Have you ever had moments when everything that needs to get done swirls around in your head and makes you feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz? You realize you have so much to get done – but you have absolutely no idea where to start! 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.” In fact, 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 or 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 “stuff” done.
- Organize your desk. For me, the best way to be productive is to have everything in sight. If you’re wasting time rummaging for things on a regular basis, it’s time to sort through the chaos. Having an organized desk means that you can find what you need quickly, when you need it. I once worked for a company that had a strict clean-desk policy. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to adapt the concept of a clean desk with one that suits the “genius” in me (according to Researchers at the University of Minnesota, a messy desk is a sign of genius).
- Make lists. Making a list isn’t that difficult. Managing it is. I like Google Tasks, but I still prefer my 3” x 5” lined Post-it Notes (or a to-do list 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’re completed, delegated or moved to a calendar – is very liberating. So is crumpling up and tossing that Post-It. Also, there’s no shortage of task management software. Take advantage of free trials and figure out what combination of high-tech and low-tech solution(s) work for you.
- Use your calendar. Once you have a clear picture of what needs to get done, you can properly plan when and how it will happen. Use your calendar to schedule your time – and stick to it. Tasks with tight due dates go in first, around any scheduled appointments or meetings. Travel time? Schedule it. But leave some breathing room, or you’ll 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 g-mail 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 potential conflicts that might arise.
- 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 two hours. Use the time to get up, stretch, get some fresh air and clear your mind. Schedule your distractions. Decide upfront when you’ll check your social media, when you’ll check email, when you’ll return phone calls, and when you’ll be working on tasks.
- Embrace the power of subject lines. Management consulting firm McKinsey & Company reports that the average worker spends 28% of his or her working 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.
- Be kind to yourself. Life happens – and there’ll 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 “stuff” done and give you the mindset to focus on business, family and friends – in addition to yourself.
Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the
last three decades helping companies maximize their marketing and communications efforts. Founder of Joanne Gore Communications, she helps companies tell their story to a new generation of print and business buyers.
You can follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121