Staying Organized at Work

The modern world is a mess of meetings and deadlines that can seem impossible to make sense of. However, once you start to develop routines and good habits, you can begin to see where time is wasted during your day. These six important tips and tricks are designed to help you function without constantly looking at your blackberry to find out what you’re doing next.

1) Start Clean, Finish Clean

One of the most underrated office activities is dedicating some time to a clean desk. You should walk into your space and immediately be able to focus on articles of importance, without having to search for them. Keep organizer trays, folders, and information for everything. Dedicate twenty minutes a day to putting things in their place and making notes for the next day. When you return the next day, you’re reminded of your tasks simply by the way you’ve arranged your desk.

2) One Inbox to Rule Them All

Every day I walk into my office and see my coworkers flipping through piles, making phone calls while shuffling documents, and searching for paperwork. At my desk, I have an inbox, an outbox, and an urgent box. Things that need to get done go on top of my inbox, and I take them off from the bottom and handle them one at a time. When I’m done, they go in the outbox. Nothing could be more simple, and “must-handle” things have their own clearly defined spot.

This is less chaotic than one big pile of documents and less time-consuming than filing away in multiple cabinets and stacks. Urgent bills such as business insurance and expense notifications always make it to the top so they don’t get missed, and yet they are separate from the inbox which defines the steady flow of progress throughout the day.

3) Quick Reference

For important notes and documents, I have vanilla file folders in a filing cabinet. My top drawer is stuff that I work on and work with regularly. It is labelled “active”. When I’m done with an activity, it immediately goes in the bottom drawer – “completed”. My top drawer is only ever about a quarter full and I never have to hunt for anything I need. No fancy colors or highlighting or sorting structure – I just put the things I use often in a place that is easy to find. When I don’t need them any more, I put them away to avoid clutter.

4) If You’re Overworked, You’re not Working

If you find yourself constantly scrambling from place to place and working on multiple difficult projects at once, the multi-tasking you’re doing is most likely destroying your productivity. Not only do you have to conceptualize and act on many different ideas that require different actions, you have to mentally schedule and divide your time between these actions, check deadlines, get feedback and process the same information over and over.

Ask yourself, do I have time to separate these tasks and hammer them out one at a time? Are there recurring interruptions to my already busy day that I can delegate? Are there actions that I can consolidate? Am I just tackling the mess, or am I taking the time to sort the mess into manageable pieces?

The answers to these question can be quite revealing. If you see your work as a mountain of things to chip away at instead of achievable small tasks, its going to strain your productivity. You could use that time to sort out the mountain – and save time in the process.

5) Errand Time

When you have some away-from-desk errands to do, make a pile for them. When they start to pile up or you need to do one immediately, go do them all. Nothing is more distracting than having to run around the office all day looking for supplies, forms, your boss and the company Rolodex. Consolidate these tasks into one motion and save time and energy.

6) Dedicate a Day to It

You won’t need a planner if every Monday is Meeting Day and every Thursday is Deadline Day – you already know what you’re doing on those days. Simple, right? You’d be surprised how many people just try to handle everything as it comes in. Save time by associating days with important business habits.

Utilizing these tips will make you effective in managing your workload at the workplace, whatever that workload may be. Organize your habits first, before you pick up your planner. Once things are running more smoothly according to these tips, you will be more efficient than you ever thought possible without constant task lists.

Additional Reading on Time management:

The Best Time Management Techniques


Author Bio: Carl D. is an entrepreneur and business writer for an auto insurance website. He makes frequent use of these steps to synchronize his day of management and deadlines online. He has also consulted about ways to save money on auto insurance.

  1. What are your tips for keeping a to-do list, and how do you personally keep one (scribble pad, outlook calendar, etc)? I find this the biggest obstacle as I constantly have multiple lists going or I am am too thorough with my descriptions of a project. Thanks!


  2. Exactly what Kristina said! I am always on the search for the “better” list, and trying to write a novel on one line…

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