If you are losing focus and getting distracted, it’s probably time to get organized.
Days in the office FLY by and organizing, de-cluttering, and implementing new productivity tactics start to seem impossible and less important than the work itself.
Many of us are spending our work week in the same spot, so why aren’t we keeping our workspaces as organized and efficient as possible?
Staying organized is something I try to improve on daily because I’ve noticed first-hand how it affects my productivity. After trying multiple strategies, I’ve narrowed in on my top five tips to help you get organized and focus.
1. Use a Planner
Whether you prefer the old-school pen and paper variety or a digital calendar, it’s incredibly important to have an up-to-date scheduling source. Your planner should be easily accessible in your workspace so you can quickly add new items and reference it for future planning.
Sidenote: There are proven psychological benefits to writing things down versus keeping track electronically. Shopify’s 6 Psychological Benefits of Writing Things Down is a great reference, highlights include:
- Brainstorm ideas more ambitiously
- Boost your memory
- Use a checklist for a better chance of remembering
- Clear up mental space by writing things down
2. Keep Your Work Zone Clean
Reports have found that clutter undermines productivity and motivation, two things I know I definitely need in my day to be the best version of myself.
TIP: Make organizing your desk and work area before you leave for the day a habit.
The clean desk concept of improving productivity makes sense when you think of freelancers or remote workers that go to co-working spaces like WeWork or a coffee shop to get their work done. Leaving that possibly cluttered home space and working from an organized environment can be very motivating while providing an environment for deep focus.
3. Make Sure Everything Has a Place
I wish I could say that I’ve never had coffee cups collect on my desk or that I’ve never thrown a document in my drawer that I know I won’t ever look at again…but that simply isn’t true.
If you get the sense that your desk is becoming more of a “drop off station” than a peaceful zone to get work done in, attempt this experiment:
- Designate EVERY (yes every!) item a spot. If you can’t confidently find a reason for that item to exist in your zone, toss it.
- Documents that you will be revisiting should be organized in a file holder.
- Snacks should be out of sight in a drawer, box or other containers.
Stick to the rules after the experiment and you’ll find that you may not be as messy as you originally thought.
4. Keep Your Inbox Relevant
Having a cluttered inbox is a huge distraction. Keep your emails organized and don’t get discouraged if they are already out of control.
Start de-cluttering now, here’s how:
- Start with the oldest emails you have – the newer ones will be grabbing your attention during the sort.
- In Gmail, you can sort by oldest to quickly rid yourself of emails you haven’t thought of in months.
- Overburdened by newsletters you signed up for once years ago and have never looked into since?
- Search in Gmail “Unsubscribe” to get to the newsletters you can opt out of and unsubscribe in a second.
- Search “from:no-reply” to discover automated emails from companies and get off their lists too.
- Filter, Filter Filter! Instead of everything piling up on your Gmail home screen, determine a few themes of the emails you receive and set filters so they can be easily accessible without being distracting.
- Check out Robyn’s post, Databases need a clean up too.
5. Set Priorities
Keeping your inbox clean is the epitome of being organized but the whole picture of productivity revolves around your priorities and how you manage them.
I can look at my to-do list and honestly consider everything on it a priority.
However, studies have shown that that 20% of your tasks produce 80% of your results and that means that a small fraction of your daily work deserves the majority of your attention.
More on this topic in The Muse’s The Job Skill You Need (That Nobody Talks About).
How to set priorities, simply:
- Start your day by scheduling your most important work. Carving out specific time for your most important tasks allows you to get to what matters. In that time block, don’t move on until it’s done. Repeat this, with breaks, and you’ll be accomplishing your highest-priority tasks faster than you ever imagined.
- Get clear on your goals by talking with your manager. Understand where your focus needs to be to get results.
Did you know being organized is a trait we all have the power to excel at and master?
We just tend to overlook the importance of it during our hectic days!
Implementing these tips in your daily work life could allow you to reach new levels of success that before seemed impossible with the burden of a mess, lack of focus, or constant distractions. What’s most important is to discover what works for you and to have the patience to appreciate the tactics that will allow you to succeed.
Nina Luzzo, Research and Sourcing Specialist at Objective Paradigm-Talution Group, is a graduate of DePaul University. Nina studied Sociology: Law, Crime and Criminology, in addition to dedicating much of her free time to tutoring at the Quantitative Reasoning Center at DePaul. Nina thrives on new approaches to old problems through data analysis. Connect with Nina on LinkedIn.