Many of us try our best to stay organized. From keeping track of work deadlines to setting reminders for networking events and appointments, we have a lot to juggle between work and at home.
When life gets super busy, it can feel nearly impossible to stay on top of everything. Deadlines begin to creep up, last-minute meetings get scheduled, and it seems like there’s never time to hit the gym after work. However, by sticking to habits and systems that keep you organized, you may find yourself gaining back time to focus on what matters most.
Wherever you are with your to-do list or the dozens of unread emails to sift through, here are some ideas to help you refresh your organizational habits:
1. Start each day with a written list
While there are a handful of people who can keep a mental to-do list, most of us have to write down tasks to keep track of everything.
At the beginning of each day, grab a pen and paper and write down everything you need to accomplish for the day or any tasks that have been causing you to feel stressed. Once you have your list, circle the top three items to complete that day. Setting your top three priorities will allow you to create margin for projects that require more time or create wiggle room for unexpected tasks that pop up during the day.
2. Focus on what matters most
When it comes to finding harmony between work and career, we’re constantly juggling priorities. While it’s tempting to focus on what’s urgent, it’s also necessary to know the difference between urgent and important.
Stephen Covey offers a time management matrix to help you organize your priorities. The matrix allows you to organize tasks into what’s important, not important, urgent, and not urgent. This tool can be helpful if it feels like your to-do list is filling up with many “urgent” tasks.
3. Plan ahead
A crucial part of staying organized is planning ahead. Knowing what’s in the docket for the upcoming weeks will help you plan accordingly.
During the last week of the month, look ahead to the following month for any major deadlines, events or holidays that may be coming up. Write down key dates in your planner or enter them into a digital tool like iCalendar or an app like Asana or Evernote. Use this planning session to set any reminders for major deadlines throughout the month.
4. Set milestones
When it comes to keeping big projects organized, breaking deliverables down into milestones can make it easier to set realistic deadlines and keep the project on task.
For example, let’s say you’re designing a new website for a client. Project milestones could include creating a website sitemap, drafting website copy, creating branding, gathering photos, designing the website, and launching the website. Assign these milestones deadlines and add them to your planner or calendar.
5. Focus on one task at a time
Jumping between tasks uses a lot of energy and makes it difficult to focus on your top priorities. Research shows multitasking can harm your productivity, and it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus after switching between tasks.
If you find yourself multitasking often, consider time-blocking your schedule. Time blocking allows you to dedicate time to specific tasks like working on a writing project or responding to emails.
For example, during your most focused hours of the day, dedicate this time for projects that require the most energy. For hours where you feel like you lose focus during the day, use that time for tasks that require less effort or strategic thinking.
6. Star important emails
If you’re receiving a steady flow of emails each day, make a habit to “star” important ones that come in. This habit is especially helpful if you aren’t able to respond to the email right away but needs your attention within 24 hours. It will also help make sure important emails don’t slip through the cracks.
7. Create templates
From draft emails to spreadsheets, templates can make you more efficient by having a foundation to work with for a project. For example, as a PR professional, I keep templates for media trackers, media lists, budgets, social media calendars, case studies, and emails that I can customize for different projects. That way, instead of starting from scratch every time, I can start a project from a template and customize as needed, saving lots of time and brainpower.
8. Create checklists
Checklists help ensure processes run smoothly. Whether it’s outlining all the steps for planning a special event or creating a copyediting checklist, these tools can help you make sure you don’t miss a step in your work.
We all know it’s essential to stay organized, and even the most organized people can get off track sometimes. Hopefully, by incorporating some of these habits into your daily routine, you can get yourself organized, prioritize what matters most and even make more time in your day.