Accomplish more by staying organized

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Steve Willoughby
  • Directorate of Assignments
Have you ever noticed that some people always have a clean desk and seem to complete tasks more quickly than others? In some cases, it's because they are well organized and don't waste time looking for something in one of the piles on their desk. 

Getting and staying organized not only helps you save time, it also gives you a feeling of being in control thus reducing stress. Here are a few simple things you can do to get and stay organized. 

1. Organize your desk. If your desk is cluttered with a lot of material (sticky notes, manuals, papers, pictures, books, etc.) the first step is to put everything into two boxes. Place all task related materials into one box and all your personal items (pictures, books, etc.) into another. Next, identify where you would like to place your personal items. Try and keep your personal items on a shelf or cabinet away from your working space. If you don't have enough room for all your personal items, take some home with you. 

Next, begin going through all the task related material you collected earlier. Throw away, or file in your office's file plan, all outdated material or completed project information. Store the manuals and books in a centralized cabinet or book shelf. This will allow easy access and save you time when you need to find something specific. The only material you should have left on your desk is material for projects or tasks on which you are currently working. Sort the documentation by task or project and place the material for large projects in separate project folders. 

2. Prioritize your work. The next step in getting organized is to prioritize the tasks or projects on which you are currently working. I like to prioritize by due date. Stack the project folders with the highest priority on top. Another idea to help prioritize your work is to use a "to-do list." Many times you will receive tasks that have no documentation to place in a project folder. Write these tasks, along with the tasks on which you have project folders, on the list. Make sure the list is centralized. In other words, use a dedicated spiral notebook or notepad. If you use sticky notes or random pieces of paper, there is a strong possibility you will lose one or more of them making it difficult to keep track of your tasks. Number each task on your list based on its priority. This allows you to work each task in priority order. 

3. Stay organized. I believe the hardest part of being organized is staying that way. Begin working your tasks from the top of the to-do list to the bottom. Try to complete each task or project before starting another. This can be difficult because you continuously receive tasks that may change your priority. If that happens, come back to the previous task as soon as you can and complete it before moving on to another. As you complete each one, line it off of your list and file all the documentation. 

The last thing to remember is to organize your tasks and projects at the end of each day. Begin by writing a new list of tasks in priority order. This is now your to-do list for the next day. If you have new documentation for large projects, create new project folders and file the documentation in them. To finish your end-of-day organization, sort your folders in priority order corresponding with your to-do list. 

Again, these are just a few simple ideas I hope you can use to get and stay organized.

For more information or instruction, enroll in the I FOCUS course offered by the ARPC Professional Development Program. 

To sign up for the next class, log onto the ARPC intranet and click on the Professional Development Program link. You can also find numerous books on the subject at local bookstores.