8 Hacks to Help You Get — and Stay — Organized at Work

woman sitting at desk writing on Post-It notes

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Yoevelyn Rodriguez
Yoevelyn Rodriguez10
Eating my way through New York City.
Why is staying organized at work important?
Research shows that clutter, although helpful for creativity, is very taxing on the brain. Researchers also found that an organized environment reduces anxiety and encourages productivity. Moreover, as you take on more responsibilities, staying organized at work becomes imperative — this is especially true as projects with different deadlines and details to remember pile up on your desk. But what's the best way to stay organized? There are different approaches, so use the following eight tips to help you find your organizing mojo at work.  

How do you stay organized and focused at work? 

Easy. Create a plan of action and stick to it. Don't know how to go about it? Don't worry. We have developed a list of eight actionable items you can use to help you.

1. Think strategically. 

While you may have multiple projects needing your attention at the same time, some parts of different projects could overlap. Or, you may only have access to specific resources to complete a project at a particular time. Take a moment to assess your assignments. Are there actions you can take now to help you save time in the future? When you first get your tasks for the month, take a moment to write a brief plan that shows how you will tackle the work. This plan doesn't have to be super detailed; a quick, rough outline should be enough to give you clarity. 

2. Arrange your priorities. 

The workload in your calendar might be an essential part of another project, and somebody in your team could be waiting for you to finish a task so that she can use your output to finish hers. Fortunately, not everything is due at the same time — for the most part. Figure out what needs your attention now versus what you can do later. Check your calendar every day because, in the business world, things can change from one day to the next, and you may need to readjust. Even better, before you leave the office, take 15 minutes to look at your schedule for the next day.

3. Use digital tools. 

A spreadsheet. A digital calendar. Trello. There are several tools you can use to help you stay organized. They are all useful, provided you use them consistently to track your progress and update them continually as you achieve your milestones. There is a learning curve associated with using these productivity tools, but they're designed to get you working quickly. Invest the time to learn how to use them because being able to tell at a glance how your project is developing could be a potential gamechanger.

4. Tidy up your environment. 

Your physical environment has more influence on your mental state than you realize; researchers found that a messy room is detrimental to short-term memory. Clutter also contributes to anxiety and distraction. Keeping your work environment tidy is vital to help you focus for a longer time and think clearly. Also, a clear desk helps you find things faster and lose things less often.

5. Cut out and throw away. 

By law, you have to keep some paperwork archived for a particular period in specific cases. Most likely, if you're dealing with those kinds of documents, you already know for how long you need to keep them. But frequently, we accumulate papers, knick-knacks and items from the research we used as a reference for a project. If you are planning to keep some of this material, either find a permanent home for it or send it to a storage room if your office has one. Your desk should be the last place for you to collect "leftovers", even if you plan to use them for future reference.

6. Automate your wardrobe.  

What do Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton have in common? They are some of the most successful people who realized earlier in their careers that simplifying their work wardrobe choices gave them more freedom. This strategy is supposed to help minimize "decision fatigue" and increase focus. Luckily, organizing your wardrobe in this manner doesn’t mean your dress has to be dull or lackluster: assemble pieces that will work together regardless of how you combine them. Two examples of how to do this successfully are the late Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel, who was the master of the stylish work uniform, and Anna Wintour, Vogue's editor-in-chief, who people often recognize for her now-iconic bob haircut and black shades.

7. Create routines. 

Habits are an effective way to help you save time because you don't have to stop and think about what to do and when. You already know. If you design a routine that enables you to care for the most critical parts of your work every day when you're at your best, you can feel confident knowing you achieved all the essential tasks of your job for the day. For example, know at what time you'll answer all your emails or prospect for new clients during the day. 

8. Consolidate and simplify. 

Maybe read your emails all at once at a particular time of the day. Or, set aside a different time of the day to answer said emails in batches as to not interrupt your flow when you're concentrating on other tasks. Executing similar jobs at once could significantly improve your time management.

Why is it important to stay organized at work?  

Staying organized at work is essential for productivity and performance. Your mind will work better when you have systems in place to help you move through your day and when your environment is tidy. 
Having a degree of certainty as to how your workday will unfold reduces anxiety, reduces decision fatigue and promotes good cognitive mental health. These benefits are especially crucial if you're in a position where your decisions impact your company disproportionally.
Staying organized at work is a matter of planning and committing to following up with that plan of action every day. The eight tips we share with you here are a good starting point. Can you think of some other tips to add to this list?

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