Element 74 Blog: Getting & Staying Organized in 5 Steps
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Around the office, I’m known for my organizational skills. Even among clients, I’ve gotten the reputation as the project manager who will give you a deadline and pester you until you give me an answer–or a worthy excuse. I’m not bossy; I just truly believe in the power of timelines and deadlines. I get excited about neatly stacked pieces of paper, color-coded calendar pages, rows of pens all capped and pristine, and achieving Inbox Zero.

Staying organized is helpful for everyone. When you can stay on top of your game and your to-do list, your promises mean more. Client trust scores go up, the quality of work goes up, and your own investment in your work does too.

Organization looks different for everyone (though I maintain, there’s no such thing as organized chaos). For me, organization looks like . . . well, it looks a little over-the-top. Like, organizing-my-groceries-on-the-belt-in-the-order-in-which-I-want-them-bagged over-the-top. However, I have toned it down a little and put together a list of my five best tips to keeping your inbox, your desk, your schedule, and ultimately your life, organized.

Create a system.

Not every system will work for every person. Our hierarchy of needs are all very different, and the way we prioritize things needs to be different, too. However there needs to be some structure to how we prioritize. Here’s the thing: there’s no right or wrong way to organize. So when you pile up on self-help-organize-your-life books and then get frustrated that you’re still living in chaos and squalor, it’s because you can’t fit your life in their box. And (repeat after me) that. is. okay.

Do lists work for you? How about a wall of post-it notes? Digital note taking may be your cup of virtual tea. My only advice is to not spread yourself across platforms. My system looks like this:

I have a notebook where I keep everything. Every time something pops into my head, I write it down next in the list. The type of thought gets a specific bullet that corresponds. Tasks get checkboxes, notes get bullets, and events get circles. Since I write everything down, I can stop thinking about it the instant pen hits paper. It’s freedom!

Stay focused.

Multi-tasking is a lie. It just is. If one task has your attention, another task will not have your attention. Ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone who is texting? Either they aren’t listening, or they say, “Oh just one sec” over and over. Which is not multi-tasking. It’s singular tasking in a very ludacris order. Choose a task to focus on and shut everything else out. You’re guaranteed to be more productive when you can do one thing uninterrupted for one hour than many minute tasks in the same hour.

Take breaks.

As a society, we on the whole are not very good at this. Even if you just took two minutes, you’d be amazed at how much your brain would thank you. Think you know how long two minutes is? Check out this easy test: Do Nothing for two Minutes. I love to share this with people because it really showcases how fast we are all moving at all times. And sometimes the most productive thing we can do is nothing at all. Do it with me now, inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Say No . . . often.

I’ll tell you now what my mother has spent 20+ years telling me: You can’t do everything. The sooner you accept the fact that you need to say “no” to tasks, people, invitations, committees–the sooner you’ll excel at the commitments you do take on. Because the truth of the matter is when your “no” means something, your “yes” means even more.

Be flexible.

I’m the worst at this by far. But I’m learning it’s a fact of life–and humanity–that at some point, something will fall through the cracks. You’ll miss an email, or something important and urgent will pop up and need assistance, or you may find that a carefully, tenaciously built system doesn’t work as well as you thought. That’s ok. Because that’s what clean spaces are for: starting fresh.

 

How do you stay organized? Share the best tip in the comments. Happy strategizing 😉

Erin Miller

About the Author

Erin Miller
When she's not spending her time creating cool client websites, Erin is an avid fan of jigsaw puzzles and binge watching The Office on Netflix over and over.

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