13 Ways To Stay Organized and Maximize Your Productivity in 2023

13 Ways To Stay Organized and Maximize Your Productivity in 2023

Work countless hours? Make too little progress? We’ve all been there and done that. When it happens too often, learning to stay organized can help pull you out of that rut and maximize your productivity.

Regardless of whether you work from home or in an office, you can take multiple proactive steps to improve your productivity. This article discusses the importance of organization and shares 13 tips on how to stay organized and be efficient at work.

  1. Make to-do lists
  2. Triage priorities
  3. Make daily, weekly, and monthly plans
  4. Use online or paper planners
  5. Delegate work
  6. Avoid multitasking
  7. Schedule breaks
  8. Establish a routine
  9. Clean up your workspace regularly
  10. Schedule your workday in blocks of time
  11. Celebrate small wins
  12. Set artificial deadlines
  13. Eliminate distractions

The importance of organization

Picture this: You wake up early to complete some work before the day’s 6 p.m. deadline. But you spend part of the day chasing your dog through the neighborhood. You have several impromptu conversations with members of the HOA about the height of your grass, and several more with teachers about your kid’s progress at school.

At 5 p.m., you manage to get behind your desk.

You spend 45 minutes working feverishly, 10 minutes swallowing your pride to ask for an extension, and five minutes crafting an apologetic email.

Your evening is spent behind the computer trying to ignore the sounds of your family having a pleasant evening without you or your friends texting you to meet them at your favorite restaurant.

You go to bed feeling exhausted and upset since you barely got the job done, didn’t work on any personal goals, and missed valuable time with friends and family.

We’ve all had those days.

However, the rising competition in the workplace demands that we be better, faster, and more efficient. Improving productivity can result in profit margins 30-50% higher than less productive competitors.

Achieving your goals and a healthy work-life balance becomes possible when you work toward them in a methodical manner. To help you, we’ve put together this list of 13 tips you can follow to maximize your productivity during the workday.

13 tips for staying organized at work

Your current unproductive habits are hardwired into your brain and reinforced through repetition. Changing them can be challenging.

According to the 2022 Annual Review of Psychology, the most direct way to stop bad habits is through monitoring your behavior when these unwanted habits occur and understanding the situation that’s causing them. You can then take active steps to limit the bad habit.

The tips here can help minimize distractions and declutter your mind so that you can get your priorities straight.

It might be unrealistic to apply every one of these tips simultaneously. So instead, we recommend you pick out a few that resonate with your style of work and adopt the ones that work for you. It all comes down to some trial and error.

Keep in mind that learning organizational skills doesn’t magically mean that you get your job done. You still have to push yourself to do the work.

1. Make to-do lists

Make to do list

To-do lists are a no-brainer. You can pick the traditional route and use sticky notes, or download one of the many online productivity apps. Writing down your tasks allows you to visualize and prioritize them so you can get the most important tasks done first.

Try scheduling the various tasks you need to complete before the end of the day. This gives you a definite time frame, helps improve your time management, and prevents procrastination so you can get things done.

2. Triage priorities

Triage is a term typically used in a medical context when too many patients need attending. Doctors assign degrees of urgency to each patient so that they can attend to the gravest illnesses first. If doctors didn’t prioritize patients, someone with a severe stroke might be kept waiting while someone else with a common cold receives treatment.

We, of course, aren’t talking about hospital settings. We’re recommending you triage your to-do list. List all your tasks and categorize them so the most important tasks are done first. Otherwise, you might spend five hours on a low-priority project and not give yourself enough time for something more urgent. Triaging helps you stay on top of the essential tasks.

You can also use tools like the Eisenhower Matrix to help you prioritize your tasks effectively.

3. Make daily, weekly, and monthly plans

Knowing your goals is an essential part of achieving them. Take some amount of time to think about your long-term goals. Where do you want to be in a year? In five years? What about 10?

Let’s say you want to have your first book published within the next year. Breaking down this goal into daily, weekly, and monthly objectives can help you strategize how to reach your goal. If you want to complete the writing in the first six months, how many words or pages would you need to complete per month, and how many hours would you spend on it per week?

You should also fit these objectives into your schedule like you would a doctor’s appointment to make sure you stick to it.

Breaking down your long-term goals into smaller, short-term plans can help you continuously work to accomplish them. It can also make the overall process less overwhelming to think about. Because they’re easier to tackle in chunks, your long-term goals will get accomplished more quickly.

After all, writing for two hours this Tuesday is less daunting than constantly reminding yourself that you have to finish writing a book before the year ends.

4. Use online or paper planners

We can’t emphasize it enough: Writing stuff down helps! If you prefer writing things by hand, you can use a paper planner. If you prefer keeping things digital, you can use a simple tool like Google Calendar or Evernote.

Planners can help you stay on track with your ongoing projects and commitments. Having a visual representation of your schedule and tasks to accomplish can help you get through them with a calm and focused mind since you don’t have to worry about forgetting or missing any deadlines.

It might also help to color-code your tasks according to their type, importance, urgency, and so on for other preferences.

5. Delegate work

Not everyone can do what you do, so prioritize tasks you need to tend to personally. To maximize efficiency and avoid taking on too much, consider delegating jobs that don’t require your level of expertise to the people around you.

Provide detailed guidelines and feedback for the tasks you assign so the people doing them know how to do it in the best possible manner. While this may take more time initially, it will free up time in the long run as fellow team or family members learn how to perform tasks with little to no support.

This process can be slightly more challenging when working from home rather than in an office setting. Fortunately, there are several productivity tools like Slack or Trello to help remote teams simplify and streamline work.

6. Avoid multitasking

Avoid Multitasking

When work piles up, we often try to cross two or more things off at once. For instance, you might attend a phone meeting while reviewing and adding notes to a document. While you may think you’re being efficient by multitasking, you’re actually doing the opposite.

Individuals grossly overestimate their capacity to multitask. A recent study suggests that the human brain multitasks by creating and using shared mental representations of those tasks.

The study suggests that even if we increase brain resources dedicated to the tasks, the efficiency of a multitasking system doesn’t increase, as it’s primarily dependent on the resource-sharing scheme used by the brain—and that scheme is inefficient.

Think of it like this: When your computer has too many tabs open, it slows down, right? Similarly, when we do more than one thing at a time, our attention is divided, reducing the efficiency and quality of our work. In other words, everybody multi-tasks, but nobody can multi-focus.

In another recent study, it was found that the human attention span was 12 seconds two decades ago, but it’s fallen to just eight seconds today. The more people multitask, the more they are driven to multitask—with negative results on the ability to learn, focus, and even empathize with others.

7. Schedule breaks

Like multitasking, running between meetings without a break might provide the illusion that you’re ticking a lot off your to-do list quickly, but it’s counterproductive. Studies show that being well rested and taking breaks helps people stay on task and engaged.

If you work on a computer, use these breaks to also give your eyes a few minutes away from the screen. If you’ve been slumping at your desk for two hours, use this time to stretch or walk around for 15 minutes.

Although this might feel like a waste of time, it’s exactly what your brain needs to rejuvenate and stay alert. You’re replenishing energy that you’ve lost so that you can continue to be productive and complete tasks throughout the rest of your workday.

8. Establish a routine

Having a daily routine helps you convert your daily tasks into daily habits. Just like you brush your teeth every morning without a second thought, having a fixed work routine can help you stay more organized and make your workdays easier.

For example, you can accustom yourself to checking emails every day at 9 a.m. Once this becomes a habit, it’ll be harder to procrastinate. You won’t need as much motivation to get started on your important tasks because your workflow will simply feel natural and automatic.

Another way to establish a routine is to create a reusable template that automates repetitive work. This could be an email template that you use as a shortcut so you don’t have to type out the entire message each time or a meeting agenda template that is easy to fill in quickly based on the specific items you want to discuss.

9. Clean up your workspace regularly

Clean up workspace

Being focused and motivated in a chaotic environment is challenging. Research suggests that too much clutter tends to hurt productivity, but a little can be OK, especially for creative people. Whether you need a completely clutter-free desk depends on your personality and job.

If you find that clutter distracts you and you need to make a change to get better results, try keeping a tidier workspace. Use filing cabinets or filing systems to ensure that all items have a designated location when you aren’t using them. If you’re a creative person and having things on the desk to fidget with helps, then that’s OK—but keep it under control, because too much will have negative effects.

In other words, what matters most is not following a cookie-cutter working style approach that may not be the best for you. What matters is having enough self-awareness to know what environment you need to cultivate in order to be at your best and do better work.

10. Schedule your workday in blocks of time

Studies suggest the best way to make sure you’re efficient is through scheduling blocks of time. Reserve some of these blocks for doing specific tasks without distraction. So, for example, if you schedule a block of time to complete some specific piece of work, you should put away your phone, close the other many tabs that you have open, and avoid answering emails. This is called deep work.

Another school of thought—the Pomodoro Technique—recommends blocking time in 25-minute chunks, followed by five-minute breaks. This method is good for people who tend to get distracted while working or who find themselves multitasking instead of doing deep work. Many writers, designers, coders, and students have had success with this technique.

11. Celebrate small wins

As you implement the steps in this article, you’ll find yourself getting more done in less time. You may feel tempted to keep grinding on tasks without stopping to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished. However, it’s important to stop and take time to celebrate your progress.

This doesn’t just help you feel better about yourself, although you’ll certainly get a mental boost from giving yourself a metaphorical pat on the back. Celebrating your wins also helps you keep your productivity up by showing you what you’ve accomplished and reminding you of how far you’ve come. You’re building a positive habit loop at the end of completing a goal or task that will help you maintain momentum and motivation to keep going.

In addition, you’re building your own self-efficacy and confidence in a way that will improve your approach to work and life in the future. As Ted Lasso taught us, when you believe in yourself, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.

12. Set artificial deadlines

Earlier in this article, we introduced the Eisenhower Matrix, or the choices we often face in our work between the important and the urgent tasks. However, many of our most critical high-leverage responsibilities don’t come with deadlines or due dates. Making progress in these areas can be tough because the work is easy to put off.

We can combat this issue by setting artificial deadlines. When we do this, we’re making a commitment to ourselves (and potentially to others, if we share these deadlines with somebody else) that we will get a task done by a specific time. Doing so increases the urgency and the motivation to get work done.

For example, imagine that your company wants to take a second look at its mission statement. Developing a clear and compelling mission statement is a vital part of any organization, but it usually isn’t a time-bound project. If you want to make sure you get this done, perhaps you decide to schedule a team meeting where you will go over proposed changes to the mission statement. Creating a deadline for each person who will be contributing to the mission statement increases the likelihood that you will make progress.

You can use this approach for individual tasks as well, such as writing a book, launching a new project, or creating a new service to add to your project catalog on Upwork.

13. Eliminate distractions

It’s nearly impossible to get work done if you’re constantly stopping to check your notifications or read your social media newsfeed. And while it’s a good practice to check your email inbox a couple of times per day, it’s probably not a great idea to check it every five minutes.

If you’re going to be productive and get work done, you’ll need to figure out how to eliminate distractions. Start by putting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” so that it doesn’t buzz every time you get a new Instagram follower or a message in a group with 10 other people. Consider taking steps to make social media websites harder to access when you’re trying to get important work done. For example, logging out of your Facebook account will make it more difficult to click over on impulse.

Ultimately, eliminating distractions will improve your focus and help you be more intentional and proactive with how you spend your time during the workday.

Workplace organization checklist

You can use the following checklist to optimize your workflow and ensure you’re making progress on your most important tasks.

On a routine basis, check back with this list and ensure you’re implementing each task to help you stay organized and productive.

  • Make to do lists
  • Triage priorities
  • Make daily, weekly, and monthly plans
  • Use online or paper planners
  • Delegate work
  • Avoid multitasking
  • Schedule breaks
  • Establish a routine
  • Clean up your workspace regularly
  • Schedule your workday in blocks of time
  • Celebrate small wins
  • Set artificial deadlines
  • Eliminate distractions

In addition, ongoing developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will create even more tools that can help you optimize your productivity.

Stay organized and create an effective workflow

Implementing some of these tips can help you start the next day with a free and fresh mindset. Create a practical planning system and daily work routine to make achieving even the biggest goals a lot less intimidating.

If, after implementing these tips, you find yourself with a few more hours each day, why not take on some additional freelance work? Upwork allows you to work any time and from anywhere. Browse available freelance jobs today.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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Author Spotlight

13 Ways To Stay Organized and Maximize Your Productivity in 2023
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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