Organizing your work can feel overwhelming—especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you. But like many things, you can break it down into more manageable steps to make it easier.
A great place to start is organizing your daily to-dos.
Tracking and writing down your daily tasks, no matter how big, or small, helps you be more productive by getting things done faster and more effectively.
Here are six ways to organize your day and being more productive.
1. Write your daily tasks in one place
The more you try to mentally track things, the less productive you’ll be.
The first step to organizing your day is to get all of those to-dos out of your head. But not onto all those sticky notes that you post all over the place.
This is a key to getting things done... freeing up brain power by tracking your to-dos in a tool instead of in your head.
It doesn't matter what tool you use. It could be a notebook that you carry with you or an app on your phone. The key point is to get all of those things rattling around in your head out so that you clear space to do more productive work.
Once you have all of your to-dos written down, turn those tasks into organized, actionable steps with deadlines, and due dates in one place, so you can take action faster and more effectively.
2. Learn to manage your time
Time management is a critical part of being organized. If you aren't in control of your time, you can't be in control of your tasks.
Luckily time management, like organization, is a learnable skill. There are a variety of strategies you can implement in order to get better at managing your time.
Don't be afraid to try a few different techniques until you find the one that works for you.
Time blocking: Time blocking is when you break your day into four main categories of work. Focus work, Admin work, Refresh work, and Social/Service work. Then schedule meetings, tasks, and everything in between—from scrolling on Instagram to lunch breaks into one of those time blocks. Creating a detailed schedule gives you control over your calendar. You’ll become aware of exactly how you’re spending your time and any opportunities to improve.
Timeboxing: For each daily task set a goal to finish it by a specific time. Timeboxes can easily fit into a time block for that specific type of work. For example, I'm writing this article during my Focus block. I have given myself one hour to work on it. At the end of that hour, I will take a break and move on to another Focus task. I have time-boxed several days to work on the post and have a hard deadline to complete it by Friday so that it can be scheduled and sent out to my mailing list.
The Pomodoro technique: The Pomodoro technique can help you get hyper-focused work done. It’s simple. Each Pomodoro consists of 25-minute work blocks bookended by 5-minute breaks. When you’re in a Pomodoro, limit distractions and turn off notifications. The goal is to focus solely on the task at hand.
Eat the frog: Eat the frog comes from a famous Mark Twain quote: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” In other words, do your most difficult tasks first. Start each day by identifying and completing your hardest tasks, going down the line until you’re left with easier items to end the day. This helps you take advantage of your most productive working hours for those difficult tasks like studying for that mid-term or working on that customer proposal.
By implementing time management, you can take control of your schedule and have more time for whatever you like.
3. Practice Inbox Zero
We've all been there, having an inbox with hundreds, maybe thousands of emails. Inbox Zero is about organizing your emails and reducing digital clutter so you can stay on top of what's important.
Start your Admin block by organizing incoming messages by tasks or priorities.
The temptation is to respond to every email as it comes in, or first thing in the morning. Doing this not only interrupts your workflow but also keeps you from doing your most important work first.
Instead, practice going through your email during certain times of your day. You'll find that you get much more done when you organize your email this way.
Each time you practice your Inbox Zero, it will become easier. Use Time blocking and Timeboxing to ensure that you stay on top of—or potentially ahead of—incoming messages.
4. Prioritize your most important work
There’s a difference between work that makes you feel productive (busy work) and work that helps move you forward.
One might make you feel good but the other will help you grow your career and company.
Identifying your most important work starts with your strategic plan and objectives. When you know how your daily work affects broader goals, and a due date changes or a new project gets added to your plate, you can evaluate how that work compares to your current priorities and make adjustments.
5. Outsource, or delegate
Outsourcing or delegating work allows you to focus on your high-impact projects.
As a freelancer, it's so tempting to do all the things yourself. But in reality, outsourcing tasks frees you up to work on things that only you can do, and delegates the work that someone else can do faster, and better than you.
Start by identifying all tasks in your current workload. Then sort them using the Eisenhower matrix:
Important and urgent. This is your most important work. Assign these to yourself, or someone that has the specialized skills to do the work. For example, doing your taxes is important and urgent, so hire an accountant to do the work.
Important but not urgent. These are valuable but might not need to get done today. These tasks can be delegated with a due date in the future.
Not important but urgent. They’re not important to you, but they absolutely must get done. Assign these to someone who can quickly and efficiently get them done
Not important and not urgent. Remove completely. This is work for the sake of work.
6. Declutter your physical and virtual space
A clutter-free workspace is energizing and exciting to walk into. It can help you to feel more confident, creative, and maybe less stressed.
The same could be said for digital clutter. All those unread emails and undone todos just take up time and space whenever you look at them.
Instead of letting things pile up until they feel stressful or unmanageable, set aside time every week, quarter, or month for routine decluttering. To practice virtual decluttering, try:
Reassigning any overdue tasks with new, relevant due dates.
Reading through and clearing out your notifications.
Practicing Inbox Zero.
Time blocking your calendar to make room for more flow.
As you go through the process of decluttering, remind yourself that what you’re really doing is protecting your future self from unnecessary stress.