A quick internet search will show that being more organized can help you be more productive at work. And there are endless ways to go about it, so many in fact, that it can be a little overwhelming. By sharing our tips and tricks for organizing, we hope that you will find something that resonates with you.
Everything I needed to know about organization, I learned from Schoolhouse Rock. Specifically, the song “3 Is a Magic Number.” I didn’t realize it during childhood, but the magic of three would become my secret sauce to prioritization.
I’m a to-do list kind of person, but I have found when I include personal to-do items with work related to-do items, I am more easily stressed and a lot less organized. Every morning, coffee in hand, I make 2 to-do lists. One is for work, the other is for me. Keeping two different lists keeps me both organized and clear headed.
Once I’ve completed the lists, I reach for another cup of coffee & grab my highlighter pen. I highlight the top 3 priorities on each list, for the day. I commit to focusing on the top 3 items, but I also use the to-do list to help determine what else I can work on, while focusing my top 3.
At the end of the day, I sit down with the opposite of coffee (chamomile tea) and review both lists. I review what I accomplished, and circle items yet to be done. I do this every day, except Friday. On Fridays, I review the week’s lists. When I notice certain items are continually moved to the following day, or any missed priority items, I assess what work needs to be done to create a sense of accomplishment by the time 5pm rolls around. The key to this entire exercise is the act of being kind and gentle with myself. Some days, there are simply too many unexpected emergencies which arise. It happens, it’s life. Other days, I may have a lot more time than expected, and I can handle more than what’s already on my plate.
Week after week, by isolating my top 3 daily priorities, I am able to achieve daily and weekly goals, discover opportunities to rethink priorities, and apply this method to both myself and all of the work in front of me. Thank you, Schoolhouse Rock! 3 is truly the magic number which helps me organize and prioritize.
I’ve tried a number of organization methods over the years. I have half-filled Bullet Journals and a Panda Planner (my personal favorite!) that stops in July. Ultimately, I’m a big fan of the old fashioned to-do list.
I start every morning by listing out the things I need to get done and then prioritize the top 3. My first task is always to knock one off the top. Pick off the low hanging fruit. Being able to check a box first thing in the morning gives me that boost that sets me up for productivity for the rest of the day.
If I have bigger projects to tackle, I make sure to block time in my calendar to do them. Regardless of if I’m at risk of having back-to-back meetings, setting an appointment with myself makes it easy to zone in for the important stuff for as long as I need to work on it.
Some days, things just don’t line up, the unexpected creeps in, and that’s okay. Surprises are always going to pop up now and then to ruin the best of my planning. When that happens, those Top 3’s just move to the next day.
This will probably sound a bit odd, but for me, the key to organization is to work backwards. I know, I know, it sounds a bit counterintuitive, but bear with me.
I think it all started because I’m one of those people who HATES to be late. I would rather be early than even a minute or two late. So I started thinking, well if I have to be *here* at 3, then I need to leave my house by 2:15. Which then led to, ok so then that means that I need to start getting ready at X… and it just expanded from there.
Every night before I go to bed, I take a quick look at my work calendar for the next day so I know what my morning will look like. This helps me in a few different ways - the most obvious being that I might need to wake up a little earlier if I’m meeting with one of our global teams, but it also gives my brain some time to think about everything in a low-key way. Nothing super detailed, but that time to work on plans and ideas in the background while I’m sleeping makes me feel like I’m even more prepared for the next day.
My Outlook calendar is usually pretty full, so I work backward there too. If I have a few meetings stacked in the afternoon, then I know that I need to focus on the highest priority task (or the most time consuming one) in the morning when I have fewer meetings and larger blocks of time to focus.
Of course, all the planning in the world doesn’t help if I don’t know what it is that I’m trying to accomplish that day, so I’m also a big fan of lists to help keep me organized. I have multiple notebooks that I use, depending on what kind of task it is, and I try to keep a good mix of items that need to be done on deck. I tend to break them up into tasks that are due in the next 1-2 days/1 week/2 weeks/month.
Having multiple items to work on also allows me to flex as needed to take advantage of every moment and sometimes even helps me get ahead of the game. For instance, if I have an extra 15-20 min I might devote that time to working on something that is due a month out and get some progress made on it a little at a time. Then when it is due in a week, I’ve gotten maybe 40-50% of it already done and can just focus on finishing it up and polishing it.