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February 16, 2016

How Organized Are You?

Keith Jackson


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From childhood, through school and into the workplace, we are encouraged to be organized. Parents want bedrooms kept tidy, teachers want exercise books to be neat and ordered, and bosses want to know that tasks will be completed on time.

But not everything that is organized is a good thing. Organized crime is a bad thing. Organized religion is a… well, I don’t think I'll stick my fork in that particular toaster!

And not everything haphazard and disorganized is a bad thing. Albert Einstein's desk was reportedly a complete shambles. But, 100 years on, 21st century scientists with mindbogglingly powerful computers and telescopes are still playing “catch up” with a man armed with a just a pencil and an unruly moustache.

I have to admit to being fairly disorganized. Actually, I operate in what is called organized chaos. The papers and printouts that spill across my desk each day are both a comfort blanket and weapons of expansion. I need to hold and read from paper, and on a good day I can annexe parts of the desks next to mine!

But I have embraced one organizational tool with a passion. Before joining Mind Tools, I’d either do my best to commit tasks to memory or jot them down on random bits of paper. Here, I was introduced to the humble to-do list. A revelation! Everything I need to do is now neatly noted and prioritized, and ticked off when completed. Too bad I can rarely find it under the avalanche of paper I still generate!

You can find more useful organization tips and tools in our article, How to Be More Organized.

How Do You Stay Organized?

We asked our friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook, "What are your top tips for organizing your workload?" And it seems time management and prioritization were among the most popular strategies. Here is a selection of their excellent replies:

  • ‏@kevdaly7: working for BMW taught me many things, the most important of which, is time management. Use a time management diary.
  • @janegray: I was a fan of the stickynote – now embracing Trello.
  • ‏@KreativeFdns: by completing project overview forms/project plans, we work more efficiently...knowing exactly where we left off & what's next
  • @AndrewJoachim1: I use the full suite of MS Outlook tools: calendar, tasks, notes, etc
  • ‏@alllette10: I do the heavy & nasty stuff first thing in the morning!
  • @p_raegan: my two tips are 1) Knowing when to say “No.” 2) Trim down big tasks into actionable chunks.

Facebook user Mbadugha Peter suggested a methodical approach to completing tasks. He said, "If it is largely paperwork, heap the papers together and start taking them one after the other from top to bottom. This requires discipline and focus and concentration."

Elaine McDermott is a happy planner. She said, "I use a monthly, weekly & daily planner. I need to see the list & cross it off. #satisfaction." Alla Pastuh added, "never plan more than you can do!'

Pawel Urbanski said, "I think for a while about consequences of doing and not doing any major task. Everything that is not important and shouldn't take a lot of time gets moved for a day or two, then I can do them in bulk."

Perhaps the last words should go to Jane Preece (@h3jwp), who provides us with the 7Ds of Organization: "don't dither - deal, defer, delegate or dump. Done!"

Thank you to everyone who replied. We are always grateful for your input, and your comments are welcome, below.

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2 comments on “How Organized Are You?”

  1. Set realistic deadlines
    Allow time for interruptions
    Structure your workload
    Keep a log of your work

  2. I keep a daily to-do-list
    Separate items for morning and afternoon and,
    My list allow for 15 things! The items not completed go to the top of the list for tommorrow.

    1. Hi Lourie,
      thanks for sharing your tips.
      I think it's a great way to keep track and record what needs to be done, and what doesn't get done, gets on the list for tomorrow.
      Zala - MT Coach

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