Unfortunately, when we think about how to be more productive, we usually think about the tools and tactics we can use to save time and be more organised. But all this stuff is just the tip of the iceberg.
The real skills you need to develop in order to be more productive are the principles, habits and mindset you apply to your work. Tools are just a way of applying these principles.
This is truer than ever when it comes to being organised.
Often I get asked very tactical questions like “what folders should I organise my emails into” or “what’s the best app for tracking your time”.
When really, being organised is less about tactics and more about the mindset and discipline you apply to the different areas of your life (both professionally and personally). I’m talking about things like:
- Keeping files and folders clean and tidy on your computer.
- Maintaining a clean calendar (dozens of overlapping appointments is a big no-no).
- Triaging email correctly and having a tidy inbox.
- Use a to-do list to plan your tasks without over-committing and ending up with loads of overdue tasks.
- Tracking your income, expenses and identifying spending habits.
- Planning your weekends, doing chores and DIY projects.
- Even simple things like managing the contacts on your phone and removing all the duplicates.
With each of these things, it doesn’t really matter what specific tool you use or whether you use tags, folders or labels. What’s more important is developing the discipline of being organised in every aspect of your life.Productivity is less about shiny new tools or 'hacks' and more about the principles, habits and mindset we apply to our workClick To Tweet
Having an organised mindset should become a daily habit that you apply to everything. In fact, it’s not even a habit. It’s just a way of thinking and acting with everything that you do.
You shouldn’t need to “make time” to organise your calendar or files. Yes, there might be an initial clean up period, but eventually, you should be organised as a default behaviour. Being organised should be an automatic response. This means you shouldn’t need to spend time organising files or cleaning up your calendar at the end of the week. If you’re applying this mindset, your tools and system shouldn’t even get messy in the first place.
And what many people don’t realise is that taking the extra time to be organised now improves your efficiency later on. For example, filing your documents in a clear system makes it easier to find information later on.
So this is all well and good, but how do you cultivate this mindset?
Naturally, it's something that's going to take time and discipline to implement. Whether you're sorting through email, adding appointments to your calendar or setting up tasks for the day, take the time right there and then, in that very moment to be organised and do things correctly.
- When you download a document, do what you need to with it and either get rid of it when you're done or file it away it into a folder.
- When sorting through email, do what you need to (respond, schedule a task or appointment) then archive the message (don't bother with folders, they're a waste of time and it's far quicker to search for emails than to dig through folders).
- When updating your to-do list, add due dates (and recurring due dates) to tasks instead of leaving them blank.
- Set up recurring calendar events to plan repetitive weekly, monthly or even annual appointments.
In each of these examples, you can see how being organised is the result of dealing with things properly, right there in the moment. If you find yourself thinking, “I'll tidy this mess up later” chances are you won't.
Here are some extra articles to help with developing an organised mindset:
- How to organise your files and folders on your computer
- How to be more productive with money using Pocketsmith NOTE: Use the code 50OFFPREMIUM-4LS2 to get 50% off for your first 2 months of premium.
- How to minimise your Asana projects and stay more organised