I have never been one of those people that has their life completely put together. I forget things, I am pretty messy, and I am a bit ADD. I love doing new things and can get myself a little overscheduled and overwhelmed at times!
Over the years I have found that one of the biggest keys to success is organization and follow through. Did you prioritize what needed to get done and then did you actually get those things accomplished? I will probably always forget little things here and there, but these tips have helped me appear pretty organized, particularly at work!
Confession - I do fall short from time to time in the personal schedule arena. I totally set the wrong alarm for my daughter's cheerleading competition this weekend! Oops!
Get Out of the Cycle
For many years I went from one thing to another without really thinking about it. I worked quickly and got a ton of stuff done every day. Due to my short attention span and curiousity my workload quickly grew and I found myself working ALL THE TIME. Weekends, at night, waking up in the middle of the night because I remembered I needed to send an email. It was no way to live.
Eventually I realized that I had to change the way I worked. Instead of firing up Outlook at the start of the day like I had always done, letting other people dictate my day, I learned I needed to make a task list. What are the three things that I absolutely need to get done to make today a success?
After I made that list, I would scan my email for anything that was both needed immediately and from my manager. Anything else could wait until I had my tasks completed.
Organize Work Relationships
I got a wake up call in 2014 when my manager at the time gave me some feedback from a manager in New York. She felt I was unresponsive. I went on to explain to my manager why I couldn't respond to everyone on her team in the expected time frame. I was doing three people's jobs. She had joined the company about three months prior and had no idea of the history.
She gave me a valuable insight that day. I have to manage up. I was crazy busy and getting a ton done, but I wasn't focused on the right people. Not only that but I needed to prioritize the day to get the most important things done first. Anything else would need to wait.
I also learned that I have to speak up. No one cared that I had too much on my plate. They assumed that I could handle it since I hadn't said anything. The only person who is concerned about you, is you. Sure, great managers will support you and mentor you but you are responsible for your career.
One aspect of the task list I started making, was who the task was for. Maybe I thought the task my manager or another senior person gave me wasn't as important as the task my peer asked me to help with. You need to prioritize the manager's ask first. Always confirm when they need it completed so you can plan your day.
Quit Working on Other People's Priorities
I had a really bad habit of helping everyone with their work. Helping, especially hiring level peers, is a great way to up your skills and get noticed, but not if you aren't able to get your other priorities done. You need to be ruthless with your time. If you haven't completed your priorities or the day, you don't have the bandwidth to help your peers.
You will notice I said PEERS. If your manager or another high level manager asks you for your help, you need to find a way to help. These are the people who will help your career and propel you to your next step. I am in no way saying you shouldn't help your team, but you need to put yourself and your priorities first.
If your work friend wants to ask you a question but you are in the zone with another project, let them know you can talk when you are done working on this. Say it nicely, with a smile but stay focused on your priorities.
Turn off all email alerts please. You don't need to be distracted by Outlook letting you know an email came in. Check your email at regular intervals to make sure nothing important AND urgent came in. Sometimes things that are urgent but not important can be resolved by other people. You will likely come back to "Oh I actually was able to figure it out!" when you respond after your task list is done.
Being self aware is so powerful! For example, I know that I am not great with remembering things. Because of this, I schedule everything. I also kind of stink at estimating time. So I plan drive time and blocks throughout my schedule. This way when something inevitably takes longer than I thought, I have time built in my day to make it up.
If you are someone who frequently forgets to take a lunch because you get overscheduled, build in a block for lunch everyday. I am a huge proponent for leaving the office everyday. Even if you eat lunch at your desk while working, get outside for 30 minutes. It's essential for your brain to get a break.
This goes for starting your day too. If you regularly feel stressed in the morning because you are running late, analyze your routine. Where can you improve it to make it more efficient? Can you get up earlier? Stay off social media so you don't lose track of time? Do some prep tasks the night before (prepare coffee, make lunches, lay out clothes, etc). Saving 5 minutes here and there can really add up. Planning your morning to make it stress free is essential to starting your day off right!
What areas can you review to make your day more organized? I have found that I regularly have to review this. I start to fall in one area or another and have to see what's going on. Make adjustments as you need to and you will start to see yourself a lot more organized!