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Organizing Is Time Well Spent

I’m not one to set forth a New Year’s resolution; however, in 2023 I do hope to do more organizing at home and in the office. Merriam-Webster defines the verb “organize” as “to form into a coherent unity or functioning whole” and “to set up an administrative structure” or “arrange by systematic planning.” 

The concept of organization impacting functioning levels and systems allows for a broader understanding of the role that being organized has in the office (or home office). 

In general, when I think of organization, I think of grouping or eliminating things (filing papers or donating used clothing, for example). 

Organization in the workplace not only involves our workspaces and items, but also involves the organization of our time, thoughts and future planning. In an article from The Muse, the author states: “Organization skills are what help you use your time, resources, energy and mental bandwidth efficiently to achieve your goals and get your job done with less stress.”

Regardless of your specific job, most of us want to be able to do our work well and efficiently. In turn, employers value workers who are productive and capable of structuring their time well. 

How Can Organization Help?

For many of us, the main motivator for becoming more organized is to not only do better but to feel better. Not only do we want to be able to accomplish goals, we want to feel good while checking off the to-do list. 

Studies have shown that individuals who describe their spaces as disorganized tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. One of the many reasons that a lack of organization contributes to more stress is likely because when we look around and see chaos, we see a bunch of things to do (more demands). 

Disorganization also creates more stress because it is harder to get things accomplished when we can’t find what we need to complete tasks or there are too many distractions! 

As I’m working on this article, I look around my desk and see two staplers, one of which is dusty and unused and has no staples! That item is a visual distractor and takes up time when I go to use it and have to look elsewhere for something that functions better. 

A Wall Street Journal article stated that executives can waste as much as six weeks each year searching for “misplaced information and files.” Organization = time well spent and time well spent = less stress. 

3 Areas to Better Organize in Your Life:

1. Organize Your Schedule

Take a few minutes before the start of each day to think about which tasks need to be accomplished.

  • Write or type a list of those items or insert the tasks into a visible calendar.
  • Break down tasks into smaller steps—for example, if the task is to write an article, steps might include brainstorming ideas, researching the topic and writing and proofreading the article. 
  • A calendar can list tasks at certain times of the day, ensuring the tasks are not overlooked and time is not wasted (e.g. 8-8:15 am brainstorm topics, 8:15-9 am research topics, 9-10am write article, etc.).
  • Experts recommend scheduling more difficult tasks for times in the day in which one generally feels the most energetic and productive. If the afternoon tends to result in feelings of drowsiness, that might be a good time in the day to respond to emails and schedule meetings. 
  • If there are big projects with further out deadlines, scheduling time for the beginning stages of the project can make the end goal less overwhelming. 

2. Organize Your Digital World

This is a good reminder for me, as I have 47,580 emails in my personal Gmail inbox! Organizing your digital items allows you to access material more easily and efficiently and also reduces visual digital clutter. 

  • Create folders in your workplace email to file emails according to categories and delete emails that are no longer needed. 
  • Organize your desktop by removing unnecessary items and making resources that are used often easy to access (bookmark links or making often-used icons front and center). 

3. Organize Your Physical Work Space

Organized work spaces create areas that feel calm and clutter-free. When we arrive at an organized workspace, we can get right to our tasks rather than become preoccupied with the mess. 

  • It can be helpful to schedule 5-10 minutes at the end of each day (and put it in your calendar) for tidying up. 
  • In order for organization to be efficient, create labeled folders and drawers for filing and return items to where they belong. 
  • Look around your space and get rid of items that are not useful and put items that are useful in spaces that are easy to access. 
  • It’s recommended to keep no more than three personal items on your desk and these items should either be useful (hand lotion) or motivating (a family picture).
  • If organizing feels daunting, start small by looking around and finding one type of object to organize, such as books, pens or loose papers. Find a “home” for each item and donate/throw away/recycle as needed. 

Remember that organizing your workspace is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing process. Happy New Year and Happy Organizing!

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