The core benefits of being organized and operating in a generally clutter-free environment are increased productivity and improved performance. And with those comes a greater sense of control, which is a vital part of stress management, resilience and overall wellbeing. Good organization can also lead to better thinking. Decision making and problem solving rely on a clear head, plus ready access to the right information and tools. An uncluttered approach improves concentration and your ability to learn, and it puts you on the right track toward the state of deep focus.
Being organized is a skill, and some of us are naturally more organized than others. But the good news is that organizational skills can be learned and developed. The more you practice good organization, the easier it will become as you start to establish new habits. In turn, this will help you to maintain a safe and productive working environment, to protect your time, and to communicate more effectively. Focus on these three key areas to develop your overall organization skills:
- Your workspace.
1. Organize Your Workspace
To become more organized, a good place to start is at your desk – or wherever you do the majority of your work. Be honest: does your workspace currently help you to be organized, or is it the source of many of your problems? You may work best with a little clutter – in which case, keep it there. But, if the state of your desk is spoiling your performance, it’s time to make some changes. What do you actually need to keep close by? If you spot anything that’s no longer useful, or is just getting in the way, get rid of it. Try having an “action area” on your desk, where you keep the things you need for your current project or activity. This will help you to get started quickly, to avoid distractions, and to stay focused on the task at hand. When one project is done, clear everything away to make room for the next.
2. Organize Your Time
An uncluttered approach to your work won’t just save you time, it will also help you to use your time more effectively. Similarly, planning and scheduling effectively are only possible when you’re able to find the right tools and information. With easy access to everything you need, you’ll be confident about the amount of time each task should take. You’ll also have a clear idea of when to do it – to fit in with the rest of your work, and to suit other people. Most importantly, with a calm and controlled approach to each day, you’ll be able to make good use of all the time-management tools on offer. Start every day as you mean to go on. Give yourself the first 15 minutes to get organized.
3. Organize Your Communication
If you have all of your notes and ideas organized neatly in one place, you’ll be able to recall and share information more easily. This will make your communication more informative, timely and even influential. You’ll also likely feel more confident and calm. This is particularly useful in times of crisis when you need to act or respond quickly. The more organized you are, the easier it will be to see how best to respond to the situation and you’ll be more controlled and persuasive in your response.
Can You Be Too Organized?
It is possible to take organizing behaviours to an unhealthy extreme. So, guard against perfectionism, and don’t try to control everything. If you find yourself actually increasing your stress, annoying others, or spending more time organizing your work than you are on the work itself, stop. Take a step back and think again. Aim for a balanced approach, where your organizational strategies are useful and manageable, for yourself and others, and stay flexible. Even the best-laid plans can come to nothing if the unexpected occurs, and it’s important to respond to whatever happens during the day.
A Checklist for Organized People
The more you can live and work in an organized way – even if it doesn’t come naturally at first – the sooner you’ll change your habits for the better. Here are five everyday strategies worth trying:
1. Celebrate small wins. For example, if you complete three things on your to-do list, treat yourself to a cup of coffee, or allow yourself 10 minutes of free time.
2. Use one calendar. If you record some things on your desk planner, and others on your email calendar, it’s going to be hard to coordinate everything. Instead, start putting it all in one place. If you do it digitally, you’ll find that the technology can pull everything together for you.
3. Schedule small tasks. If a task or project requires action beforehand (like sending out an agenda before a meeting), make sure that you schedule those into your day, too. Missing small jobs can have big knock-on effects on everything else.
4. Get organized at home. Don’t just restrict your organized approach to work – because a chaotic home life will bring its own problems. Declutter where you live to make mornings easier. Plan your whole day carefully. And talk to the people you live with, so that they know how they can help.
5. Put a high value on your time. Whether you’re prioritizing your professional tasks for the week, or mapping out your family commitments, think about how to make every second count. Try to eliminate low-value tasks where you can to make time for what’s really important.