How to be organized at work: 10 science-backed strategies
We all have that one colleague who’s always annoyingly organized. Their desk is tidy, their papers are neatly filed, and they always have zero emails in their inbox. They stay on top of their schedule and are cool, calm, and collected in the face of disaster.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re not one of those people. Your inbox is bursting at the seams, you’re constantly looking for misplaced documents, and you struggle to complete your tasks on time.
Sound familiar? Then it might be time to get organized at work. This guide will reveal why personal organization is essential, plus the 10 strategies that will help you get organized at work — and stay that way.
What does it mean to be organized, and why does it matter?
Do you dream of being more organized at work? If so, you’re not alone. Lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic gave us a lot more time to think about how we organize our lives — both personal and professional.
Perhaps you suddenly had to redefine work/life boundaries while operating from a single space. Or maybe it forced you to become a lot more flexible, which required leveling up your organizational skills.
Either way, it confronted the disorganized among us with the harsh reality that it’s time to learn to get organized — which is probably why two-thirds of Americans say they want to become more organized in the wake of the pandemic, according to a survey by mDesign.
Instinctively, you know you could benefit from being more organized at work. But in case you’re struggling to get motivated, here are five reasons why it’s important.
1. It saves you time (and money)
If you’re constantly searching for papers and digital files, you may not be surprised to learn that 50% of knowledge workers spend more time searching for information and data than analyzing it.
Imagine what you could do with all the time you would save if you knew exactly where everything was. You could skyrocket your productivity and boost profits.
Plus, being organized helps you prioritize — you know which tasks will move your business toward its goals and can focus on those.
2. It reduces stress
There’s a physiological reason why being disorganized makes you feel flustered. Being surrounded by clutter — which is closely linked to being disorganized — actually causes a continuous, low-level stress response.
It’s no wonder 63% of the mDesign survey participants said organizing their homes makes them feel less stressed.
Another aspect of being organized is, of course, time management. Constantly running everywhere like a headless chicken because of poor organization is stressful and leaves you feeling exhausted.
Getting organized can help you always show up on time and alleviate those feelings of stress.
3. It can improve your sleep
Do you have insomnia? Getting organized may be able to help you get some shuteye. For starters, having fewer stress hormones in your body will make it easier for you to relax and wind down in the evening.
Plus, it takes a load off your mind. When you’re organized, you stay on top of your deadlines, keep detailed to-do lists, and plan your schedule accordingly.
Whereas when you’re disorganized, instead of counting sheep, you lie in bed trying to remember everything you have to do the next day.
4. It boosts your creativity
If you’re the kind of person who has their best ideas in the shower, you know that a relaxed, well-rested mind is more creative than a tired, frazzled one.
When you give your brain a break, it’s almost impossible not to generate new ideas — whether that’s a solution to a business challenge or a new product you want to launch.
When you take the weight of disorganization off your mind, it’s not just your sleep that improves. Your creativity will take off too, which can only mean good things for your business.
5. It makes you more productive
Last but certainly not least, getting organized at work boosts productivity. Productivity means different things in different industries. But in simple terms, getting organized allows you to spend more time focusing on your core work — making you more productive.
10 strategies for getting organized at work
Ready to become the Marie Kondo of your office? Try these 10 tips to get organized at work.
1. Declutter your desk
Getting organized starts with your physical space, and not only does clutter make us feel stressed, but it’s also linked to procrastination.
Having a bunch of sticky notes plastered around your screen and yesterday’s half-eaten lunch on your desk is bound to make you feel disorganized.
By contrast, an organized workspace makes it easier to stay focused on the task at hand.
Decluttering your desk may be an unpleasant task, but once it’s done, it’ll be much easier to keep your space clean and reap the benefits of an organized office.
2. Set goals
It’s pretty much impossible to get organized at work if you don’t know what you’re working toward. Whether you’re the CEO or an intern, setting achievable goals will help you become more organized.
Founders and entrepreneurs often get caught up in the day-to-day hustle of running a business and let goal-setting slide down their priorities list. Employees may be unaware of company objectives and how they relate to their own work, so they struggle to prioritize the right things.
Setting goals that are SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound — will help the whole team get organized.
3. Plan ahead
Once you’ve established clear, realistic goals, it’s time to make an action plan to achieve them.
Start with your goal and work backward, breaking it down into manageable steps and creating a task list for each step. Assign a priority level to each task, and then create your daily and weekly to-do lists accordingly.
4. Tame your inbox
Just like physical clutter, digital clutter in the form of a disorganized email inbox will rob you of your brainpower. If your inbox is bursting at the seams, it may be time to pursue the elusive inbox zero dream (or at least, move the clutter out of your main inbox so you can focus).
Categorize the emails you want to save and create corresponding email folders for each one. Do this in a way that makes sense to you, such as grouping emails from the same sender or relating to a specific project.
Then, delete the rest and unsubscribe from all those newsletters you don’t remember signing up for.
5. Mute your notifications
Push notifications are designed to distract you — and they work. Research shows they’re just as distracting as responding to a message.
Not only that, but it turns out the mere presence of your cell phone is enough to derail your focus.
Considering it takes over 23 minutes to regain focus after an interruption, you might want to consider muting your notifications completely, or batching them and responding to them all at once later on (Stack offers this feature).
6. Learn to multitask the “right” way
They say multitasking is bad, but let’s be honest — we all do it. Maybe it’s natural for our monkey minds to jump around, or perhaps it’s because the internet has shot our focus to pieces.
Either way, we’re all guilty of answering work emails while listening to a podcast, talking to our spouse, and feeding the dog simultaneously.
And here at Stack, we agree that the way most people multitask is not ideal… but we do think there’s a “right” way to multitask.
Essentially, it’s by task batching — or grouping similar tasks together to minimize context switching (incidentally, it’s one of the reasons we created Stack Next).
7. Take regular breaks
Hustle culture is still going strong, but the truth is that real winners take breaks. Instead of burning yourself out, build rest into your day by planning your breaks and sticking to them.
There is one caveat, though. You must put a time limit on your breaks — otherwise, you might find yourself chatting by the watercooler or watching TikTok videos for longer than you planned.
8. Use your email calendar
Your calendar is there to help you get organized, not just for scheduling meetings. For example, if you’re working to a deadline, use your company calendar to create time blocks for deep focus work.
This will help you get the work done on time while letting colleagues know you won’t be available during those blocks of time.
9. Only attend essential meetings
Team meetings are like vampires — they suck the life out of you. And now, researchers at MIT have carried out an experiment that proves it (sort of).
They designated three “meeting-free” days per week, so all meetings were held on the other two days. This change led to a 73% increase in productivity and a 57% decrease in employee stress levels.
10. Organize your digital space
Thankfully, we live in the 21st century and are surrounded by digital solutions to all our organizational problems.
Task management apps such as Trello and Asana are popular organizational tools that facilitate project management. Instant messaging apps like Slack have helped unclog inboxes and streamline communications.
But there hasn’t been a way to organize your personal digital universe until now.
Enter Stack Next — the world’s first spatial browser designed to bring order to your digital chaos and promote mindfulness and productivity. The next section will cover the main Stack features that can help you be more organized at work.
How Stack helps you get organized at work
So what is a spatial browser, anyway? It’s a software solution that enables you to organize all your apps, programs, files, and accounts in a way that suits your needs.
With Stack, you can bring order to the chaos of your computer. Here’s a sneak peek at some of Stack’s most popular features and how they can help you get organized.
Everything starts with Spaces. You can create separate Spaces for home and work or dedicate a Space to each project you’re working on.
Use each Space to store everything you need for each area of your life — whether it’s planning a vacation or managing a remote team.
Separating everything into Spaces helps you minimize distractions and focus on one thing at a time.
Our Switch feature lets you jump between programs in a flash, using the search bar to toggle between your open windows and apps.
Not only does this mean you can navigate at lightning speed, but it can also stop you from getting distracted as you click through different browser windows.
With Saved Cards, you can group similar items or tasks together, so they’re within reach when you need them.
For example, if you’re writing a pitch, you might drag and drop all the files, web pages, and dashboards you need into a Saved Card for easy reference.
Ghost Cards are similar to Saved Cards but temporary. So when you need to refer to, say, a website but don’t want to save it in your Stack, stick it in a Ghost Card until you’re done with it. Then, make it disappear with one click so it won’t distract you later.
Use Focus Mode to mute some or all of your notifications as you work. You can also choose to batch notifications together and check them at certain times of the day.
Our Ad Shield feature protects you from those pesky pop-ups so you can stay focused on what matters.
Getting organized at work has never been easier
Thanks to modern technology, you no longer have to be a natural neat freak to get organized at work. All you need are a few simple strategies and the right tools to support you.
Stack Next is the perfect solution for disorganized people who want to make their digital workspace work for them.
Join the waitlist to discover Stack Next and take your organizational skills to the next level.