Everyone has struggled with disorganization and clutter at some point in their life. It’s one of the most overlooked aspects of productivity, and unfortunately most of us learn that the hard way. Need something quickly? Good luck trying to sort through that mess of papers on your desk or documents on your desktop. But when you can’t keep track of your own thoughts, it’s even easier to misplace and mislabel items.
Personally, I struggle with being easily distracted and finding time to organize when I could be doing something else. I prefer to just throw things in a pile and deal with it later, even though later usually results in me, frustrated and swearing at my past self when I can’t find that specific black dress out of my pile of black clothes, all while running 15 minutes late to an event. Or, I end up spending hours re-organizing my items and thoughts just to get overwhelmed by the task at hand and give up.
So I wanted to put together a list of tools and devices that help me stay organized at work in this chaotic thing we call life.
Usually we’re so crazed and chaotic because we’re stressed or anxious about getting our sh*t done on time, and our brain doesn't get the adequate time to recharge before it goes on to the next task. It’s always running a million miles a minute. No wonder we have trouble organizing our thoughts. Taking the time to slow down every now and then really helps bring clarity back to your day.
All you really need is a moment to breathe and regroup your thoughts. I mean, you’ve surely heard the phrase by now: take the time to stop and smell the roses. You’ll be able to appreciate and understand more things when you’ve had the chance to actually take it all in. Trust me, you’ve earned those 1-5 minutes of deep breathing so you can begin to feel more human again.
2. Put it away.
It may seem a bit straining and time consuming to dedicate a few minutes to organize yourself every day, but I assure you, it’s worth it. Once you get into the rhythm of organizing each day, you’ll find that you end up putting things back in their place when you’re finished with them because you don’t want to deal with it later on.
You will also no longer need to take 10-20 (ok...30+) minutes cleaning up after yourself every week/month. Instead, you can take 2-5 minutes reorganizing after a day of hard work. I usually do this right before I leave for the day so when I come in the next day, everything's in its place, all ready for me to take care of whatever comes my way.
3. Write it down.
Now, while this isn’t everyone's cup o’ tea, it is mine. I find it helpful to write all of my tasks down, everywhere. I mean everywhere. I always keep sticky notes, notepads, a calendar, and a planner around me at all times with a pen handy. I usually have a million things going on in my head and I can never keep them straight. Writing things down jogs my muscle memory and gives me a visual of what I have to get done for the day. Once the task is done, dispose or cross off the note. Don’t leave it hanging around because that’ll just add more clutter that you don’t want to pick up later.
4. Cater to you.
So many times people don’t stay organized because they dislike the idea of putting things away when they’ll need them later. And unless you have a superb photographic memory, you most likely won’t be able to remember where you put that specific document, so instead of piling it on top of your desk, put it away with a purpose.
Using desk organizers or clear baskets/bins on top of the desk make for a great confined area for any odd items or papers you may want to keep out in the open, especially if you are a visual person. Any organizers with cutouts are great for storing miscellaneous items that can help clear off usable desk spaces (like these on Amazon: Bamboo Monitor Stand) and still allow you to find everything you might need without digging through drawers.
5. Label, label, label.
If you have to put things in drawers, but are worried you’ll misplace items, make sure you label what’s in there. For files, be sure to clearly designate what each folder is for because it saves you from the possibility of misplacing something. Unsure of what a file goes under? Make a new label. Keep things clear and concise so you don’t have to search through multiple files to find what you need. This also includes online documents. You don’t want to waste time looking through your desktop filled with links to docs, and then falling back on using the search function to find exactly what you need for that meeting you’re now 5 minutes late to.
6. Designate spaces and drawers.
Have a lot of drawers? Keep a theme for each drawer. And do the same for spaces. Use those tools to keep similar objects or documents together. It’ll help when you reorganize them every day. The easier it is to find where something goes, the easier it is to keep it clean. Your brain will thank you.
7. Pick up after yourself.
Speaking of keeping it clean, don’t leave dirty items all over your desk. Make sure you have a handy-dandy trash can within a close distance. You don’t want to leave dirty tissues, napkins, or coffee cups on your desk. Those are the types of things that cause coworkers to wrinkle up their noses when they pass your space. And for you to mysteriously get grease on your reports...or sleeves. Keeping the space clean helps with achieving a more Zen like state which will help you relax, and therefore keep your mind open and clear – just like your desk should be.
In the end, it’s really your style that’s going to dictate how you can stay organized. If you’re visual, keep things tidy but out in the open. If you’re hands on and need a lot of space on top, keep your drawers in themes and label everything. It’s really up to you to figure out what works best for your own mind and needs. You just have to stick to it so you never again have to worry about getting organized. And remember, breathe. Pretty soon, staying organized will become habitual, and you’ll finally realize what you’ve been missing.