If there's something 2020 taught us, is that we suck at being organized. We love activities like binge-watching shows on Netflix, taking the dog for a walk four times a day, or even re-washing the dishes 'just because' it became a way to avoid what we needed to do.
2021 is here, and things won't be different unless we make a conscious change.
In this post, you'll find recommendations to organize the year. Bear in mind that while taking all these tips helps you be more organized, adapting them to your daily routine all at once will be like trying to pull a ton off the ground. Not going to happen.
Check this list and prioritize which ones you'll want to do first. You can start by applying two or three tips, and then add some more.
Create a routine
Building a routine of your own is the most effective way to set positive habits.
In that sense, starting a daily routine helps you to prepare for the day in advance. It avoids surprises, and it's a cornerstone for the tips that follow.
Adopting a daily routine takes time, but it pays off immensely once you're deep into it. A way to start is using triggers. Chain new activities with the ones you're doing already:
- i.e., every day after you brush your teeth, meditate for 10 minutes.
Chaining activities will help you to include them in your daily routine.
Keep it simple
Most of the time, our day is full of 'critical' tasks that need to you need that day. While we must do them, if you're not ready to take that load, it's better to reschedule them.
Knowing how much you can do in a day is measurable, and it can help you organize your day around that limit. To measure it, recollect your activity from past weeks, and point how productive you were.
Make an average of these tasks divided by the days measured.
- i.e., 63 tasks in 9 days = 7 tasks per day.
That's your limit right now—set tasks for the day around that number.
Also, automating or improving how you perform daily tasks to finish them quickly will help you add more in the future. If you focus on shortening each task's time (and keeping the same level of quality), you'll be saving a lot of time.
Documentation is key
Knowing what you did yesterday is a good way to be up-to-date with your life, and it can help you be more prepared for your day.
You can use a notebook, journaling app, or Notion page to manage your entries to get started. Most apps come with templates to create new entries; however, having a blank page to write on may work for you if you only want to unload information.
We've found that adding a new entry every night to wrap up the day is the easiest way to start.
A great way to build upon your journaling is by timing your activities. Use a timer app like Retimer to know how much time you're using in meetings and activities throughout the day.
Set goals and prioritize
Out of all the tasks you do for the day, set one or two essential to do that day. This will prepare you for the day and focus only on the tasks that you need to do.
How do you know what to prioritize? We wrote an article on the Eisenhower Matrix, a tool to help you set priorities fast, a while ago.
To make it short:
Divide a square in 4; write from left-to-right, up-to-down the tasks that are important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and not important and not urgent.
Do the important and urgent tasks first. Keep the ones that are important but not urgent in mind. Delegate the ones that are not important but urgent and rethink the ones that aren't important nor urgent. Easy, right?
Do one thing at a time
Don't overdo it. Multitasking, while impressive to do, is not great when you want to get things done efficiently.
One of the best ways we've found to balance between tasks is by setting times for everything and committing to that. It would help if you didn't do any other task on your list in parallel.
Work in blocks of 30 minutes or an hour to keep your schedule in check
Think it like prioritization, but on the go. Every day you begin with a specific set of priorities in the morning, but new and more important ones may come as the day passes. Being flexible allows you to catch those tasks and address them on time.
How do you detect new priorities? Besides the usuals (due date, difficulty), ask the person who gave the task how relevant it is to them. Their response will help you know which quadrant you should add the task.
Personal tasks are a bit more gut-based but also fall on a logical decision. If you feel that working on this task will help you achieve something faster, or if it's a now-or-never situation, then you probably should do it first.
Ask for help
Flexibility means also relying on your teammates to support you when new, urgent tasks arise.
Of course, you won't ask someone who's already doing their own significant and urgent tasks to help you, but you don't necessarily need to delegate the new, urgent task to someone else. Pass one of your priorities to someone else and take care of the new one.
Make the best out of your time
We all have the same 24 hours. Productive people make the most out of the day with a mix of self-knowledge, self-care, priorities, and expertise.
This doesn't mean that you need to be super experienced to be organized. Find a balance between what you know you can do and what needs to be done in the day.
Take a break
The hustle never stops, but taking breaks is also part of the job. Resting and having moments to disconnect during the day is crucial to keep your energy levels high.
Not taking breaks and working long hours lead to burnout and underperforming. The 'work hard' mentality taught us that breaks aren't necessary when you need to have that report done, but unwinding is a powerful tool to achieve great things without chopping your mental in the process.
Whether you're using GTD, Pomodoro, or Time blocks, always take some time of the day to disconnect from whatever you're doing.
Finish that book you're reading, have a quick meditation session, read an article. Avoid social media and platforms that do more harm than good.
Finally, all the effort that you made during the day certainly needs a reward—welcome positive reinforcements to your life.
One of the oldest tricks in the book, they are essential to make your days worth it. It gets a little bit tricky when you're the one giving the reward, but there are ways around it:
- Find a physical place for the reward. You can go to your living room, bedroom, or outside your house. Any place where you're not working is right.
- Make a review of your day. Do you think you deserve the reward? Be honest with yourself. If you didn't do as much as you could, avoid the reward, but don't feel bad. If we were productive every day of our lives, the world would be different.
- If you deserve the reward, have fun! Great work deserves great rewards. Unwind with the thing or activity you wanted to do.
Lots and lots of tips, right? You don't need to do them all at once, though. Prioritize and see what you want to add first, and then keep building on them.
Being organized takes time and lots of effort. It's leaving your comfort zone and trying to open your mind. Be more kind to yourself, and find the meaning in the things you do.