Organizing has been part of my life since I was young. I’ll spare you the in-depth details that speak to the extent of my passion for organization, but I will say this: I grew up thinking the job of a professional organizer would be very interesting, and that should tell you something.
Related: Creating a Three-Step Workflow for Organizing Your Content
I firmly believe a person’s ability to stay organized directly correlates to their ability to achieve their goals.
Over the years, I’ve adopted some personal productivity strategies in order to keep myself organized, focused, and balanced with all of the demands that life throws my way. My hope is you can use one or more of these tips in your own life to help you achieve your personal or professional goals.
Schedule time for your top priorities
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote rings true here. Whether it’s getting to one of your child’s activities, attending a class at the gym, or ensuring you have time to work on your next performance review, put it on your calendar and you are more likely to actually follow-through. By having the priority booked on your calendar, you are now in control of whether you allow items to interfere not.
I like to leverage a monthly planning cadence, where the last week of the month I look forward to the month ahead to make sure any key personal items are accounted for on both my work and family calendars, and I have the appropriate amount of time planned toward priority initiatives and tasks.
A weekly review on Friday or Monday is also a good idea to keep your week in check. Pick a cadence that works for you, but recognize that as new changes are introduced to your life (home and work), you might need to do a bigger reset and re-evaluation of your schedule. (Helpful hint: plan time on your calendar to perform these reviews!)
Identify routine tasks
Perhaps one of the easiest steps you can take is to identify and block out time to complete recurring tasks. Filling out a timesheet, doing an expense report, or even running or creating a weekly status report—all of these tasks are things that can likely be easily moved if a conflict arises, but they’re also probably important enough to keep on your schedule. Having these tasks scheduled will declutter your mind from trying to remember to perform the task each week. Depending on how you leverage your task list, times for completing tasks could even be planned onto your calendar!
Understanding your points of stress can be your starting point for deciding how to better address them.
Evaluate points of stress
Do you find yourself stuck in back-to-back meetings until 5 p.m. only to come out with an inbox full of things to address before wrapping up your day? Or maybe you find yourself so busy that you frequently miss lunch? These are the types of pressure points you can evaluate and plan for.
Block out your calendar on Monday morning for an hour to review your calendar and get your plan together for the week. If you have a standing meeting that you can’t avoid, blocking off 30 minutes right after that meeting so you can get your bearings could be a good step. Block off your time for lunch so you can eat and get caught up on your emails after a morning of meetings. At minimum, understanding your points of stress can be your starting point for deciding how to better address them.
There are a ton of great personal productivity tools and resources with tips on how to help you stay organized, from podcasts and books to blogs and websites (I recommend The Productivity Show). Just keep in mind there is no one-size-fits-all approach, because everyone’s life, situation, and style are unique. Consider these tips a tool belt, and use the tools that make the most sense for you.
Most importantly, find a rhythm, cadence, and system that works for you—and don’t be afraid to adjust as life throws new activities or demands your way!