How To: 5 Steps to Improve Productivity with Organization

At the end of the day do you feel like you’ve been busy all day but you aren’t actually sure what you accomplished? I know that is a common problem for me (Mark from Marketing) and a lot of other co-workers of mine.  I am responsible for social media at Samsill and as anyone who spends any time on the internet knows, there is A LOT of information blasting through it every second.  Information overload.  Samsill is a smaller company which means I also have other responsibilities, besides marketing, that I must do each day.  Before I know it, it is 5pm and even though I have been busy all day I find myself asking, “What did I actually accomplish today?”

I quickly had to learn how to manage all the information and also allot time to accomplish other tasks.  Working for a binder company allows me to keep my papers organized but it didn’t help much with digital media.  I have compiled a list of key things I have implemented to keep me sane and help me deal with all the information. (This list is compiled of suggestions that helped me personally; they may not be for everyone.  Take it for what it is worth and I hope they can help you stay organized!)

1.) To Do List –

  1. PROBLEM: I know to do lists seem obvious, and I thought they were too, but just having a generic to do list isn’t enough.  If your to do list isn’t effective then it is a complete waste of time.  I found myself making a new to do list every morning when in reality I was rewriting 90% of the stuff I had on my previous days list.  I found this to be a huge waste of time.
  2. SOLUTION: Create ONE to do list each week and organize the list itself. Every Monday I start a list with the most important & vital things at the top.  The next section are things I’d like to get done within the week, but aren’t as vital as the top duties. The last section is the least important and are usually duties that I’d like to do at some point but do not have a timeline. These are also things that I can mix into my daily schedule if I need to mix things up.  Throughout the week as I get more duties I just add them onto my list where they fit depending on their vitality.  I also prepare my list electronically via Microsoft OneNote which is compatible with my work computer, personal laptop, and iPhone, allowing me to access my list and add to it or take away from it from anywhere.  This also gives me the ability to copy & paste and strike through finished items quickly improving my productivity and time management.

2.) Start your day with a plan –

  1. PROBLEM: Some days I come into work with a lot on my mind. Personal stuff or business stuff it doesn’t matter, it still takes my mind off of the daily tasks at hand.  I sit down at my computer, two hours will be gone yet I haven’t accomplished anything.   My brain is being pulled in too many different directions and I can’t focus.
  2. SOLUTION: To counteract that blurred feeling I look at my weekly to do list and pick two or three things to focus on that day. Obviously I cannot always get those things done that day but Instead of having a list of 20 things that definitely won’t be accomplished I have a list of three focuses that have a much higher probability of being finished.  It is also common knowledge that finishing tasks gives us a sense of accomplishment boosting our moral.

Excerpt: A friend of mine told this hint and I tried it yesterday and found it highly helpful. A lot of times I’ll leave work still thinking about what I need to get done tomorrow.  I’ll go to bed “doing the list” (a.k.a putting a to do list together in my head before I fall asleep).  This is terrible for one’s health.  What his suggestion was is instead of starting the day with a plan; finish the day with a plan. He updates his daily duties at the end of each day instead of in the mornings.  That way while all the day’s work is still fresh in the mind it is easy to know what three for four tasks need to be accomplished tomorrow.  I tried it last night and it was amazingly powerful. I didn’t think about work once while I was away from my office because I know when I got back to work this morning I’d have my priorities laid out for the day.

3.) Organize FAVORITES

  1. PROBLEM: I spend 90% of my job on the computer and about 95% of that time is spend on blogs and social media sites.  Like I said before, there is way more information being thrown at me then I could go through in a lifetime. A lot of that information is really neat and I tried to read every word of every post. Unrealistic.  I also would keep internet tabs open to read later. Which is a good to an extent but I would have 40+ tabs open and it would freeze my computer.  I’d put those tabs into my favorites to read later but before long my favorites box looked as though a bomb exploded in a typography studio.  Just a bunch of random letters and favicons that had no meaning.
  2. SOLUTION: Organize favorites into MEANINGFUL folders and subfolders.  By meaningful I mean make folders that mean something to you.  I used to make generic folders with generic names, like “blogs” or “technology.”  Those are great names if they mean something to you but for me they did nothing.  I still couldn’t find sites that I was looking for.  Instead I created names and folders that were clear and concise.  Each morning I have a list of news sites that I visit every morning, so I created a favorites folder called “Morning News Sites.”  I also have a list of blogs that I try to check each day so I created a folder called “Daily Blogs to Visit.”  It also isn’t bad to have the same site in multiple folders.  One site I check regularly is Inhabitat(a green design blog) but it doesn’t just fit into one category.  I have it under my “Green” folder and I also have it under my “Architectural Design” folder.  Having favorites that mean something to you can be a great organizational tool for improved productivity as well as sanity.

4.) Take a step back

  1. PROBLEM: Getting caught up in the digital medium and forgetting what your focus was for the day. This happens to me all the time. I’ll stumble upon a bunch of cool new sites which lead me to other cool sties and before I know it I am off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the task at hand.
  2. SOLUTION: Every hour or so I take time to stand up from my desk and look at what I am doing from a bird’s eye view to evaluate if I am accomplishing something. Surprisingly I’ll find that I am off on a tangent and wasting time.  Standing up regularly prevents me from the common problem of getting trapped in the digital sphere and helps me keep my focus.  It is also good for health reasons. Actually standing up away from the desk and stretching or going for a walk around the office helps muscles stay active and keeps blood flow circulating.

5.) Time Management

  1. PROBLEM: Wasting too much time doing one task and not having enough time to do the other duties. I noticed when I was involved with one thing, like searching out content to update our social networks or researching ideas, I quickly lost track of time and would spend all day doing only one task. .
  2. SOLUTION: Even if there are no official deadlines doesn’t mean that time can be thrown out the window. Time is the most valuable asset we have, it ought to be cherished. What I have learned to do is manage my time between my three or four tasks throughout the day.  I don’t have set schedules (i.e. work on one thing from 8 to 10 then the next item, etc.) instead I simply keep track of how long I am working on something. I know when I come in at 8am I will work on daily updates the first two hours of the day. When 10am nears I know it is time to wrap things up.  Some days I finish at 9am and other days I finish at 10:30. It isn’t about how long is spent on each task; it is about being AWARE of how long is being spent on each task.  That way at the end of the day I can account for each out of the day and know I didn’t waste time doing one task longer then I needed to be.

I hope these tips helped you in your day to day struggle to keep up with your life! Continue to check back here for more helpful lists and how to articles.

While you are here check out our Speedy Spine binder that helps improve productivity by making an everyday task easier and less time consuming.


Samsill Marketing Team