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The topic of efficiency, organization, and order is one that every team has to have at one point. I think the entire conversation can be summarized in one sentence: you know you are organized when you find a document that you haven’t opened for 30 days in less than 30 seconds. While that sounds simple enough, there’s more to efficiency than knowing how to organize your files. Being organized is a way of seeing, and doing things.

Let’s talk about that concept from the ground up: from organizing files and tasks to establishing a bodily rhythm, to prioritizing (long-term and short-term) goals, and decluttering physical and mental spaces.


Organising Files like a Pro

Let me ask you: how do you organize your files? Are you the type of person to needs to account for every file that you create, or are you the type to thrive on a system that other people might see as “cluttered”? Are you somewhere in the middle? The spectrum is broad, and no one way works for everyone. Whatever your personal style might be, the goal is efficiency. You shouldn’t be losing important files, nor wasting time trying to find the files that you need.

Start by setting up a functional naming convention that includes revisions and versions; if possible, this naming convention should include keywords that you can remember (ex., “idea” + “topic” + “date”). When it comes to creating folders and sub-folders, the sorting system that you use should mimic how you think. Do you think in terms of dates? Of topics? Of projects? Let how you think be your guide.

Keep in mind, though: there is such a thing as folder overload. Create a folder with a clear goal in mind. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to chuck the (well-named) file in a miscellaneous folder.


Quit Juggling Tasks– Handle Them Instead

While some people think that they’re at their most productive when juggling three or more tasks at the same time, studies have actually shown that multitasking negatively affects a person’s efficiency.

The answer is pretty matter-of-fact, you’re probably already taking advantage of it. Yes, I’m talking about the to-do list! Like filing organization styles, there are different to-do list styles for different people.

  • “Real Estate Queen” and Shark Tank Star Barbara Corcoran, for one, organizes her list in sections: calls she has to make, quick tasks she needs to accomplish during the day, and longer “power lists.”
  • Boston Beer Company founder Jim Koch, on the other hand, finds value in prioritization: he makes a list of three to five must-accomplish tasks and sets off to accomplish all of them before the day ends.
  • Jim McCann, the founder and CEO of Flowers.com uses a combination of both. He has three lists: a general to-do list, a projects list, and a long-term ideas list. He and his team assign and categorize ideas and tasks to these lists, and they review the lists together.

There are other types of lists out there. Whichever one suits your workflow, consider designing your to-do tasks as “if-then” statements. For example, “if it’s a Monday, I’ll start the day with an hour-long yoga session.” According to researchers, this technique specifies the action that needs to happen, and gives you a definite time frame within which you should take hold of the opportunity to tick it off the list. Those two concerns raise the possibility of the task actually being accomplished.


Giving Your Body the Routine It Craves

Studies have shown that stable schedules increase productivity. To be organized and productive, it pays to know yourself: when is your peak time? Throughout the workday, when do you have the most focus and energy to accomplish your tasks? Plan around your “peak time”, and make sure you include scheduled and timed breaktimes where you disconnect and give your mind and body the quick reset that it needs.

One of the most common ways to break down difficult and time-consuming tasks is the Pomodoro technique, a timer-based method that breaks down work into 25-minute intervals.


Fortifying the Mind

When you’re at the thick of completing a particularly complicated task, it’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Taking care of the daily goals and to-do’s is one thing, it’s another to remember where it figures in the grand scheme of things. What are your short-term and long-term goals, and how does this particular task fit into it?

Positive Psychology cites the questions that Make Success Measurable! A Mindbook For Setting Goals And Taking Actions author Doug Smith says every goal-setter should ask themselves:

  • How important is the goal for us?
  • How confident are we about reaching and accomplishing the goal?
  • How consistent is the goal with our core values and beliefs?

The answers to these questions should guide the tasks that you accomplish on a daily basis. This helps build the necessary resilience and positivity that would keep your morale high even in the face of particularly challenging days.


Clutter-Free Space = Clear Mind

As I have mentioned earlier, being organized is less a technique than a lifestyle. Everything around you should have a home. Organization guide Marie Kondo is probably the internet’s favorite guru when it comes to keeping a clutter-free space. In her bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she says, “The essence of effective storage is this: designate a spot for every last thing you own.”

Take a quick look at your work space. How many things in your desk have outlived their value? Don’t be afraid to get rid of them. The stuff that you’ve decided to keep — where do they belong? Important papers belong in folders or clear books, and pens should be inside an organized, easily-accessible holder. How about notebooks and pads? How many of those do you actually need on your desk right now?

This is especially poignant in this time in history, where every aspect of our lives: work, home, and personal has overlapped into one singular space. Once you’ve organized your desk, move on to other parts of your home.

According to Kondo, “From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.”

These tips are the ones that have worked for me. At the core of these tips is a singular idea: living a clutter-free, efficient life in service of the goals that bring me fulfillment and joy. Do you have an organizational tip to share? How do you keep your work and life organized? Share them in the comments section below!

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