Want to get organized and be more productive?
There are a number of different things that you could try. Of course, some will probably be much more effective than others.
Clean up and get organized—that sounds like good advice. But how exactly does an organized work environment actually make you more productive?
Take a moment to look at your current work environment.
- Is your computer’s desktop neat and tidy, or littered with dozens of icons?
- Are there piles of papers or old food containers lying around?
- Do you have any photos, decorations, or achievements on display?
A person who hasn’t even met you before can actually know quite a bit about you just by looking at the spaces you inhabit. These things often reflect your most common tendencies, and therefore are expressions of your personality.
“Getting organized” tends to work much better when it actually compliments your personal style.
1. Know what to get organized (or not)
Human memory is flawed in a number of fascinating ways. One is that there are different types of memory that can get disconnected.
For example, there are distinct systems involved in “item memory” and “source memory.” In other words, remembering the specifics of a certain thing (an item) is very different from remembering where that thing actually came from (the source).
In fact, research suggests that there is often a tradeoff between the two. The act of organizing things often makes us better at remembering where they are, yet worse at remembering their actual contents.
So, it isn’t simply a question of getting organized or not.
It’s about prioritizing based on your needs.
- If you have things that you might need at some point in the future, it’s probably good to organize them. Know where they will be later, just in case you need them.
- For everything else, you’re probably better off not organizing too much
Just think about all the knowledge and information that you might need more often. There are many things that you need to know on a regular basis, on-the-fly, or that could become important at any moment. In these cases, it’s better to just know what you need to know.
Not only can getting organized reduce the chances that you will know what you need to know on the spot, but the extra time—spent getting organized in the first place, and looking things up later when you don’t know them—can really cut into your productivity.
2. Organize your schedule, to fit your schedule
There is a relationship between the amount of time spent working and how much gets done. It’s a far-from-perfect relationship.
After working for a while, you eventually become tired or distracted, lose motivation, or run out of ideas. There are diminishing returns to simply putting in more and more time.
Fortunately, there are certain peak hours of the day when you are likely to be at your best—alert, motivated, creative, or productive. The timing of this is largely determined by your “biological clock” that regulates cycles of sleep and wakefulness, among other things.
It’s a bit more complicated than just being a “morning person” or “night person.” Research suggests that there are at least 4 types of daily variation in when a given person is most alert.
The really important question to ask yourself is: “What times of day am I most alert?”
These are the few precious peak hours when you could be doing your best work.
But are you?
Are you actually using your peak hours to tackle the most important and challenging tasks, or (like most people) are they spent on a mundane morning or evening routine that you could likely do without?