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Organizing Skills

Organizing skills are really a combination of Time Management and Self-Motivation. However, the following steps are better suited to satisfy the definition of effective organization skills

Steps for Effective Organizing Skills

1. Be clear about what you need to do.

If you’re one of those people, like most of us, who struggles to remember just what you’ve agreed to do or what you wanted to do if you had enough time, then keep a list.

If one list is not enough, then keep several. Some people find that they work best with one single list, but others have a long-term ‘To Do’ list, supplemented by a daily ‘Tasks’ list. Others also have a list of jobs for the week as well. It’s a matter of preference whether you use paper or electronic lists.

2. Decide when you’re going to do it.

Research shows that our brains are hard-wired to worry about things that we haven’t done.

This is why you wake up in the night panicking about that piece of work you forgot. Interestingly, however, putting a job on a ‘To Do’ list and, crucially, deciding when you’re going to do it seems to be enough to switch off the bit of your brain that worries, at least until you’ve missed the slot you had identified.

3. Give yourself time and space.

Getting organised doesn’t happen by chance. You need to give yourself time to do it.

Take a bit of time each day to think about what you’ve got to do that day, and plan when you’re going to do it. It’s best to do this either at the beginning of the day, or at the end of the day for the next one. If you commute by train, you might find your journey is the ideal time to do this, but if not, just take 10 minutes when you first get into work, preferably away from your desk to avoid distractions.

If you struggle to find that time, schedule it into your diary. If your electronic calendar is public, make sure you describe it in a way that your colleagues won’t immediately identify as ‘time that can be used to come and talk to you’. For example, use initials, so that it looks like you’ve got a meeting, such as ‘DSW’, or ‘Do some work’, and ‘PMD’ or ‘Plan my day’. You know what it means, but nobody else will. And LEAVE YOUR DESK. Go and sit in the canteen, or a quiet corner of a meeting room, to avoid anyone talking to you, or the temptation to ‘just check your emails’.

See  Avoiding Distractions for tips and more information.

4. Decide what is important and what is urgent.

It is a delicate distinction, but everything can be separated into either urgent or not, and important or not.

Some things are both important and urgent. Others are neither. Have a look at the Prioritisation section of our Time Management page for more ideas about how to manage this.

5. Break down and delegate tasks.

Break tasks down into their component parts and consider whether you can delegate any of them.

Do you really need to do the whole task straight away? And do you really need to do parts of them? It can sometimes take as much time to delegate as to do the task, especially if it’s relatively quick to do, but could take a while to explain.  But if it’s relatively straightforward to explain, and simple but long-winded to do, it’s an ideal task for delegation.

Take a look at our Delegation Skills page to learn how to delegate without losing control. And, without procrastinating unnecessarily, consider whether you really need to do it today, or if there is something else that is more important or urgent that would be a better use of your time.

6. Don’t get frustrated by extra tasks.

We all know how it feels...

You’ve just spent 10 minutes organising yourself, and you get back to your desk to find an email from your boss telling you to drop everything and just finish a report that has suddenly become the most important and urgent issue in the world.

Don’t get cross or frustrated. At least you now know whether you have anything else on your list which can’t wait, and can negotiate extended deadlines for other work from an informed point of view!

7. Stay on top of things.

Especially when you’re very busy, it’s easy to let your daily organising session slip.

You just want to go home, or you really need to get on with something else. But it’s important to keep on top of your scheduling and organising, as otherwise everything gets in a real mess, and then it takes hours to untangle.

Organising Yourself or Organising Projects?

Most of what’s described here is about organising yourself, and keeping your work or life under control.

The same principles apply to organising anything, from a family through to a project or event.

Most crucially, taking time on a regular basis to think about what you’ve got to do and when, and in particular what’s time-limited, will really pay dividends.


What organizing yourself really means?

Organisation is what you get as a result of the decision you make about each item you have captured. As a result of organising, each item should end up in one of a very limited number of places e.g.

  • In your calendar if it is time or date specific

  • Filed appropriately if it is only for reference

  • On a someday/maybe list if it will be reviewed at an unspecified time in the future

  • In a tickler file or digital reminder if it needs to be reviewed on a specific date

  • On a project list if it is a project. The next task to be completed would be added to the appropriate task list

  • On an appropriate task list if it is a task to be completed in the near future

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