Clear Away the Clutter

Tips for Better Organization on the Job

A sound organizing system can help guide you through the most muddling workday so you can focus on your job. Here are some simple, practical methods for getting organized.

 Organize Your Time

Instead of fighting the clock, make time work for you by focusing on important activities. Here's how:

  • Create a "Master Task List" of all current projects. Then write "Daily To-do Lists" to keep track of everything you have to do each day of the week. Schedule times for completing specific activities whenever possible. Leave room for any meetings and other urgent assignments that may pop up.
  • Schedule work with the "divide and conquer" approach. Breaking larger projects into smaller tasks, each with its own due date, will make the work more manageable.
  • If a day looks overloaded with work, prioritize. Identify the three or four most important tasks and see about extending the deadlines on the others. Your manager is a good resource for helping you decide which projects to set aside for later.
  • Check out more helpful hints on managing time and a Can Do ListOpens a new window to help you get organized.

Organize Your Workspace

The simple task of eliminating clutter on your desk can make your job less chaotic. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Try to keep your phone, computer and other equipment on one side of your work area – leaving a "free" zone to spread out on while you work on your current tasks.
  • Limit the number of personal items like photos, plants and knickknacks so they don't get in your way.
  • Try to clear your desk before you leave for home every night so you can start fresh the next morning.

Organize Your Paperwork

The number one cause of workspace clutter deserves special attention. Get rid of the stacks and mounds with these simple steps.

  • Separate papers into five piles: current work, to keep, to trash, undetermined, and for others. Make every effort to keep only the papers that you will need, tossing out old drafts and duplicates.
  • Eliminate excess paperwork. Once your piles are separated, immediately dispose of the "trash" pile and deliver the papers "for others."
  • File "current" paperwork. Create five desktop trays (or file folders) with the following labels:
    • Complete Today
    • To Do
    • To Read
    • To File
    • To Others
  • Sort the papers in your "current work" pile into the appropriate trays.
  • Get your "undetermined" pile out of your way. This pile should consist of things that you are hesitant to throw out. Place these papers in a box under your desk. If you don't refer to these papers over the next two months, chances are it's okay to throw away the box. To be safe, sort through the box one last time before you trash it.
  • Store the "keep" pile in file boxes or a filing cabinet. Create a filing system with broad categories (e.g., "Clients") divided into alphabetized subcategories ("ABC Co.", "XYZ Inc."). Use categories and subcategories that will help you find each document easily.

Don't Put It Off – Dealing with Procrastination

Most of us procrastinate at one time or another, especially when faced with routine or seemingly difficult tasks. Unfortunately, leaving things to the last minute only makes the job more stressful, and may prevent you from doing your best work. If you find yourself putting off assignments, try these ideas to get back on track.

  • Break it down.

    Divide large tasks into smaller pieces that are easier to manage. Create reasonable deadlines for each piece and plan your daily schedule accordingly.

  • Dive right in.

    Sometimes the hardest part of any task is starting it. Tackling the more laborious part first can make the rest of the assignment seem a breeze. Or alternate between difficult and simple parts to help conserve energy.

  • Don't strive for perfection.

    There's never enough time to do every job perfectly, so focus on doing a good job instead. In many cases, "good enough" is good enough.

  • Make it fun.

    Music, a cold drink or even a funky-colored pen can help make your work more enjoyable and less of a chore.

Use these tips as a guide for creating an organizing system that fits your personal work style and workplace. By taking control of your time and working in a more organized environment, you'll not only reduce stress - but you'll also increase your productivity.