Simple tips to help you stay organized at work

Being organized is so much more than hitting deadlines. It’s a way of presenting yourself: looking smart and tidy, turning up to meetings on time, making sure you know where documents are and who does what in your department. It’s a cocktail of actions that, when combined, make you look like the kind of person who can be relied on. And when it comes to the workplace, that’s a major plus.

Let’s take a closer look at why organization is such an important workplace skill to nurture, how to get organized, and most importantly — stay organized.

3 reasons why it’s important to be organized

1. It makes you look professional

Being organized makes you look reliable, serious, and like someone who is destined to achieve good things. If there are new projects coming up or promotions in store, it’s the organized people whose names will come up first.

2. It helps productivity

It’s a fact that we get more done when we’re organized. And if you’re more productive, you’ll be able to achieve more in less time, with less stress.

When you’re organized, you know what you’re doing, and how it needs to be done. And when you know this, there’s nothing standing between you and achieving your goals.

The good news is, productivity is something that can be measured — via time tracking apps and project management software — so if you’re ever in doubt about your hard work paying off, measure your progress and see it for yourself.

3. It lowers stress

Not knowing where things are, feeling out of control, scrabbling around to find information… We’ve all been there, and it’s not a fun place to be.

Organize your working day so that it involves structure and routine. Developing your organization skills not only makes it easier for you to work more efficiently and project a professional image, it also helps lower your stress levels. You know exactly what you’re doing, which in turn has the added bonus of helping you feel more competent.

How to be more organized at work

Declutter that desk (and desktop)

We all know the saying: A tidy desk means a tidy mind. And while cleaning won’t suddenly make you more organized, it will help put you in the right mindset. By this, we mean it’ll help you feel more ‘together’ and professional. It’ll also help you feel more productive, which is something that goes hand-in-hand with good organization. Don’t forget the area under, around, and in your desk too — including tossing all that old paperwork clogging up your drawers to the recycling bin.

As well as decluttering your physical desk, give your desktop and inbox a clean too. This doesn’t mean you need to be fixated on achieving Inbox Zero, but making sure all the important emails are answered and unsubscribing from those weekly promo messages you never open. It’s just one small thing that will help you achieve fewer distractions.

Go digital

You probably think you’re fully digital as it is. But, hands up! Who still writes to-do lists and puts sticky notes around their monitor? Kanban boards made from Post-Its? Sign-off sheets all over the place? These are all things that are better when they’re digital. Sure, you don’t get the satisfaction of drawing a neat line through that item on your list (or writing it on there just so you can cross it off), but seeing that mass of ticks and green boxes on your digital to-do list is just as thrilling. Promise.

Going digital also takes the strain off of you. Digital files are easier to find, you can make copies, share with others, and set up your apps to send you notifications to help you keep track of things like appointments and due dates.

Build good habits

If you truly want to transform yourself into an organized person, then you need to be consistent. Why? Because doing something over and over again can eventually turn it into a habit — that’s something you do instinctively, rather than something that takes hard work. Or in other words, the more you do it, the easier it’ll become.

The key here is to be patient with yourself. There will be times when you mess up — we all do it. Try not to beat yourself up about a bad day, week — or even month. Remember, you can always get back on track (and learn from any mistakes you made along the way).

To help you stay on track (and recover if you happen to falter), try to do these three things:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Make them measurable and accountable (a SMART goals diagram can help here)
  3. Learn from mistakes and celebrate successes

How to stay organized at work. For good.

Like all worthwhile things, getting started is the easy part — it’s sticking to your goal that’s difficult. The good news is, you don’t need to have the best willpower in the world to stay on track. Just a little dedication, some self-awareness, and the right tools for the job.

Make yourself accountable

Telling yourself — and only yourself — that you’re going to be more organized means that if you slip up, there’s only you to answer to. Telling someone else on the team that you’re going to be more organized means you’ll have their expectations to fulfill, as well as your own.

Simply having that additional accountability should nudge you to stay on track. Kind of like an invisible boss or parent watching you. And if you don’t, you’ll have them to answer to. They probably won’t be angry or upset, just disappointed. Which we all know is MUCH worse.

Ask others for help

Getting yourself organized is a personal thing, but that doesn’t mean you need to do it alone. In fact, involving someone else in your goals has a couple of benefits: encouragement and accountability. When things are tough, knowing you have a support network around you — or even just that one supportive friend — will help you find the strength and encouragement to power through.

Set boundaries

Good organization isn’t just about cramming as much into as little space as you can. It’s about understanding what you need to do, and how long you need to comfortably get it done. And part of that process might involve setting out some boundaries that help you achieve this. It’s about finding ways to improve your productivity, and that includes letting your colleagues know that both your time and theirs is respected.

One way to set boundaries is to let people know when you’re having some time to yourself to focus. Don’t be afraid to turn off your emails for a little while, camp out in an office meeting room — or set your chat app status to ‘busy’.

Invest in the right tools

First things first: No matter how determined you are, acknowledge the fact that at some point, you’ll need a little support.

Simply telling yourself you’re going to stay on track relies on your willpower and memory. And, as easy as it is to ignore that voice telling you to stick to your schedule, it’s just as easy to ignore mistakes.

This is where tech can help: Project management tools, time tracking apps, and digital calendars can all help you stay on track thanks to reminders and notifications while more advanced software will come with breakdown charts and other tools to help you manage yourself and your team.

Let’s look at the two of the most popular tools designed to help you stay organized at work.

Project management software

From notifications and checklists to visual timelines and roadmaps, project management software is the gold standard when it comes to keeping everyone on track. The whole team can log in and organize themselves, which makes their job easier — as well as the project manager’s.

Chat apps

One way to minimize endless inbox threads is to simply host group conversations on a chat app. This makes team collaboration so much easier because everyone’s comments are visible in real-time. Create separate group discussions, set up notifications so everyone’s kept in the loop, and when you need to enter deep focus, switch your status to ‘busy’ so you can let the team know what you’re doing with your time. This doesn’t just help you stay organized — it makes it easier for the rest of the team, too.