Have you ever had one of those polarizing moments – when everything that needs to get done swirls around in your head and makes you feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz? It’s that feeling when you realize you have so much to get done – but you have absolutely no idea where to start.
According to Northwestern Medicine, routines offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization. Having a routine helps you make the most of your time – which in turn can improve your health, reduce stress and improve sleeping and eating patterns. In an Express Employment Professionals survey of more than 18,000 business leaders, 57% of respondents said they lose six work hours per week due to disorganization. Disorganized employees who make $50,000 annually cost their companies about $11,000 per year in lost time due to their disorganization.
No matter what business you’re in, no matter what role you play, and no matter how old you are, there’s always something being added to your to-do list. Here are 6 proven ways to get organized – and get s*** done.
1 – Organize your desk:
For me, the best way to be productive is to have everything in site. But if that results in you wasting time rummaging for things on a regular basis, it’s time to sort through the chaos that is your desk.
Not to be confused with a barren desk, having an organized desk means that you can find what you need quickly, when you need it. After all, according to Researchers at the University of Minnesota, a messy desk is a sign of genius!
I once worked for a company that had a strict clean desk policy that nearly broke me. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to adapt the concept of a clean desk with one that suits the genius in me – and ensures a clean desk at the end of the day – and a clean desk at the start.
2 – Make lists:
Making a list isn’t all that difficult. Managing it – that’s a whole other ball game. I like Google Tasks, but I still prefer my 3×5, lined Post-its to capture my sparks of genius (or a to-do I completely forgot about) when I’m at my desk. Having a notebook for to-dos as I think of them – to be crossed off as they are either completed, delegated, or moved to a calendar – is liberating. So is crumpling up and tossing that post-it!
There’s no shortage of task management software. Take advantage of free trials and figure out what combination of high and lo-tech solution(s) work for you.
3 – Use your calendar:
Once you have a clear picture of what needs to get done, you can properly plan out when – and how – it will happen. Use your calendar to schedule your time and stick to it. Tasks with hard due dates go in first, around any scheduled appointments or meetings. Travel time? Schedule it. But leave some breathing room, or you will have no options when something new gets added to the mix – sending you spiraling back to Oz.
When I started booking my personal and family to-dos into my gmail calendar, and my company to-dos in my business calendar, my stress level went way down. This gives a clear view of what must get done and when – and if there are any potentials conflicts getting in the way.
4 – Tackle the procrastination monster:
Schedule brain breaks based on how long you can go before becoming distracted – whether it’s every 20 minutes or every 2 hours. Use the time to get up, stretch, get some fresh air and clear your mind. Schedule your distractions: when you will check social media, when you’ll check email, when you’ll return phone calls – and when you will be working on tasks.
5 – Embrace the power of subject lines:
Management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, reports that the average worker spends 28% of their work week on email. That’s more than 11 hours a week. Often overlooked is the subject line’s ability to get to the point. Quickly. Need a reply by Friday? Put it in the subject line. Need a question answered? Subject: Answer needed for highlighted question in body of email by Thursday. Don’t forget to highlight the question! The best part is that you can change the subject line as the email thread progresses – or even changes direction – from the original.
6 – Be kind to yourself:
Life happens – and there will be days when your schedule is thrown completely out of whack. That’s when you need to take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and reset. While it may be painful at first, using these strategies will help you get s*** done – and give you the mindset to focus on business, family, friends – and yourself.
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Portions of this article were published with permission in Graphic Arts Magazine.