How to Stay Organized at Work When Life is Busy

For many of us, when things get crazy at work, our organizational skills take the backseat. We let ourselves get overwhelmed because we’re attempting to balance “all the things” at once. And so we tell ourselves, “I just don’t have time to worry about that right now.”

The problem with this tendency, however, is that it’s exactly when things get crazy that organization matters the most!

Why?

Because when we’re organized, we can approach each day, each project, and each task, with a sense of calm confidence. We’re able to get things done efficiently by staying on top of our projects and fending off the feeling of overwhelm.

But how can we stay organized at work and maintain that productive state? How can we keep the ship running smoothly when life gets busy?

Great questions, friend! Because that’s exactly what we’re diving into today.

Let’s do this!

How to Stay Organized at Work When Life is Busy

Follow a morning routine

How to stay organized at work

One of my favorite ways to stay organized is to follow a morning routine. As humans, we thrive on habits and what’s familiar, so when we create a consistent morning routine, we remove the guesswork from our busy morning and set ourselves up for success.

So take some time to create a morning routine that serves you. Leave space for activities – whether that’s journaling, exercise, savoring your cup of coffee, or all of the above – so you can start your day feeling calm, collected, and on top of your game.

When you do that, you’ll take everything else in stride.

Want more information? Check out my post on creating your morning routine here!

Keep a to-do list or use a project management program

I’ve been a to-do list fanatic for as long as I can remember. I always seem to have a running list of things to accomplish, and I’m constantly jotting down new ideas or projects I want to pursue.

While I’ve traditionally been a paper planner person (hello, alliteration!) I’ve recently started using ASANA, which is now my new favorite organizational tool.

What is ASANA you ask?

Great question!

ASANA is a project management system that keeps all of your tasks, projects, and ideas organized neatly in one place. Basically, it’s like your own personal assistant that reminds you when things are due. It helps you identify where you should put your focus for the days, weeks, and even months ahead.

If you haven’t checked out ASANA yet, I highly recommend it! It’s such a great tool to help you stay organized at work.

Do you prefer paper and pen? Totally cool! Keep that running list of tasks in your favorite planner or bullet journal so it’s always at the ready.

Create workflows

How to stay organized at work

Similar to your creating morning routine at home, establishing workflows is a great way to stay organized at work.

A workflow is basically a sequence of tasks that you follow in order to complete something from start to finish.

By knowing each step required in the process, you reduce the chances of oversight, which – let’s be honest – happens more often when we’re juggling many different tasks.

Plus, the beauty of workflows is that you can create them for virtually everything.

I have workflows for writing and publishing blog posts. I have workflows for writing lectures. And I have workflows for creating presentations. The options are really endless.

To give you an example that we’re all familiar with, consider a recipe. Because when you think about it, a recipe is a super specific workflow. You have a starting point. You follow a series of steps. And you have a final (delicious) end product, which results from following each step.

When you create workflows for the more complicated areas of your life, you remove the guesswork. This provides you with a feeling of ownership and control; you know you’re not overlooking anything, and the task will get done to your standards each time.

Batch your work

As I mentioned in my post last week, batching your work is a highly effective way to stay organized and get things done.

When you focus on one task for an extended period of time, it allows you to enter that flow state where you work as efficiently as possible.

For example, I often batch work writing my blog content. Similarly, I batch reading and writing emails in one 2-hour time slot rather than popping in and out of my inbox each day.

When I don’t batch my work, on the other hand, I often distract myself by bouncing from one task to the next. This practice not only wastes an incredible amount of time, but it also creates a sense of disorder.

So if you want to stay organized at work, then give batch-working a try. I think you’ll be pleased with the intense focus and control you gain in the process.

Embrace the one-minute rule

Ah, the one-minute rule, how I love this strategy. And if you’re a person who feels stressed by disorder, then I think you’re going to love it, too.

Why?

Because whether you’re trying to stay organized at work or at home, the one-minute rule is a simple strategy to help you keep on top of things.

Essentially, the strategy is this: if something needs to get done, and it will take 60 seconds or less, do it then.

Don’t hesitate. Don’t tell yourself you will do it later. And don’t ignore it.

Instead, take those few seconds and accomplish the task right then and there.

Now remember, I’m not talking about big tasks here. I am talking about the everyday things that you barely register while doing them.

Let’s think about your incoming mail, for example. Rather than letting the envelopes pile up on your desk, why not take a minute to open those 2-3 important pieces and recycle the junk right away? You’d have so much less paper clutter on your desk, plus it’s not weighing on your mind to do it later.

Similarly, if someone is waiting on a quick email that literally requires a yes or a no, send it off now and get it out of your inbox.

If you just take 60 seconds to tend to the task, you don’t have to remember to “do it later,” because you already did it. It’s checked off your list. And if that doesn’t create a feeling of organization, I don’t know what does!

Want to read more about the one minute rule? Check it out here!

Make sure everything has a place

Do you have items in your office or around the house that don’t really have a “home?”

You know what I’m talking about, right? You don’t quite know where to put these things, so instead, they float from one space to another and never feel “put away.”

If you can identify a few items that fit this description, then it’s time to create an official space for that item, my friend.

Because when you do, you’ll find it is so much easier to tidy up and put things away. What’s more, you’ll know exactly where to look the next time you need it.

My car keys are a great example of this; I didn’t have an official “space” to put my keys either at home or at work, so they just floated from one place to the next, and I often misplaced them.

Once I finally hung a hook at home and got a little dish for my office, however, that problem disappeared, and I now know exactly where my keys are at all times.

10 minute clean up at the end of the day

This is another simple practice, but it makes such a positive impact when you want to stay organized at work.

At the end of each day, reserve the last 10 minutes to tidy up your desk and put away your belongings.

When you return to work the next day, I think you’ll find it much easier to dive into your big projects with a clean, distraction-free space.

Say no to excess projects

How to stay organized at work - 10 tips!

It’s time for some real talk.

Is your calendar too busy? Are you feeling incredibly overwhelmed? If so, you may be overbooking yourself and saying “yes” far too much.

If this sounds like a possibility, I encourage you to check out my post Increase your Productivity by Saying No, and learn both how and when to say no with grace.

Use a shared calendar

Whether you use Google calendar, iCal, or some other online system, it’s a great idea to get your schedule online. This way, colleagues and/or family members know your schedule and won’t hassle you with requests when you’re already booked.

Remember, however, that you don’t need to make your specific agenda visible. Instead, you can just have the calendar marked “busy” during the times you’re booked. This way, you can block off sections of time for your own independent work and your calendar lets others know you’re busy at that time.

Time-block your day (and actually follow it)

Speaking of blocking off your time, if you want to stay organized at work, then make sure you create a schedule and actually follow it.

Block off your time throughout the day, and treat those blocks as non-negotiable deadlines.

Next, work as hard as you can in order to complete the task in the time allotted. Remind yourself that you can always go back and edit, tweak, and adjust as needed.

I’m telling you, the real secret to staying organized and on top of your to-do list is following your schedule no matter what.

So turn off those distractions, get focused, and get it done.

Want to learn more about the time blocking strategy? Check out my post here!

Then, be sure to download your own time-blocking templates to help you stay organized at work and crush each day’s goals.

snag your free time blocking templates now!

You got this!

Question:

How do you stay organized at work? What are your favorite strategies to keep everything in order? Share our tips below!

48 thoughts on “How to Stay Organized at Work When Life is Busy”

  1. These are such helpful tips! Not only for work but for anyone who just wants to stay organized in their personal life too. I find the easiest way to stay organized is by getting all work done by the end of the day, and making sure that everything has a place.

  2. These tips would have been really helpful in my last role as Assistant Nurse Manager…OMG. I was always burnt out & while I still followed some of your tips, I didn’t stick with it. I am now happily back on the nursing floor & will continue to follow a routine. It definitely helps start your day off right!

  3. I find that it is so important that I stay organized and on top of things, especially at work! Everything flows so much better and I am more efficient and relaxed! These are great tips.

    Kileen

  4. I have tried some of these techniques for a while and it really helped me be more productive. I need to get back to it though.

  5. I love the idea of the 10 minute clean up at the end of the day! I am so bad about piling stuff up and then having to take an hour to organize when I can’t stand the mess anymore. I am going to try to practice this at home and work!

    1. I hear you, Elease. If you can stick with the batching, however, it can really streamline your process. I am the same way about new ideas. I like to keep a notepad next to me when I work. That way, when those new ideas pop in my head, I can write them down and know I won’t forget 🙂

  6. Diane Pritchard

    I’m an administrative assistant who works for a company that takes care of special needs individuals so everything we do has to be by Medicaid standards which are very strict. I am so overwhelmed at work and while I love your suggestions, I don’t have permission to say no to anything I’m told to do., I have at least 10 or more people giving me projects to do daily, plus staff coming in and out daily needing paperwork and then I have to listen to everything that’s going on in our day program. I have charts to do for new clients coming in as well as their staff and for our AFLs (Assisted Family Living homes) they have 4 charts I need to make for them along with new training charts. I’m not given all the paperwork that I need and sometimes have to ask for it 3-4 times. I’m also supposed to keep track of all training dates as well as auto information that I also have to ask for. Plus I process all the safety drills for 3 offices for the Safety Committee. And if that isn’t enough, I’m going to HAVE to copy all receipts for our many AFL homes monthly. For clients, I have to keep up with all their medications and do umpteen forms for them. I also type all the provider plans and data sheets for each client who have different yearly plans. That’s just some of what I do and I’m tired!! I’m having trouble keeping track of the filing and can’t finish ONE thing entirely without being interrupted a dozen times and given another project and they keep dumping things on me. I’ve worked there 5 years and have never had a raise, either.. There is constant drama with people, too, that affects me. I’ve worked as a stenographer for the CA Dept of Education and a legal assistant for 10 years to 5 attorneys and was never as busy or frustrated as I am now.

    1. Oh my goodness, Diane. I am exhausted just reading this to-do list! It sounds like you’re doing the job of 5 different people; you’re Superwoman over there! Have you tried any kind of project management system like Asana or Trello? I love to use Asana for all of my different tasks because everything is online, color-coded, listed by the due date, and grouped into categories and projects. You can even share it with your team and assign duties to different people. Perhaps something like that might be helpful? There are tons of great Asana tutorials on YouTube that do a great job of describing how the tool can help keep all of those tasks organized.

  7. Did you write this specifically for me?! Haha I have been so busy at work lately! I recently started to implement the one minute rule and it has really helped.

  8. Hi, You really provided a lot of great ideas! I tend no to batch my work and I probably should! I also like the idea of the 1 minute rule to get the quick stuff out of the way, and the 10 minute end of day clean up! Thanks for the informative post! Melissa Damiani | Gratitude Grace Glamour

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