As liquidfish’s Project Manager, I am always looking for new ways to improve my efficiency and organization so that I am better able to proactively manage my tasks and reminders. Below are five things I do to achieve this. They're simple and easy but go a long way in helping me to do my best work.
Tidy up your desk
This one is a no-brainer. You spend the majority of your work day at your desk so keeping this space clean and organized is essential to increase productivity and stay focused. Go through your notepads and tear out/toss pages you no longer need. Do a sweep of your drawers and shelves to eliminate pens without ink, outdated post-it notes, folders, and papers. (Also take inventory and replenish these items as needed.)
This tip not only applies to your physical workspace but your virtual workspace as well. I myself am guilty of cluttering up my computer desktop with endless files and folders for no rhyme or reason. Taking the time to create a folder naming system (per client, perhaps), dragging files to their appropriate folders, and disposing of files you no longer need can work wonders. On Macs, you can color-code your folders (File > Tags) and organize them by name, date created, etc. (View > Sort By > Name).
Invest in a nice notebook
… And take it with you everywhere you go. If your job is anything like mine, it involves a lot of moving parts. The best way, in my opinion, to stay on top of all your assignments while delivering quality work is to keep an ongoing checklist, and keep it all in one location: a notebook. A sure-fire way to breed disorganization is to write and keep lists in different places, such as post-it notes, your iPhone, that one notepad you took to that meeting that you can’t find at the moment. You’re bound to forget something.
I prefer to keep a nice, portable notebook with me at all times. I take it to every meeting and constantly scribble down things to check on each day. My to-do lists span multiple pages, so any time a task is completed, I go back to that specific page and cross it off the list. It may sound daunting at first, but I promise it will ensure that you never forget a task.
Restructure your inbox
Introducing an organizational structure to your inbox can be quite the game changer. Most if not all email providers come with tabs, groups, and filters that can organize your email into categories. In addition to that, you have the ability to prioritize your emails by “flagging” them - or using the star method in Google - as they come in. From there, you can sort your emails by the ones you’ve flagged. This obviously helps you quickly decipher which emails hold precedence.
Find a system that works best for your workload. In my case, I create folders for each client and set up auto-filters that direct emails from that client or pertaining to that client to the corresponding folders. Instead of staring at an overwhelming inbox every morning, I have folders to my left with notifications next to each, and I am able to tackle responses in an organized manner.
Use your email calendar
A great way to stay on top of meetings, deadlines, and tasks is to use the existing calendar on your email account. Whether you choose your work email calendar or a Gmail account, it’s helpful to mark all events on the calendar. Since you’ll constantly be using your email, you’ll have easy and consistent access to this calendar.
You can also use the calendar to add alerts, particularly for recurring events. If you have a weekly meeting, set up your calendar to automatically remind you. Similarly, you can use your work calendar to invite and set up meetings with coworkers.
Establish a routine
This tip somewhat encompasses the others above and is crucial to maintaining your organization. Take time out of your schedule each day to focus on you. This can be something as small as just 10 minutes of structured time. I like to do this first thing in the morning with a big cup of coffee and a new playlist on Spotify.
As people are slowly trickling into the office, flip through your to-do list and mark off tasks that have been completed. Prioritize emails you’ve received overnight so you know which are most important to respond to that morning. (Also remove any unnecessary junk mail that bumps your email count up.) Take care of quick assignments or important responses so other people can start working on their tasks. Check your schedule to see if you have any last-minute meetings that you need to prepare for. And lastly, take a second to tidy up your space: take your coffee cup to the sink, throw away an old post-it note, etc.