Staying organized can seem like an impossible task, especially at work. Emails come in faster than the speed of light, people are in-and-out of your office, phone calls, meetings…the list goes on and on.
You feel like Stretch Armstrong being pulled in a million directions. I’m here to tell you it’s not impossible! There are a handful of easy strategies to get your life organized.
Where did I learn how to get so organized?
My first job, cocktail waitress.
Only a select few know the overwhelming stress of having to serve a rowdy party of 15 over-served patrons all yelling drink orders as if dying of thirst in the Sahara, all with Jane hungover yet again, meaning her entire section needs to be covered too.
While I no longer loathe “dart tournament” days, I did take away skills to stay organized, remain calm, and accomplish tasks, even under increasing daily pressures. As a waitress, I knew specifically what drink specials we had and which pool tournaments were running that week.
But there were times that someone would order a custom drink I had never heard of, or a tournament would get re-scheduled and, yes, those unforeseen changes had the potential to throw me off course. Through my experience, I have found there are 5 “ingredients” to the secret sauce of being an organized machine.
Guess what? I’m letting you in on the family recipe today!
1. Know Your Goals
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Don’t just set your goals to fill space; set them because you truly want to achieve something. Taking ownership will keep you motivated. Ask yourself…
- What are my strengths?
- What takes priority?
- What are potential pitfalls along the way?
The more prepared you are along the way, the more efficient you will be. It will also help you remain calm if you experience any speedbumps along the way. My strength? Multi-tasking. And my trick to multi-tasking, like a professional, is to not multi-task. Are you with me?
Instead of looking at the big picture and becoming overwhelmed by all I have on my plate, I break it up into bite-size bits. Focus on one goal at a time and see it to completion before moving on.
Not only will you complete more in your day, but it gives you an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I always give myself a mental high-five when I thought a day was going to be impossible and I take a look back and see all that I was able to achieve.
2. Make a List
I hear a lot of people say, “I’ll make a mental note of that!” and wonder if they are going to remember that note by the end of the day. There have been a number of studies done that prove when you write something down you are more likely to remember it. You are visually re-enforcing the thought which leads to greater recall down the line.
Seeing the tasks you have to do for the day also helps you to prioritize which is most important and needs to be done first. I’m old school and still like to keep a little notepad next to me while I work and write things down as they come in/check things off as I finish them.
Something about the ole pen and paper just gives me the warm and fuzzies. We are in the 21st century, though, with access to many different tools for list-making. Find what works best for you.
3. Set a Routine and Be Consistent
According to a fairly new study, it takes on average a little over 2 months of doing something consistently for it to become ingrained in your life. So if you don’t already have a daily routine, start one now. Having a routine provides a sense of structure and familiarity, which is instinctually something we all crave.
That structure, we learned early on as children, allows you to organize your life in a way that custom fits you, but only if you work at it! Exercising healthy routines is vital in controlling chaos in your everyday life. You already know what you are going to do and what is next on your schedule.
A procedure will create automation, because you are no longer thinking, you are acting. The same with companies who create programs to automate process, you will become a well-oiled machine and you will find that you have increased efficiency in your work.
There is a saying that I know I’ve used with my kids, but it can also be applicable for my life, “practice makes perfect.” Developing your routine is going to make you better, and faster at what you do each day and can propel you to that next level. You’ll find that once you settle into a schedule, you’ll be more motivated and excited about the work you do.
4. Declutter Your Space
Have you ever walked into someone’s office only to nearly trip over the overflowing waste bin? Or cringed at the ten stale coffee cups stacked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, alongside the ongoing paperwork of the day scattered about the desk? Suddenly, you feel like you are about to have a panic attack, right?
Clutter distracts you and welcomes chaos into your life. If you are currently looking at mounds of papers on your desk, don’t fret, you might be an average American. But, we’re not here to be average, we’re here to be better. The best way to declutter, and improve yourself in the process, is to take it one step at a time.
Start by mapping out where you want everything to go, make a list of supplies you might need to make it happen, and get into the habit of keeping everything in its place (does all this sound familiar?). At the end of your day, instead of rushing out the door, take the five minutes that you would normally spend in traffic anyway, and put away any papers you have lying around. Make sure your desk is at least something you can recognize as a place of work before leaving.
There is nothing worse than walking in tomorrow to yesterday’s headaches. You want to start each day with a clean slate and be excited about coming into your office space. You spend most of your days here, so why not make it a stress free space?
5. Take Breaks
Last, but certainly not least, regularly stop and take breaks. Not only is it important to have a desk free of clutter, but it’s equally important to take time to clear your mind.
Concentrating on our breathing is one of the simplest and natural ways to reduce stress. How easy is that? Start to feel overwhelmed, just take a few deep breaths and move forward with an invigorating sense of direction. It sounds so obvious, but a lot of the time we get caught up in our head and forget to stop and breathe.
Having a good work/life balance is paramount. There are times where my work has bled over into my home life, but you have to learn to take a hard stance sometimes and shut it down. Making sure you get that quality time in with just yourself and/or your family will make the difference in staying on top of your game.
Occasionally, take a step back and evaluate how you are spending your time. Eliminate the things that are not essential so you can have a clear mind, and actually take that time to exhaust some physical energy. Throw the ball around, run on the treadmill, or even just get outside and walk around the block.
Take care of yourself on the inside so that your outside can be focused, efficient and the legendary assassin of tasks that you know you can be. That will have a significant effect on your work.
So there you have it – the sauce to success! Are you always going to have every ingredient in your pantry? NO! The good news is you can substitute with different elements and still be an organizational master. Implementing even a few of these essentials will dramatically improve your skills. Ultimately, the goal is to get and stay organized, so that you too can settle in a stress-free, more efficient environment.