How to Make Staying Organized Easy to Do

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There’s a French cooking term mise en place that means to set in place. It is a method of preparation taught all over the world that maximizes efficiency and reduces errors.

There are 5 steps to mise en place:

  1. Know your recipe — necessary ingredients, cookware, and baking tools
  2. Prepare your ingredients — clean, chop, mince… whatever is required
  3. Arrange your ingredients — appropriate size bowls, positioned logically
  4. Prepare your workstation — set the oven temperature, clean the utensils
  5. Arrange your tools — similar logic applied to cookware and necessary equipment

This level of organization in advance, not only increases the chances of an optimal outcome for the recipe, it provides an easier and even enjoyable experience for the cook. 

There’s no scrambling around looking for that tool or ingredient. There’s no disappointment after serving the dish realizing an ingredient has been missed or measured incorrectly.

This episode covers how staying organized at work increases your chances of optimal outcomes, and makes work easier and more enjoyable. Not only that, staying organized makes you look good in the process.

Consequences to Not Staying Organized

According to recent studies, employees with good organizational skills make better impressions on their colleagues and leaders and receive more promotions than those with inefficient habits.

The things that reveal level of organization is the state of your work space and how quickly you can retrieve a document or email.

Additionally, how you communicate also reveals how organized your thoughts are.

You’re not making a good impression if you are known as messy, confused, disorganized or scattered.

If you’ve ever spent more than a few moments looking for that item you need, you know the aggravation that comes when things are not in their place.

Have you ever lost a document because it was not named in a way that would make it easily searchable or was saved in a place that didn’t make sense?

The Benefits of Being Organized

Staying organized boosts your productivity and reduces your stress level during the week. When you are organized you know what’s happening and when, what is needed and where to find it.

While nothing is 100% within your control, staying organized assures that what is in your control is 100% under control. Your odds of working reasonable hours still meeting all your deadlines are increased.

Staying organized helps you to produce quality work. You minimize mistakes, such as misplacing crucial documents, missing deadlines or meetings, or forgetting important details from your manager.

Staying organized makes a positive impression on your team, peers, leaders, and those outside your organization. Keeping your space, desktop and thoughts organized shows you are efficient, responsible, and reliable, paving the way for more opportunity in the future.

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Make a Plan for Staying Organized

If you want your day to be organized, you need to organize your mind and your space.

  • Start with the right frame of mind.
  • Do one thing at a time (avoid multitasking)
  • Declutter
  • Find everything a home.
  • Use organizational tools to support you
  • End your day with an accountability check and a clean-up

Start with the right frame of mind

Get a good night’s sleep. You may have gotten the advice in college that if you are deciding between more time studying vs. getting a good night’s sleep, to go with getting a good night’s sleep. This is because when you are well rested you are better able to retrieve information stored in your brain. You are more alert and your thoughts are more coherent.

A good amount of stress, enough to stretch you a bit, can be motivating and harness your ability to focus. This is why being a little nervous can actually be a good thing.

However, too much stress or distress, can cloud your thoughts, and cause you to be inattentive to important details.

To keep your stress levels in a good and manageable place practice meditation, move, write and breath. Express gratitude or talk to a friend or mentor who helps you to feel calm. When it comes to managing stress, these are the common go-to practices but everyone is different so know what works best for you.

Do one thing at a time (avoid multitasking)

A good way to get confused, make errors, and take longer to complete your work is to multitask. Recent studies have shown that human beings cannot multitask two tasks that require focus at the same time.

While you may be good a walking and talking, doing the dishes and listening to your child recite the poem they just wrote, you cannot read a report while watching a training video. You cannot have a one-to-one meeting while checking your email. Or listen to a challenge your team member is having while mulling over an important decision that needs to be made.

You may think you can do these things but the result is mediocrity: inattention, missed cues, and absent mindedness. That not the impression you are trying to make. 

If you want to listen to music, while dusting and catching up with a friend, have at it! But when something needs your full attention, put all distractions aside and give it your full attention.


Remove anything that has outlived its usefulness. Decide whether to will trash, recycle, donate or give away these items and follow through to get them out of your space.

There is a saying, outer order inner calm. Have your space reflect the experience you want to have within.

I remember in college, before I could study or work on a paper or project, my room had to be organized and cleaned. Anything out of place would distract me and it would take me longer to do my work. Because of this I developed the habit of keeping an organized space and it has served me well.

Find everything a home

As you are decluttering, consolidate similar items in one location. Put items near where they will ultimately be stored and then go back to put them away.

Choose a spot where these items can be found easily. Its proximity to you is based on how often you need it.

Limit the items on your desk to the items you will today or, if that translates to a lot of items, limit it to what you will need in the next hour. The exception to this can be personal or decorative items such as photos or plants, but keep them from overcrowding your desk. Pictures look good on the wall as well and plants look lovely on a window sill or stand.

Can you put books, binders and folders on a shelf or in a drawer?

Same goes for emails and files on your computer. Create folders and filters for your email so your inbox is not overloaded. Be sure to name or rename documents and folders so they are easily searchable. Organize your folders in a way that makes sense.

Use Organizational Tools

Tools are meant to make our lives easier and there are many organizational tools, online and offline, that can help you be more efficient at work.

Calendars and task lists can be digital or paper. Choose what works best for you but my recommendation is to have one master calendar.

As for tasks, I recommend keeping them in one place. But you may have your task list along with a project management tool that captures your deliverables for a project. If that’s the case consolidate all your tasks on your personal task list.

For instance, I use Google tasks for my task list and The Maine Women’s Conference uses Asana as a project management tool. Using a software called Zapier, when any tasks are assigned to me in Asana it automatically creates the same task on my Google task list. I’ll need to check completed tasks off in both places but not tasks get missed.

If you can create folders and filters in your email software do so. Perhaps high priority emails turn red, low priority emails are automatically routed to a particular folder to be reviewed later. Unsubscribe from any email newsletters you are regularly deleting or filing away without reading.

I’m also a fan of drawer separaters and organizers to help quickly find what you are looking for.

End your day with a clean-up

Much like you clean up the kitchen after dinner, clean up your desk and your to-do list so you come back to a clean desk and clear priorities tomorrow.

Make sure your to do list matches the day to come. If tomorrow is a day packed with meetings your to do list should be minimal. Only include items that are urgent and important. Everything else can be delegated or bumped to the day after.

Think about what you can do at the end of the day to set yourself up for success tomorrow.

Also, give yourself a pat on the back for doing your best. Every day is different. Many days bring the unexpected and your day likely didn’t go exactly as planned. You did what needed to be done today. Tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities.

If you need help staying organized, let’s chat!

If your last promotion left you feeling unstable in your leadership role, or you are looking to develop into your next role, I invite you to consider working with me. I would love to support you through the transition, help you get your bearings, and feeling confident in your leadership once again. Schedule a meeting to chat with me.

If you are going to ask your company to sponsor you to work with a coach, this checklist will help you to prepare for that conversation.

As always, I hope this was of value to you, and here’s to your success!


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