Staying organized can be a real challenge in today’s technological age when it’s become nearly impossible to unplug. As challenging as getting and staying organized can be, it’s a critical component of personal efficiency and productivity.

While certain people seem to have effortless, calm days, others rush through their days, weeks and even months in a whirl of bleary-eyed chaos. If you’re interested in improving your organisational skills, some of these time-saving, energy-reducing, life-enhancing habits can help you run your days more smoothly.

1. Protect Your Time Fiercely

Good time management skill is an asset when it comes to staying organized. When you organize your time on any scale, you automatically create order.

“Time is what we want most, but what we spend worst.”

William Penn said that. It’s profound and very true. There are lots of ways to slice your working hours every day. 8 hours is a lot of time you may be spending on too many things that have little or no value to your long-term goal —low-value meetings, reacting to urgent but unimportant emails, social browsing, responding to notifications etc.

Time management works on a weekly basis when you’re making important plans and establishing recurring events. It works on a monthly basis when you’re deciding where you need to be and when. It also works on an annual basis when you’re planning which events to attend, or when to start a new habit.

A little bit of organization can go an incredibly long way toward increasing effectiveness, boosting productivity, and creating new habits that foster the efficiency you crave.

2. Have a Place For Everything — and Put it There

Highly organized people strongly adhere to the “a place for everything and everything in its place” philosophy, which makes it much easier to stay organized. They are habitual declutterers.

Decide where your keys will go and put them in the same place every time you walk through the door.

Store away summer clothes in winter to declutter your closets. Declutter your drawers and get rid of everything you don’t need to make room for things you’ll actually need and use.

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle,” recommends Marie Kondō, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

“I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely,” she writes in her book.

By getting rid of, or storing away, things you only use occasionally (or things you never use but can’t seem to part with), you create instant organization. That’s because you know where the things you really, truly use are and that automatically makes them easier to find when you need them.

3. Make Time for High-Value Priorities

What are the priorities in your life? Organised people block their priorities — relationships, personal development, career growth, financial goals, healthy habits etc. Everyone’s priority list is different but the same concept can be used to make time for the most important things in your life.

With a printed calendar (versus the one on your phone) you can create a colour-coded, time blocked schedule that keeps everyone and everything in your world organized.

Time blocks also help you schedule downtime, dinner plans, and important client tasks. Need to beat a deadline? Schedule in five uninterrupted work hours. Have a repeating weekly event? Build a time block into your calendar. Need to just create daily routines?

Time blocks can help you do it. Learn to break your day, week, or month into valuable time blocks to improve your personal efficiency, increase your productivity and recover from your workload.

4. Purge Your Schedule to Build Efficient Routines

It can be tough to get things done when you feel as though your schedule is taking over your life. Purging your schedule once (monthly or quarterly) a while saves you time and helps you achieve your goals as planned.

The aim of a productivity purge is to reduce unnecessary repetition and improve your autopilot routines. It’s an opportunity to analyse every task or action, and identify items you can move around, delegate, slice, spread out, or even stop working on right away if it’s not helping you get closer to your goals.

“The productivity purge is a necessary piece of project gardening. By doing these regularly, you keep yourself focused on what’s important. You get at least one month after every purge in which serious work gets done on a small number of projects,” says Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.

It might seem irrelevant and unimportant to set aside time to pause and purge unnecessary tasks from your routine when you have a lot to do. But that time to analyse your routine, measure your results and make that important change may be the fresh start you need to get more done.

5. Have a Routine — Even On Nights and Weekends

How you spend your days is how you spend your life, which is why it’s so important to carve out daily routines. A life without a positive daily routine or structure is so much more draining mentally, physically, and emotionally than you can ever imagine!

To make the most of your day, develop a routine for when you awake, for when you first start working, for when you finish your workday, and for the end of your evening.

Whether you wake up 30 minutes before everyone else in your family, read important news every morning or workout at the same time after work, routines provide stability and organization to each day.

Routines predetermine your schedule, allowing you to use your time efficiently. They provide a sense of structure and familiarity. You wake up with a sense of ownership, order, and organization of your life.

6. Configure Your Phone to Work For You, Not Against You

Our phones connect us with people we love, help us work on the go, and make online purchases easier. But if not managed, your phone can work against you — notifications, badges, banners, games, inboxes and social media can create an environment of interruption and distraction.

But you can change that. That amazing little device gives us access to an incredible suite of organizational and productivity tools — use them to organise your life and work. Use your notes app to make shopping lists. Use your photo app to organize picture albums.

Use productivity apps to organize work. Use the calendar app to purge unnecessary tasks, block off time and organize your day. Almost every activity of your day-to-day life can be found in an app. Since your phone is going to be with you all day, anyway, make it work to your advantage.

7. Treat Emails Like Appointments

The business world runs on email. While communication is great for business, email can ruin your productivity if you don’t tame it. Beyond necessary communication (sending and responding to important emails that advance work), email can be just as much of a distraction as it is a great communication tool.

Learning when it’s productive to pay attention to email and when you should ignore it is a necessary skill. It’s counterproductive to check your inbox every five minutes. To defend your time from unnecessary emails, schedule time to check or respond to incoming emails. This keeps the incoming work in order while getting other tasks completed.

To tame the chaos, you need an ongoing process for managing incoming emails; prioritising and weighing the value of different messages appropriately and responding to them at the right time without interfering with your workflow.

In Gmail, you can create tabs that tell your emails where to go when you receive them. That little touch of organisation could mean you never have to see a spam email, again, except when you empty your email box. Many email providers have that same functionality and organization.

Another way to organize your email inbox is to have multiple email addresses. Multiple email addresses will allow you to have one email for work, one for entering contests and signing up for freebies, and one for whatever else you want. Since people communicate by email on an ever-increasing basis, you can save an incredible amount of time with this simple organization hack.

Finally, build email responses into those beneficial time blocks by opening emails only at certain times of the day and not allowing yourself to get sucked into the email rabbit hole over and over on a daily basis. You’d be surprised how much organization you can lose just by losing control of your time in small batches.

Highly organized people are crystal clear of what needs to be done, what has to be put away, what needs be automated or delegated. They don’t complicate things because confusion breeds chaos. If you are unclear about anything, it would reflect in your execution.

To keep your life organised, purge things daily and routinely — organising is should not be a separate event. It should be part of your day.

Originally published on Medium.

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