If you are anything like me (and I’m guessing you are), inefficiencies annoy you. When you see someone do a task the long way, add steps that slow down the process, or are just too slow at what they do, you likely roll your eyes and wonder why they are doing what they are doing. We are all likely efficiency gurus because we know efficiency is essential to success.
And yet, we see far too many people who need to be more organized. Clearly, I’m wrong to assume that everyone thinks that keeping things organized allows you to meet deadlines and reduce stress because we see people who are not organized and not efficient every day.
Are you organized? Have you sat back and questioned how and why you work that way? In case you need a reminder or a new tip, here are my five quick and easy steps to stay organized to maximize your efficiency.
- Firstly, declutter your physical space. Remove any unnecessary items or papers that are taking up valuable space. If you aren’t using something daily, ask yourself if it needs to be on your desk. Look at the notes attached to walls and the piles of files or papers you want to sort through. Create designated areas for your documents and supplies, making them easily accessible when needed (closer for those you use daily). Use storage solutions such as shelves, filing cabinets, and desk organizers to keep everything in its place. Use colors so you can identify what you are looking at instantly. Empty doesn’t necessarily mean organized, so just putting things out of sight doesn’t mean you are organized, either. Ask yourself if it is decluttered and organized or just clean.
- Embrace digital organization. Utilize software and apps for file management, task tracking, and communication to streamline your work processes. You can reduce the amount of physical clutter and maximize collaboration and efficiency within your team by using organized and efficient communication channels (such as MS Teams). Email might be the easiest way to communicate for some, but it is the most efficient. (Check out some of our past Top 10 lists on my YouTube channel for suggestions XX).
- Create a daily routine for organizing your workspace. I typically spend the last five-ten minutes of the day getting ready for the next day. I work with people around the world in different time zones, and when I start my mornings, some of you are already at the end of your day. Getting organized at the end of the day allows me to start my day ready to go. My mornings are also predictable, which ensures that I can focus on the most important things at the most important times instead of what is on the top of the pile. I will get it all done, but I need to be organized and efficient to work on what I should be working on when I should be working on it.
- Create templates, automation, and guidelines. Some tasks we do routinely, and we commit the steps to memory; others are done sporadically, and we are slower to get them done as we remember what comes next. Take, for instance, the annual tasks you do at the end of the year. It is easy to forget the specific steps required from one year to the next. Instead of “figuring it out” each year, create a clear process map to complete the task quickly a year from now. For those tasks that are so routine you can do them in your sleep, create automation. Not only does that make you more efficient and organized, it cuts back on careless mistakes that we all make occasionally.
- One of the pieces of my consulting business I love the most is workflow optimization. I love to look at how an office runs to identify the bottlenecks or inefficiencies. It is fun to look at who does what and why with fresh eyes. You can easily do this by looking at the workflow of projects and tasks. Identify who is responsible for what and if there is a way to improve the process. Ask yourself, if you were designing the process, how would it be different, and why? Forget about “because that is the way it has always been done” or “they will never give up that task.” Instead, look at what you control and how you can make it better. There will be some processes you cannot change, but you can change how you work within the processes.
Doing these steps is simple, but that doesn’t mean they are easy. It isn’t a “one and done” approach to organization and efficiency either. Like you, I have done all these steps several times in the past, but I need to maintain them daily.