Last Updated on March 13, 2023 by Anneke Schmidt, PhD
Organizational skills are the practices and techniques you use to increase efficiency and productivity in your daily tasks. You might have heard the phrase, “Discipline creates freedom,” and that’s exactly what organizational skills promote. By staying organized at work and home, you’re better able to manage your schedule. As a result, this opens up more time for rest, play, and doing the things you truly want to do.
As an educational researcher and content writer, I’m always looking for proven methods to improve my organizational skills. I know that when I prioritize staying organized, I feel calmer and better equipped to tackle the day ahead, no matter what I have on my to-do list.
Are you interested in learning how to improve your organizational skills? Continue reading for eleven practical tips to become more organized in your daily life.
#1 – Declutter Your Space
Creating organized work and living spaces is an essential step to becoming more organized and productive. A study by researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that when an individual perceives clutter around them, their ability to focus decreases. In contrast, after clearing this clutter, individuals were more focused and productive.
So how do you start decluttering? I find it helpful to use Organizing Consultant Marie Kondo’s words as a starting point: “The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” Carry these words with you as you begin to clear out your work and living spaces. When you’re unsure whether to throw out an item, ask yourself: does this item represent the person I was or the person I’m becoming?
Use file folders, desk organizers, and storage bins to store objects and files. (But make sure not to buy more than you need, or the containers themselves will become clutter.) And remember that labels are your organizational best friend!
#2 – Identify and Set Realistic Goals
Identifying your goals is one of the first steps to becoming more organized. By setting realistic goals, you can prioritize tasks to meet your objectives.
To start, break down your goals by time: yearly, monthly, and even weekly. You can also separate them into categories, such as Career, Financial, Family, Personal, and Health & Fitness. You might even use an app such as Visuapp to create a vision board that will help you visualize your goals.
Remember that not all goals have to be productive. For instance, you might set a goal for more family time in the evenings. Having this goal will motivate you to manage your time better during the day.
#3 – Schedule Tasks and Keep Your Deadlines
Once you know your goals, make sure to schedule tasks to ensure you meet deadlines and stay on target. When scheduling tasks, start with the most time-sensitive ones first. You might even implement a “no-phone” rule when completing these tasks to reduce distractions.
To know how much time you can realistically dedicate to tasks, make sure to schedule in weekly errands such as grocery shopping. And don’t forget to include goals that may not have a deadline but are important to your long-term objectives. For instance, if you have a goal to meet with a health coach or learn a new language, block out time for these activities. By scheduling them into your calendar, they become less likely to get buried beneath the demands of daily life.
And finally, don’t forget to schedule time for self-care. Guard your self-care time with as much vehemence as you do with work tasks.
#4 – Work On Time-Management Skills
Time management is the practice of organizing and dividing your time between specific tasks in order to increase efficiency. When you manage your time effectively, you don’t just become more productive; you create more free time in your day to spend with loved ones and do the things that bring you joy.
A necessary component in time management is the ability to prioritize based on urgency and significance. To rank tasks in order of importance, you can assign them labels such as High, Medium, and Low or use a color-coding system.
Are you looking for help to improve your time management? Here are a couple of apps you may like:
- RescueTime is a time-tracking app that tracks how much time you spend on various apps and websites. Using this data, it tracks your productivity and gives you a daily productivity score. It also provides you with features such as goal-setting tools and even the ability to block access to distracting websites.
- Qbserve keeps track of everything you do on your Mac device, tracks your productivity, and gives you real-time feedback on your performance.
#5 – Create Checklists for Daily Tasks
Keeping a checklist can be an especially useful tactic when your to-do list becomes overwhelming. By writing down these items, you gain a sense of control over them. It also becomes easier to prioritize tasks.
While it’s always good practice to do your highest priority items first, you might find it helpful to complete a simple task at the beginning of the day. Completing this simple task will give you a feeling of accomplishment and help you to stay motivated to complete the next item on the list.
If you’re looking for a mobile checklist, Google Keep is an easy-to-use app that allows you to make lists, check off items, and even share your lists with other Google accounts. If you like to write down your tasks the old-fashioned way, you can use a notebook or purchase a simple checklist from Amazon.
#6 – Take a Small-Step Approach to Big Projects
Do you ever get so overwhelmed by looming projects that you avoid starting them at all? If this sounds familiar, it might help to divide your project into several smaller tasks. Create a plan to complete one small task a day until the project is complete. You might even purchase a notebook or planner specifically for this purpose. Every morning, write down the sentence, “One small step I will take today is . . .” Finish this sentence by writing down a task that you know you can complete.
This may seem like a slow approach to project management, but consider that in a week’s time, you’ll be seven steps ahead of where you were today. Those steps add up quickly!
#7 – Use Planners and Calendars
To increase productivity, reduce stress, and better manage your time, use a daily planner to track your tasks and monitor your weekly schedule. A daily planner allows you to be more intentional with how you spend your time. In your planner, you can incorporate daily, weekly, and monthly schedules; checklists; random notes and ideas; big-picture goals; and more.
If you’re looking for a physical planner, Anecdote offers a multifaceted planner that allows you to write down your daily priorities and to-do list, map out your weekly plan, and even set yearly goals.
If you prefer a digital calendar, Google Calendar allows you to easily view your schedule, set reminders, and share your calendar with others. Looking for something a little different? You may like the clean, flexible interface of ZenDay, which allows for color-coding tasks and offers a beautiful, flowing timeline.
#8 – Use Management and Organizational Software
While becoming more organized may seem like a really big task, you don’t have to do it alone. There are plenty of helpful apps that will lift some of your burdens by making project management easier. Don’t be afraid to try a few out to find the one that best fits your needs. (And be sure to take advantage of the free trial period most paid apps offer!)
Here are a few tools that can help you with organization and project management:
- Trello is a digital bulletin board that allows you to manage projects, collaborate, and increase your productivity.
- Decluttering your digital files is just as important as your physical ones. Dropbox allows you to store and share pictures, documents, videos, and more.
- Todoist allows you to see everything you have on the schedule for the day as well as to organize, prioritize, and delegate tasks.
#9 – Collaborate With Others
Collaboration can be an overlooked organizational skill in both the office and the home. Not only will it allow you to complete tasks more efficiently, but by getting an outside perspective, you might gain new tools and strategies to become more productive.
Collaboration isn’t only reserved for the office. When you collaborate in the home, you not only save time, but you get to spend extra time with loved ones. Painting a bedroom? Ask a partner, child, or friend to help! Not only will they give you a much-needed second opinion, but you’ll gain some valuable quality time. And let’s be honest: it’ll be a lot more fun, too.
#10 – Delegate and Outsource Work
One of the fastest ways to lose your sense of organization is by burying yourself under too much work. That’s why knowing how to delegate work is key to staying organized, both personally and professionally.
Delegation is the transfer of a task from yourself to another person. To begin delegating work, first look at your task list and decide which of the items can be delegated. Identify the best person for the job, and clearly communicate all instructions as well as your desired outcome.
In some cases, work may need to be outsourced. To outsource means to contract work to an individual or group outside of the organization. But remember, this doesn’t only apply to the office. You can outsource weekly tasks like yard work or house cleaning. By delegating and outsourcing work, you create more time for doing the things you truly want to do.
#11 – Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Just because this is the last item on the list doesn’t mean it’s the least important. On the contrary, this is one of the most important organizational skills you can cultivate for long-term success and happiness.
A work-life balance means finding a peaceful, steady equilibrium between work demands and personal fulfillment. It also means understanding that there may be weeks during which you need to work a little bit more, but you’re able to balance that with vacations and rest.
When you have a healthy work-life balance, you’re less susceptible to feelings of overwhelm and stress. This allows you to remain more organized in your daily life.
The Bottom Line
Improving your organizational skills will go a long way to increasing productivity, decreasing stress, and promoting an overall sense of calm in your daily world. It will also help you to better manage your time, allowing you to spend more time with loved ones and do the things that truly light up your heart.
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