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Nothing hurts your productivity more than being disorganized. For busy business women, staying organized is key to not just getting everything on our never-ending To Do lists done but it’s also essential to keeping our stress levels down.
Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to stay organized no matter how long that To Do list gets. Here are five of the easiest ways I’ve found to do it as the owner of two companies, founder of an award-winning blog, and mother of triplets. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you!
1. Color Code
If you’re like me, then you have wonderful intentions of putting every manila folder into your filing cabinet when you’re done using it. And if you’re like me, the stacks of manila folders keep getting higher on your desk because taking the extra 10 seconds to walk to the file cabinet to properly store that folder you just used is 10 seconds too many.
I work best in chunks of time and spurts of tasks. If I’m focused on writing, then stopping to put a folder away messes up my groove. Instead, I’ll set aside a chunk of time each week to clear the folders I’m not using off of my desk. I realized that in between the clean ups, it was taking too much time to sift through all of the folders on my desk to find the one I needed at any given moment in time. That is until I started color coding.
I’m a cheapskate, so buying colored folders, which are pricier than manila folders, was very uncomfortable for me. However, I did it for the greater good of my efficiency level (and sanity). Projects that I work on a lot get their own colors. Since I know I’ll use those folders frequently, it’s easier to find them in the stack when I need them!
2. Get the Right Bag
As the mother of triplets, I’ve learned to travel light. You can’t carry a lot when you have three kids’ hands to hold. Yes, my kids are older now, so I don’t have to hold their hands. However, old habits die hard. If it doesn’t fit in my pocket, I don’t want to take it with me. Unfortunately, the pockets on women’s clothes are Lilliputian. Ultimately, I found myself constantly fumbling in my pockets, taking out multiple items, just to find what I needed.
When I admitted to myself that my disdain for carrying things was actually hurting my productivity, I set out to find the right bag to meet my needs, and what a difference it has made! For me, its essential that the bag has lots of pockets and sleeves for everything I need to carry – things like a dedicated laptop/tablet sleeve, pockets for my cell phone and glasses, and a clip for my keys so they’re easy to grab quickly are great features. There are so many kinds of business bags, so think about how you’ll use yours every day before you make a purchase.
3. Use an Easily Accessible Calendar
I’m an 80s girl, so a part of me will always prefer to write things down and read things via hard copies. However, when it comes to being at the right place at the right time, there’s a better way. After forgetting about one too many conference calls, I finally admitted that I needed to give myself reminders when appointments were coming. I simply have too much going on to remember everything all the time!
To solve this problem, I got a calendar that synchs with my desktop and mobile devices. I use Gmail with Google Calendar, but there are many calendar apps that you can download to your smartphone and use on your desktop as well. Set notifications so you’re audibly reminded 10 minutes before each appointment.
When you get deep into a project, it’s so easy to lose track of time. I can’t tell you how many times that little chime reminder on my phone has ensured that I pick my kids up from school on time! Let’s not talk about the two times I forgot to pick them up before I started using those audible notifications. It’s seven years later, and my kids still remind me about it, but in my defense, kids get out of school an hour early in Florida on Wednesdays. I grew up in New Jersey where this early release thing didn’t happen. It took me a long time to get used to it. They’re in the seventh grade, and I’m still not used to it! In fact, that little reminder chime will be going off in about an hour and a half, but I digress.
4. Use a To Do List that Actually Works for You
Without To Do lists, I’d forget everything. Before I had my children, I remembered everything. I didn’t even have to write things down to remember them. Now, I have to write it down or it’s forgotten instantly. I’d be lost without my To Do lists.
The trick for making To Do lists that actually keep you organized is to find a system that works for you. I’ve tried notepads, online tools, mobile apps, and more, but to this day, the best system for me is a big whiteboard that hangs in my office.
I keep a two week calendar on that whiteboard (the current week and the following week) and write what I need to work on each day in the appropriate spaces. It’s not a fancy whiteboard – just white with a hand-drawn table showing two weeks. I cross tasks out when I complete them. I think the white board only cost about $20.
5. Stay Focused and Eliminate Distractions
An easy way to derail your productivity and get completely disorganized is to succumb to distractions. No matter how opportunistic that low hanging fruit looks, keep in mind that giving in to its allure comes at a cost.
I’m not saying you should ignore great opportunities, but if you never finish what you’ve started, your setting yourself up for failure. Commit to completing a task before you begin the next one, and I promise that your focus will be rewarded with a dwindling To Do list.
Distractions also come in the form of email, phone calls, and social media. Turn everything off and give the project in front of you 100% of your attention. Multitasking only works when you can stay organized while working on more than one thing. Instead, follow this simple recipe to stay organized: focus, complete, and then move on to the next item on your To Do list.
How do you stay organized? Leave a comment and share your tips!