Many of us set out to be more organized, but few of us end up accomplishing our goals. Bills need to be paid, tasks at work need to be done, and somewhere our ability to prioritize gets lost in the shuffle. Don’t give up. Here are five smart ways you can find balance with better organization, including a surprising one you might not have thought of.
1. Keep a Notebook
According to Forbes, the most productive people in the world often write everything in a notebook. This is not surprising when you consider the science: research has shown that writing things down has helped students learn and retain information better, so there’s a good reason to apply it to your business life, too. Because writing by hand is slower than typing, it gives you time to think and prioritize tasks for the day. Plus, fewer things are more satisfying than crossing something off when it's done.
Keeping a notebook can also help your mental health as a tool for organizing and evaluating your emotions. As The New York Times reports, numerous studies have demonstrated the positive power of putting pen to paper. Journaling can improve your IQ, boost the immune system and improve your self-confidence.
2. Manage Your Files
It’s hard for anyone to keep up with their inbox, let alone all the files on their computer. From temporary Internet files, to half-finished novels, our computers can become overrun with files, and we don’t always set aside time to delete or move them. This becomes even more complicated when you’re sharing files with other users at your business. Managing your group files with file management software can be a surprising secret for staying organized at work. You can check the status of a file, who owns it, and automate reports. Out of sight, out of mind.
3. Put Everything in Your Calendar
It seems like time is always of the essence in today’s fast-paced world. Putting everything on your calendar can be a very simple step to achieving better organization. As Forbes noted, some of the most organized people in the world even skip a to-do list all together and put it all in a calendar, but that may be a bit too extreme for most of us.
You might use a digital calendar or a color-coded planner. It all depends on personal preference and your own to-do list style.
4. Organize Your Mind
An organized mind is a productive mind. Successful entrepreneurs review their goals on a daily basis and use them as guiding principles for how to manage their time (that’s where that pen and paper can come in handy).
Even the most organized among us can’t keep all their ideas in their head. The “brain dump” is a common tool for starting a to-do list. You can write your tasks down and categorize them by time of day or where they need to be done (for example, at home or at work). Try identifying the most important tasks you need to get done today or this week that will make you feel accomplished.
Which brings us to:
5. Do the Most Important Thing First
It sounds deceptively simple: pick the most important thing you need to do, and get it done first. Block out a morning or an afternoon to knock out your project. The trick here is to do the most important thing and only that thing. No checking email and no answering the phone. Doing those small tasks can give you a false feeling of accomplishment.
Staying organized is about planning and execution. With these five tips you’ll be able to do both.