New year, new goals. We all start off the year with big ideas and the best intentions. After a usually chaotic end to the year, January can feel like a fresh start - a chance to reset and be more productive.
If you've made any New Year's resolutions, it’s a sobering thought that 80% of us fail them by mid February. So if you're aiming to be more organized and work more efficiently this year, here’s how to boost your chances of succeeding way beyond February.
This may seem obvious but it sits at the heart of being effective at work. When you have a clear understanding of what’s expected of you and your role, it’s easier to prioritize your work load. If your business plans a year or six weeks ahead, know your contribution so you can be sure you're focused on the right things each day.
Depending on your business this could be for the week or month ahead. Here at Capsule, we all publish our goals for the week ahead on Basecamp and reflect on the important things that happened the week before. It’s a useful weekly reminder to spend 15 minutes reflecting and prioritizing for the week ahead.
A week is a long time in business, a lot can happen to derail your plans but that shouldn't put you off planning.
To help you be more organized at the start of the week, some people find it useful to schedule the most important tasks for each day and record them on paper or in an app. They focus their time on those tasks alone and won't work on anything else until they are complete.
Key to ending the week feeling fulfilled is having realistic expectations of the time each task will take and keeping the number to between one and three per day.
Others prefer to organize their day in two hour segments. They work on a task solidly for 90 minutes then have a 20 - 30 minute rest so they're working in line with their ultradian rhythm.
There will be an approach to focusing at work that will best suit your work rhythm but the key is focusing, not multi-tasking. Switching back and to from one task to another leads to a smaller IQ and probably a more stressful day.
You’re not short of options here, they range from something simple like a notepad and pen or software such as Apple Notes, Excel, Trello or Notion. But before you go searching for new software, review what you already have as there may be some handy features you've not yet uncovered.
Take Capsule for example, you can create:
simple task lists that can be repeated and linked to your main work calendar
segments of customers that automatically update every time a customer meets specific criteria. So if you have a contact list for all the people you haven’t contacted in 14 days, they'll drop off the list when you add an activity and new ones will automatically be added when they go over 14 days without contact
a sequence of tasks that work towards or from a set date and run automatically, called Tracks. Excellent for breaking big tasks down into small actionable steps
alerts in the sales pipeline to highlight when an opportunity needs a nudge by setting the maximum number of days you want to leave between contact
teams to allocate specific contacts, opportunities, tasks so each member of the team is completely focused on the activities relevant to them.
Where possible try to consolidate your alerts and the number of places you need to go to for information to do your job, it’ll help you work more efficiently. If you struggle remembering passwords and waste time resetting each week, a password manager tool like 1Password can be a game changer too.
How easy this is to do in reality depends on your job but it always helps to schedule time to look at your apps and switch off all notifications in between. It takes an average of 25 minutes to recover from an interruption - whether it’s a ping from an email or a person. Constant interruptions can leave you feeling unfulfilled from a long day and more disorganized as you play catch up.
Meetings could also be classed as a distraction depending on your role within them. When invited to a meeting, confirm your role and consider the value you can add there compared to working on your important tasks. Some people are invited to meetings as a comfort blanket, there to make the organizer feel confident they’ll get the desired outcome from others. Attending in this capacity can derail your day for no real benefit to the business so assess attendance wisely.
If you set a meeting up, write an agenda and reduce the duration by 25%. Those 15 minutes saved from an hour's meeting add up during the month to five hours. An agenda with less time and a strong chair will be more focused and beneficial to the business.
Clutter is also a distraction, the more you see the easier you’ll be distracted according to a study conducted by the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. It’s difficult to give something your full attention when you’re surrounded by numerous other things you’re yet to deal with. This applies to both your on and off-line workspace, including your inbox. So a quick way to get more organized is to clear up your desktop.
When you turn off notifications and focus on the task in hand, hours can fly by as you do deep work. But the brain only works for so long before it starts to fatigue, some say 90 minutes. After that time you should take at least a 20 minute break.
Use this break to catch up with colleagues and have the small talk you’d usually have at the start of your meeting and generally be sociable. But be mindful not to distract people from their work. Better still, why not take a stroll outside to appreciate nature and get inspired along the way.
Once you’ve changed your approach to work and reviewed the software you use, you’ll certainly feel more organized. But the proof will be the amount you’ve achieved at the end of each week. So it’s worth spending 15 minutes reviewing your successes and reflect on what’s worked so you can do more of it.
With some simple changes, you'll feel more organized straight away, which will have a remarkable impact on your working week. Good luck!