt your efficiency to some degree. Although you may have a list of seven things to do by the end of the day, try to focus on one thing at a time. Dedicate your time to completing a task fully and delivering a final result that boasts quality. By focusing on a single item and giving it your full attention, you’ll feel less stressed and scatter-brained. Plan your time accordingly and set a schedule to switch back and forth if you need to make sure progress is made on both ends; just allow yourself enough time to make sufficient progress with each.
Turn Off Those Notifications.
As tempting as it might be to check on that last email that just chimed in, or the text message that just sounded off on your phone, try to avoid diverting your attention to these when possible. Sometimes it’s easier, and more comforting, to know what comes in, address it, and be done with it. While this is fine if you can keep yourself on track, oftentimes, it’s a great idea to snooze the notifications for small periods of time. Working on a big proposal? Diving deep into research for a new blog? Turn your notification sounds to “Do Not Disturb” to remove temptation and give yourself the time you need to complete your work at your best.
I can go on and on about ways to structure your day and organize your workflow from the ground up, but at the end of the day, it’s important to remember to BE FLEXIBLE. Projects will pop up, emergencies will arise and, on some days, you won’t check off a single thing from your To-Do list. Just remember to stay calm and assess what comes in, work any new items into your planned and prioritized list, and make tweaks as you go, even if this means taking few minutes every couple of hours to walk away and refocus. The small amount of time you take to organize yourself will certainly save you stress in the long run!