Sometimes, keeping organized is all that stands in the way of your happiness and productivity. We have the means to do more, but we get lost in chaos and disarray.
Staying organized can boost productivity and reduce stress. Here are some practical ideas on how to plan, so that you will feel lighter and happier with your workload.
1. Create a Mood Board
When we start to think about developing a project or approaching a complex task, we begin to form an idea of how it can look like and, more importantly, how it will feel. Ideas are the core of any activity, yet sometimes they can feel intangible.
Mood boards are a good way of giving shape to a thought, a substantial form of brainstorming. They are frequently used by designers to identify visual elements and gain a cohesive view. However, they don’t have to be limited to the visual component. Create your own mood board to boost inspiration and to help you understand the ideas that will later turn into specific actions.
Exercise: The Picture
Create an inspiring board that will be the picture of your project. This is your brainstorming session, anything goes. But if you need a place to start, think of adding:
- Visual elements: images, designs, fonts, sketches, colors, patterns, textures
- Audio or video inspiration: ambient sounds, music, speeches, narrations, how-to videos, trailers, functionalities
- Text: Quotes relating to the vision, samples
- Similar projects: print screens, checklists, links, tweets, reviews
Apps you can use for this task: Pinterest, Evernote, Canva, Mural, or InVision. Depending on your needs, you can also use pen and paper, along with craft supplies.
2. Establish an Overview
As stated above, putting thoughts on paper can make them feel more palpable. After you decide on a clear vision for your idea, it’s important to write down all the major steps.
These overarching goals give a sense of direction and help you paint a picture of the entire experience. As a result, you get a more pragmatic version of a mood board.
Exercise: The Game Plan
Envision yourself as the game master and write down all the milestones in sequential order. Use a single page (or a single piece of paper) so that all the steps can be seen at a glance.
Add some creativity to your list with an interesting structure, such as:
3. Keep a Master List
In the world of theatre and film, there are many props involved. To keep them organized and available at all times, prop masters make detailed lists of them based on the script. Any noun listed in the script turns into an object that needs to be purchased, handled, and stored.
When we plan a project, there are always some assets involved. They can be physical objects, virtual elements, or human resources.
Exercise: The Prop Master
Create a table based on each task, no matter how big or small. Add all the elements that you need to accomplish those tasks (the “props”). Insert links with:
4. Update Your Calendar
Meetings, deadlines, working hours, they are all on a schedule. While some people strive under pressure, on many occasions, a chaotic schedule can be stressful and unpleasant.
Plan your time in advance, so you can have better control over your schedule and awareness of your tasks. This reduces the stress of having to think constantly about what comes next and if there’s enough time for it. If changes are needed, you can always readjust.
Exercise: The Timekeeper
No, we are not talking about a character from Doctor Who. You are the keeper of your time and you need to take control of your timeline:
- Set a limit for tasks
- Make a list of deadlines and meetings for this month (even if you are reaching the end of the month)
- Add everything to your calendar and set helpful reminders (email, notifications, or alarms)
- If you like to use a physical notebook, look for a dated notebook where you can write down every important date, so you can check them at your convenience
- Whenever you receive updates or new information, make the changes right away; it will only take a few moments, but it will help you stay organized
5. Clean Up Your Inbox
Photo credit: Kirsty TG on Unsplash
Like the owl Hedwig flooding Harry Potter’s room with letters, a full inbox can stand in our way. We tend to subscribe to many services, thinking that we will be needing them. We also leave emails unopened, deciding we will get to them later. These habits clutter our inbox and hinder our communication.
Take the time to reorganize your inbox. This will give you a fresh start and will save you long minutes, or even hours spent searching for information.
Exercise: The Letter Carrier
Go to your inbox and complete the following tasks:
- Open all new emails, one by one (yes, even if there are hundreds of them, you only have to do this once). Read the ones that require a reply and delete those you have no need for
- Unsubscribe from unproductive mailing lists. If you haven’t opened them in the last month, you are constantly deleting them, or just changed your mind about their usefulness, it might be a good time to unsubscribe (you can always make a bookmark for later)
- Create categories and rules for Gmail, Outlook, or any other mailing services you are using. This way, future emails will enter in the correct category, and you will be able to prioritize them
6. Declutter Your Space
A space filled with items can be unproductive and stressful. Most of the objects surrounding us are essential or useful in some way, but there are those that have been lying around forever, and we just couldn’t find the time to get rid of them.
The same thing can happen with our virtual space. We accumulate entire folders and files that are unnecessary, and we navigate through them every day. That’s why it might take a while until we get to the ones we actually need.
Decluttering is a form of mindfulness that can provide release. It can reduce anxiety levels and slow down obsessive and chaotic thoughts, which will make us more productive.
Exercise: The Cleanup Crew
Organize your physical and virtual workspace:
- Declutter your desk: Get rid of all the objects on your desk that you are not using, throw away anything that’s broken (you might not replace a broken item, as long as an old one is still there)
- Declutter your virtual space: clean up your desktop, delete files or categorize them into relevant folders, make bookmarks, and pin to taskbar applications you access frequently
7. Declutter Your Mind
Keeping tasks that don’t fit our timeline in the back of our minds can have the same effect as a crowded desk. It encumbers our thoughts and takes the focus from things we could actually accomplish.
Delegating doesn’t mean backing out of a difficult task. It just means to reassess what is reasonable for you and the project, and what could be handled by someone else.
Exercise: The Apprentice
- Make a list of tasks that are out of your comfort zone or difficult to get to
- Delegate the tasks that don’t fit your timeline
- Assign the tasks out of your expertise to the right professionals
- Check them off the list one by one, until you are left with the activities you can tackle yourself
8. Have a Designated Spot for Miscellaneous Ideas
Every once in a while we get a floating idea. We start a proposal that we abandon. We find a solution, just not to our current problem. What should we do with those?
Most of them get lost on the back of a page, on a loose post-it, in a file that we never open. Have a designated place for ideas, so they don’t get lost or contribute to clutter.
Exercise: The treasure chest
Find a box, a jar, or a basket that you find interesting and inspiring. Put all the floating thoughts and miscellaneous ideas in there, like a piggy bank for your brain. Whenever you need inspiration, open the lid to take a look, or just draw one randomly and see what comes up.
9. Personalize Your Space
Yes, we talked about clutter and removing items, but sometimes we need to add some more. Surrounding ourselves with objects that bring us joy, improve morale, and lead to better habits.
For example, if we have our favorite mug, we might be more inclined to drink liquids, which keeps us feeling better throughout the day. If we have our favorite pen, we might be more inclined to write things down.
Exercise: The Spark of Joy
- Add to your desk items that bring you joy and create comfort
- Position the items so they can be reachable and visible at all times
- Set a picture that represents your personality as a desktop background
10. Reward Yourself
Rewards are an important motivation. Adding rewards at the end of tasks works as positive reinforcement and will drive you to work harder.
Exercise: The Treat
- Decide on two kinds of rewards: small treats (they can be a five-minute break, a cup of coffee, a short walk) and bigger rewards (such as purchasing something, taking days off, participating in a favorite activity)
- Assign a symbol for the two kinds of rewards (an emoji, a GIF, a picture, a quote)
- Insert the symbols into your plan
If you need a creative team to help you plan and organize your services, get in touch and let’s talk!