Let’s face it… staying organized in school and staying organized at work aren’t the same thing. Yes, you had multiple classes to balance, but now you have stakeholders in your work. Even if you have a job where you only deal with coworkers, you still have to think of them as your customer and ensure they are pleased with the results you serve them.
So how do you handle staying organized while you’re at work? And more importantly, how do you maintain a work/life balance? It’s all about staying on top of your priorities, making sure it’s all clearly laid out for you, and to know when to look at the bigger picture and when to break it down and look at the smaller tasks.
I compiled a list of helpful bullets that will assist you!
Weekly Task List and Planning
- Arrive 10-15 minutes early every Monday so you have extra time to get organized for the week and ensure you’re ready for upcoming meetings and deadlines.
- First thing every Monday, after I make coffee of course, I fill out my planner for the week so all my meetings and to-dos are in one place.
- I use the Erin Condren Life Planner (use that link to sign up and receive 10% off your first purchase!) I love the different spreads they offer (hourly, horizontal, or vertical) because you can pick whichever one works best for you! I have the vertical planner in the neutral color palette and use the top box as morning, the middle box as afternoon, and bottom box as evening.
- I put all my to-dos for the week on the sidebar and my appointments and meetings on the weekly spread. If there’s a task that needs to be done at a certain time or on a specific day, I create a little check box and put that task directly in the corresponding day.
- If you don’t want to use a planner, I recommend using a piece of paper or a new page in a notebook to write your weekly tasks out… just make sure you only put down actionable items you can work on in the upcoming week.
- If you have a long-term project, break it up into smaller action items and only include the items you’ll complete this week, otherwise the huge projects will clutter up your weekly task list, and you don’t want to accidentally miss the smaller tasks because you’re focusing on the overall picture when you don’t need to.
- Also on your to-do list for the week, you can put a star at the bottom of the page and list any big meetings or events you have that week. For example, if you’re going to be working from home or leaving early one day, put it there to remember to share it with your team and let them know. My team has a Monday morning “huddle” and we all go around and share our tasks for the week, see if there are tasks we need help with from other team members, share any big meetings or trainings we have, and share if any of us will be out or leaving early, so this comes in handy for me.
- The only reason you should have any file on your desktop is if you’re actively working on it and need it front of mind. Otherwise, get it off your desktop and into a folder!
- I repeat: as soon as it’s complete, move it into a folder, or into SharePoint, or Google Drive, or whatever cloud platform your company uses.
- If your company doesn’t utilize a cloud platform to back up files, I recommend you create a Google Drive account for yourself and save your files on there so you never have to worry about losing anything and you can access them from anywhere.
- Keep your folders organized. Whenever you have down time, go through and make sure everything is cleaned up and in the right folder.
- Again, folders always come in handy! Use your email folders. This is such a small thing you can do to make your life easier — do not keep everything in your inbox!
- I keep active tasks in my inbox and then once it’s complete, I move it into the appropriate folder.
- If your organization uses Outlook, you should take advantage of its date/flagging feature. Right click on an item and go to follow up, then select the date you need to work on that task or take action on the email. You can also set a reminder that will go off in Outlook for a time and date you set. Super helpful… use this feature! 🙂
- I use OneNote for all my meeting notes because it syncs with SharePoint and makes my life so much easier.
- You can make separate notebooks for different areas of the business you are involved with. For example, I have a notebook for Marketing Automation (my team), Search & Paid Media (the team I’m a liaison for and support on a daily basis), Customer Marketing, etc.
- Then, within each “notebook,” you can create separate pages and even make sections and dividers if you wish. As an example, say you’re planning an event as part of your job responsibility. You might have a notebook called Event Planning, then a section called “Holiday Party” and then separate pages of notes pertaining to different aspects of the event that you’re working on such as potential venues, general meeting notes related to the party plan, etc.
- This can all sync automatically to SharePoint if your company uses that, so you won’t have to stress over losing your notes!
- If you don’t have SharePoint, I recommend checking out Evernote for personal note keeping. I used it at my last company instead of OneNote and everything saves automatically and you can access your notes anywhere! It also has a simple, user-friendly interface.
- OneNote also works with Outlook, so you can set a reminder on a note and a reminder will go off in Outlook to check that note again or just create action items off of it.
- Color-code your calendar to make your life easier when you look at your week at a glance on your computer.
- If you use Outlook, you can go to categories at the top and set categories.
- Some categories I have: Meetings, Events, Tasks (I’ll get into that in a second), OOO/PTO, Lunch, Trainings, Holidays.
- You can right click each calendar event and change the category. Having it color-coded helps me see my week at a glance in a more visual way so I know if I have a lot going on and whether it’s all meetings or whether it’s a lot of tasks and things to get done.
- Block time off on your calendar for tasks:
- If you have a bigger project, you will need to break up the project into smaller pieces. Block off free time on your calendar to work on it so you can stay on track. For example, I build and send our marketing newsletter each month. I’ll block off time on my calendar – whether it’s a half hour or two hours, it doesn’t matter – and categorize it as a task then write what task needs to be done. I can block off a half hour to plan the content I want to run in the newsletter for the month, then a week later, I can block off 10 minutes to submit the design request to our graphic design team, then a week later, set aside an hour to build out the email template, etc.
- Put deadlines on your calendar if you need extra reminders or the deadline is further out.
- Unless it’s mandatory, don’t put your work email on your phone. It’ll cause additional stress and will get you in the habit of checking your work email when you’re supposed to be home with your family or out with your friends.
- You can have the calendar on there so you know what meetings you have for the following day, but try to keep your emails off your phone to ensure work/life balance.
- Keep a separate to-do list for your personal life. I used to combine them, and that works for a lot of people, but I found that my entire life would evolve around work tasks and sometimes I’d go on my to-do app just to see what errands I needed to run or to add something to my grocery list, then I’d see my work tasks and get stressed about stuff I didn’t even need to worry about yet because I wasn’t in the office. Again, work/life balance is key.
- I use the paper planner at work and leave it at my desk, so that’s why I like to use a reminders app on my phone to keep work and personal taks separate. I’ll do another post on how I organize my tasks and calendar outside of work, but here’s a little helpful snippet if you’re in search of how to organize tasks on your phone:
- Some good to-do apps I recommend you check out: 2Do, Todoist, Omnifocus (I could do a whole post on how to set up Omnifocus… it’s great for power users with a LOT of tasks and projects!), or just Apple Reminders is great, too! These are all great apps and I’ll review them in further detail in another post if any of you are interested!