Staying organized is a never-ending task, but when trying to find ways to stay organized when you're super busy, it seems like the difficulty level gets bumped up a notch. When you have deadlines looming and projects piling up, it seems like chaos is nipping right at your heels. Papers start cluttering your desk, folders are thrown willy nilly, you have pens behind your ear and in your hair. Trying to stay on top of it all seems near impossible. And the more hectic your workspace and the more messy your to-do list, the more stressed you become.
So what's a quick fix to nix any unnecessary anxiety? Well, you need an organizational battle plan, and one that's easy to follow. You can't rely on complex systems and clever tips during a time like this; you need something that's quick, efficient, and easy to do even as you're juggling a bunch of different balls in the air.
As you’re pulled in a hundred different directions, try out these simple tricks and tips that will not only keep you on track and feeling on top of your busy schedule, but are easy to make a part of your regular routine. Follow these tips and you just might become that rare bird that keeps her inbox tidy and her desk not looking like it went through the third world war. Here are seven tips on how to stay organized when your schedule is crazy busy.
1. Create A To-Do List
Whether it's in your planner or on a piece of scrap paper, before you start your day, create a detailed to-do list of everything you need to accomplish. That way you're not relying on yourself to remember and you have one less thing to keep organized. According to David W. Ballard, the assistant executive director for the American Psychological Association in an article for the Huffington Post, "We spend a lot of mental energy trying to keep track of all the things we need to remember." Don't waste brain power on trying to keep track of everything that needs to get done that week — just write it down and nothing will slip through the cracks.
2. Keep An Inbox — And Prioritize It
If you're working on a couple of projects on one given day, you're going to need a designated spot on your desk to keep them all on track. But how exactly do you stay on top of deadlines and keep the chaos that is paper down to a minimum? You're going to want to stack with purpose. According to Janet Luhrs, author of The Simple Living Guide in an article for job search site Monster, "Have a dedicated basket or small shelf for pending projects, and stack them in order of deadline. If the deadline isn't today, create a second file — not on your desk — for items that are due later in the week." If all your projects are organized from most time sensitive to least, you'll trust that you're getting everything done that you need to, and not worry that something will slip through without you noticing.
3. Find A Pattern To Your Work Flow
Our brains are hardwired to love routine, so even if things feel chaotic and in a constant tailspin, there's actually a pattern somewhere in there. Open up your calendar and find it: See how your Friday to Sunday shapes up. Are Mondays and Tuesdays relatively slow, and then you're barely keeping your head above water come Thursday? Or do you usually have a big lull on Wednesday, but then are scrambling to tie up loose ends by Saturday?
Notice where the eyes of the storm are and when things really speed up, and then spread out your work accordingly. According to Missy Bedell at The SITS Girls, a lifestyle site for bloggers, "If you have something big that’s due, block out the time during a less busy part of your week. If you know that by Friday, you’re not going to have a minute to breathe, then plan to have all of your work done before Friday."
By organizing ahead this way, you can cut down on the all-nighters and late deadlines.
4. Don't Let Things Pile Up
When you're going in ten different directions, it can be tempting to stay focused on the task at hand and let everything else take a back-burner until you're done. But if you can tidy something in two minutes or less, it's a huge help if you do it then and there rather than putting it off.
According to Jamie Novak, author of 1,000 Best Quick and Easy Organizing Secrets in an article for Monster, “If you can do a task in two minutes or less, you must do it right then. File that one folder instead of making a pile to be filed later. Spend five minutes at the end of the day wrapping up, putting away things you used during the day and pulling items you’ll need for the next day." Doing little steps like that to keep things in order goes a long way in keeping you organized, especially when you're swamped. It keeps the chaos down to a minimum.
5. Break Up Intimidating Tasks
Sometimes when we come across a big project or a heavy workload, we fall back on procrastination mode and just pretend it's not on our to-do list. To keep yourself on track and organized, break up that scary-big project into smaller, more manageable tasks. According to Patty Olsen, senior project manager at The Vandiver Group, a successful PR firm, "Break down the more challenging projects into smaller tasks. This will help you focus on what’s important and which items can be delegated to improve the workflow."
If you see that you have a big presentation due in a couple of days, it seems a lot less intimidating if you schedule research for today, creating a slideshow for tomorrow, and finding graphics for the day after. By breaking up big tasks into small pieces, you fight off the urge to procrastinate and keep your workflow on track.
6. Make Sure Everything Has A Home
When we get a super busy work week and are slammed with nearing deadlines, keeping our desk tidy is the last thing on our minds. But if everything on our desk has a home, there'd be no reason to not put it back into its proper place. Think about it: If you have no cups to capture your pens, no sticky notes to jot notes on, no trays to separate to-dos and do-laters, where else are you going to put it?
According to Toni Hammersley at HGTV, "Store all your office supplies in containers, drawers, baskets and bins. Putting all these supplies out of sight will give your office a decluttered look." So run to Target and treat yourself to a few cute organizational trays and bins. Make sure everything on your desk has a proper home, and you'll keep that instinct to clutter when you're busy at bay.
7. Don't Be Scared To Purge
Whenever I feel myself getting extra messy, I always shake it down to the same conclusion: I have too much stuff. Keep yourself organized by keeping the unnecessary clutter down to a minimum; don't be afraid to throw stuff away.
Especially when you're super busy, the less clutter in your way the less you'll have to worry about keeping tidy. According to Royale Scuderi at Lifehack, "De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Look around. What haven’t you used in a while? Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you’ll actually need it, out it goes." Be ruthless — don't just pack things away to sort through later. The less you have underfoot, the less you'll need to tidy.
Organizing your life seems impossible, but sometimes it's the smallest steps that make the biggest difference in the end. Stick with good habits and you'll find it gets you farther than you could have imagined.