Keep Organized at Work: 

Keep Organized at Work

According to research conducted by Zippia, 82% of people don’t have a time management system. Wow…how do these folks keep organized at work? My guess is that they don’t, and Zippia’s research agrees by confirming that only 20% of the people polled feel their daily work is under control. 

Time Management Vs Organizational Skills

Perhaps the foundational issue is that most individuals think time management and organizational skills are the same. It is important to note that the act of organizing deals with things while time management deals with the prioritization of and time it takes to do things. Said differently, you can organize your closet, the papers on your desk, or your kitchen cabinets. You can even organize a list of tasks, but leveraging time management will help you increase efficiency by prioritizing the tasks that are more urgent and important. Time management will then enable you to plan when you will perform urgent and important tasks so that they can be completed within a certain timeframe.

A key element to the success of any professional is having strong organizational skills. Likewise, having the ability to prioritize and plan your work is also important. Therefore it is safe to say that organization and time management are quite related. And when it comes to how folks keep organized at work, they have to employ both in order to be successful. 

Here are some great ways to practice both to keep organized at work. 

Make Lists…and Appropriately Prioritize Them

Regardless of whether you make lists on paper, on your phone, or another type of ‘to-do’ or task program, creating lists is a fantastic way to track what needs to be done. Outside of my work-related task list, I write on my fridge. My brain goes into overdrive when I am working in the kitchen so I keep a jar of dry-erase markers on the counter and make lists on my stainless(ish) fridge. If you like this idea but don’t want to write on your appliances, buy a magnetic dry-erase board that will stick to your fridge or hang a small whiteboard in your office, the kitchen, or the family room. The wonderful thing about having such a dynamic and visible venue is that the entire family can participate. 

The art of prioritization…

When it comes to prioritizing your tasks, consider each item in terms of urgency and importance. Why? Because you are going to have ‘urgent’ tasks that really aren’t that important and can be ditched, deprioritized, or delegated. Alternatively, there may be some extremely important projects or tasks that aren’t immediately due. But because of their importance, you can book work sessions on your calendar so that you meet future deadlines without scrambling at the last minute. 

This methodology of prioritization is known as the Eisenhower Matrix and it is highly effective. To note which tasks are important and/or urgent, I add two columns to the left of the list of projects or tasks. I put a tick next to the important tasks in the ‘importance’ column. I then assess the tasks and tick any that are urgent in the ‘urgent’ column. I repeat this process until all of the tasks have been assessed for urgency and importance.  

The tasks that get both ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ ticks get done first. The tasks that are ticked as important but not urgent get scheduled as work sessions on my calendar. Those items that are not important but are urgent I tend to delegate. And anything that isn’t urgent or important is usually ditched. 

Manage Your Email…Don’t Let It Manage You

Email is an important tool, but sending and receiving email can take up a large chunk of your workday. I find that the more I work in my inbox, the more emails I receive. It appears I am not alone as current statistics show that during a traditional work week, the average person receives almost 400 emails. Sometimes I feel like I receive that many per day! 

The simple act of deciding which email to prioritize can be a challenge, so establishing a strategy or process is important if you want to keep organized at work. 

Identify Communication Channels Based on Urgency and Importance

Some communications are urgent. Others are important but not urgent. And unfortunately, some communications are just a waste of time. When it comes to managing your email, start with establishing an overall communication policy. Establishing a clear communication plan helps you to set ground rules as to what should come through email versus other channels of communication. 

For example, if you need to be immediately available to handle escalations, establish a well-communicated policy that all time-sensitive communications should come through a method outside of email like Skype, Slack, Text, TEAMS, or whatever other venue your team uses for urgent communications.

But be firm on this rule because you don’t want your team using the ‘urgent’ or time-sensitive communication venues for less urgent items. 

Color Code Your Emails

Microsoft has a conditional formatting option that I love (love love love). It was a game changer for me when I realized I was able to color-code emails received. For example, I have a specific font and color set up for all of my team members so when any of them send an email to me, their emails show up in a hot pink bolded font. Here is a snippet of what it looks like in my inbox and it makes it really easy to prioritize (or deprioritize) emails sent by my team members.  

I use a different color and font for all of my clients, which means I can go directly to those emails and address them within a very short timeframe. Likewise, emails sent to generic email boxes like our recruiting box, invoicing box, or marketing box are color-coded differently. 

Being able to prioritize (or deprioritize) my email helps me keep organized at work…and in my personal life.

Consider compartmentalizing

One of my beloved mentors, Beth, schedules ‘email’ time as appointments. She books 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon to just work her email. And she honors that time. She will not allow anyone to book over the appointments and she is disciplined in only checking her email during that time. 

I love this approach. 

Unless your position’s primary function is to manage an email box (like my Sourcers manage our recruiting email box), scheduling your email time should be doable. Especially if you have established a venue with your team on how to handle urgent or time-sensitive issues and also use Microsoft’s color coding to help identify which emails should be addressed first.

There are two side benefits of scheduling your email time. First, you can shut down your email tool when you aren’t working in it. Shutting down your email means that you won’t get distracted when that silly notification pops up in the corner of your screen telling you that you just received a new email. Second, knowing that you have a scheduled time slot for managing your email will keep you from disrupting your workflow by randomly checking your email throughout the day. 

Compartmentalizing will help eliminate distractions from your day, while still giving you ample time to address important emails.

Pretend you are an Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers can’t leave an airplane hanging in the air or sitting on the tarmac. They have to deal with every single plane within their purview…every single time. I recommend you handle email with a similar mindset by making a rule that if you touch an email, you deal with it in some way. This doesn’t mean that you should respond to every email. And it also doesn’t mean that for those emails that do need a response you have to do it right away. However, you should have a methodology to prioritize your email so that you can deal with each message appropriately. 

Most emails will fall into one of four categories: They get deleted (or spammed), filed into a folder, responded to immediately, or flagged for future follow-up. The benefit of categorizing each email as you open it is that you won’t have to touch it again until you need to. Which, of course, will make you more efficient. 

For those emails that need follow-up, I use Microsoft’s categories to group them. For example, I use purple for proposals, red to indicate that I need to do something but it isn’t currently time-sensitive and green for those with a topic I want to address with the team during our next huddle. And if the follow-ups are time-sensitive, use Microsoft’s Follow-up flag feature so that you get a reminder when you need to actually follow up on the email. 


Calendars don’t have to be just for appointments. If you have an upcoming deadline, consider scheduling a recurring meeting leading up to the deadline. For example, let’s say that I am presenting a webinar to the ACRP two weeks from Friday. I will schedule a recurring appointment that blocks at least three chunks of time on my calendar. Two of those calendar blocks will be work sessions to prepare for the webinar and the third calendar block will be for the actual presentation.  

CRAs can employ this method backwards. For example, if you have a site visit tomorrow, book your calendar for the visit but make it recurring, blocking future time on your calendar to write the report, follow up on outstanding queries and tasks, etc. 

As a side note, I find that having my entire schedule in one place makes it easier to have balance. So I synch all of my calendars as well as block my calendar with chunks of time for exercise or other personal activities that are important to me. 

You should also consider using the same color coding on your calendar as you do with your emails. That way, you can easily see which appointments are with clients versus team members. You will also be able to quickly identify upcoming deadlines or time blocked for work sessions. 

Know When to Delegate

Being the owner of a task or project doesn’t mean you have to be the ‘doer’ of that task or project. Being the owner just means you are responsible for getting the work done. When tasks are not urgent or not of high importance, consider delegating them. 

Delegating is good for those you delegate to. When you delegate, you are showing your team members that you trust and appreciate them. And in many ways, you are teaching someone a new skill. So where possible (and with proper oversight) delegate tasks so that you can focus on items that are more important and urgent while empowering and developing team members. 

In Conclusion

When you can keep organized at work, you will be more likely to accomplish your personal and career goals. You will also improve your work-life balance, increase your productivity, and reduce your anxiety. 

We hope you find our tips beneficial but feel free to contact us if you have questions or need support!