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Do you want to get organized at work but don’t know where to start? Do you spend every day at work crazy busy and end up with a huge pile of paper on your desk? Or you can’t keep up with your email and are starting to feel overwhelmed and dread opening your inbox every day? In my career, I have lived all of these scenarios. It can be very stressful and often feels like it is impossible to get ahead on things.
But guess what?
It IS actually possible to get organized at work. The key is having a system. Does that sound intimidating? Not to worry! Below is my five-step process to get organized at work. You can do this at ANY time and ANY level of organization. Follow these five steps and you will move in the right direction forward.
- Take a step away. Find one hour in your day where you can put your phone on do-not-disturb and/close your office door. If you don’t have a private office, you can do this before or after most folks are in the office so you don’t get interrupted.
- Do a “clean up session”. Start with the physical papers on your desk. Ruthlessly get rid of everything you don’t need. Divide everything else into “current reference” and “archival reference”. Then file them in the relevant topic or category. “Active reference” files should be stored where you can easily access them on a regular basis. “Archival reference” documents should be stored out of sight, in a manner that makes sense to you, so you can always access them.
- Work on your “‘Master To-Do List”. As you go through your files, you may think of action items you need to do. DON’T DO THOSE RIGHT NOW. That will distract you and take you off task. Write down any action items or tasks on a list so you can deal with them later.
- Now that you’ve cleared some physical space, this is a good time to do a little bit of reflection. Assess your pain points by asking these questions: where do you feel most behind? What areas are causing you the most stress in your day-to-day? Pick one area to work on. Once you have success in one area you can always go back. For example, an area could be: “I always agree to take on tasks in meetings, but I struggle to remember to follow through on them”.
- Create a system to help solve this one area. You want this to be something that can happen almost automatically and doesn’t require you to have to remember it every day. So for my example above, the system could be creating a file folder labeled “meeting notes” and storing it somewhere obvious on my desk. I would also create a weekly recurring appointment in my calendar titled “notes review”. Then after each meeting, I’ll drop my notes in the folder. During my “notes review” appointment, I can go through everything in the folder. I will either add it to my Master To-Do List or check it off the list if I’ve already completed it. You can do this for anything, but again, only pick one thing for now. After a week or two of successful implementation, you can go back to your initial reflection notes, and start adding in other systems as well.
This process to get organized at work should give you more mental clarity and reduce feelings of overwhelm. During busy seasons of life, it is easy for things to quickly get out of control, so you can go through this process anytime you start to feel like your organization is slipping.