The Most Common Workplace Organizational Skill Mistakes and How to Avoid Them workplace

Updated Jul 20th, 2022 by   Nicolas Zenker

We’re all on the lookout for ways to increase our productivity at work. After all, when you feel productive, you’re more likely to meet your goals and help your company or business succeed in its own goals. If you’ve looked into increasing your productivity, you’ve probably read about organizational skills and how they can have a serious impact on your ability to do work. But what exactly does it mean to improve your organizational skills?

It can often be easier to think about organizational skills in the negative — that is, what are some things you should avoid doing if you want to boost your productivity. With that in mind, we’ve brought together this list of the most common workplace organizational mistakes and how to avoid them. From keeping your workspace clean to better managing your time and schedule, you’ll learn some of the best organizational skills out there. 

1. Having a cluttered workspace

Clutter can be a major productivity killer. Not only will it be harder to find what you need when your workspace is a mess, but too much clutter can increase your stress levels and make it harder to concentrate on all sorts of tasks. 

To stop clutter in its tracks, it’s a good idea to clear your workspace periodically. Get rid of office supplies that you aren’t using, and file away any reports or other items that you don’t need for your current workload.  

Another great idea for keeping workspace clutter at bay is to divide your workstation into sections. One part of your desk could be reserved for files and reports, another part for office supplies you need at hand, and so on. Desk and drawer organizers are another great solution that can keep your desk from getting too cluttered. 

2. Keeping all your emails in your inbox

Keeping all your emails in your inbox without filtering them is a great way to lose emails, miss out on important information, and slow down your work day dramatically. Chances are, if you aren’t organizing your emails, you’ve probably spent way longer than you wanted tracking down an email from a colleague with an important attachment or info. But it doesn’t need to be that way. 

Creating folders that separate your emails into whatever categories work for you is a great way to inject some order into the chaos of your inbox. Choose a system that works best for you and stick to it. You might just have a folder for personal emails and one for work emails, or you might break down your work emails by the different teams and projects you’re working on. Whatever you choose, set aside some time each day to file your emails correctly. 

3. Not making lists

Lists can seem like an overly simple way of keeping track of your work commitments, and if you’re just writing down tasks randomly on a piece of paper whenever they occur to you, they can be. However, if you use lists the right way, they can be a powerful organizational tool that will help keep you focused and on task while decreasing your stress levels. 

In other words, a list-making system is key. Generally, it’s a good idea to have a daily list of tasks to complete, a weekly list, and a monthly list. Creating a relevant list at the start of each day, week, and month will help provide a roadmap that can orient you over both the short and long term. Of course, these lists won’t help much if you don’t make a point of checking them regularly, so make sure to build some time into your workday to give them a look. 

4. Multitasking

We’ve all been guilty of multitasking at one time or another, and it’s easy to understand why. Sometimes so many tasks and projects are coming your way at once that it’s tempting to spread your attention out and focus on a few different priorities. We like to think we’ll be getting everything done faster when in reality it’s far more likely to make each task take longer than it would have individually.

That’s because your focus ends up getting split, making it harder to get tasks done quickly. In other words, when you switch between tasks, you’re constantly losing momentum. Whenever you can, give all your attention to one task, and only move on when you’ve completed it. Structuring your days in terms of the priority of your tasks can help prevent multitasking since you’re less likely to feel the sudden need to switch to a task that you feel is more important or urgent. 

5. Not using calendars and planners

You might think a calendar’s not for you. Maybe you can do a pretty good job of keeping track of your meetings and projects in your head. And while that might work for a select few, the fact is that for the majority of people using a calendar or planner will vastly improve your organizational skills and productivity in the workplace. 

A well-maintained work calendar or planner will help you keep track of your daily and weekly meetings and tasks, prevent time conflicts, and improve your overall productivity. Digital calendars are a popular solution. And whether you’re using Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, or another digital calendar, a calendar management system can take the stress out of organizing your work schedule. AddEvent makes it easy to add events and meetings to your digital calendar, share events with others, collect RSVPs, and more. 

6. Focusing on the immediate future

Especially if your work environment is constantly busy, it can seem like a good idea to focus on the immediate future, looking ahead one or two weeks at the most. In fact, taking a longer view of your work goals is the best way to organize your time and efforts.

People often assume that setting the right daily and weekly goals will help them plan ahead and figure out what their long-term goals should be. In fact, it’s often better to think about things the other way around. Knowing where you want to be or what you want to have accomplished a few months out will make it easier to break down your weeks and days. 

7. Relying on paper

With so much of your work taking place in digital space — from emails to calendars, spreadsheets, meetings, and more — it can feel refreshing to sit down with a physical report or other tasks. Paper can even seem like a great organizational solution. After all, if it’s written down on a piece of paper that you can actually see and hold, it’s going to be far more difficult to forget about, right?

Spend a little time with paper, however, and you’ll remember why it can quickly get out of hand. Folders proliferate, filing cabinets fill up fast, and soon enough your desk can feel crowded with loose reports and stacks of meeting notes. And when you’re physically organizing things, the time spent doing this can quickly add up. 

Avoiding paper whenever you can is one of the best ways to stay organized. That doesn’t mean you can’t print out a report or spreadsheet when you want to take a look at it, but when it comes to knowing where you’ve kept it, a shared drive or another source of digital storage is the smarter move. 

8. Going off schedule

If there’s a work emergency, you’re probably going to have to toss your schedule out the window for a little bit, and that’s okay. But setting your schedule aside for anything less than an emergency is an easy way to see your productivity drop. Plus, when you go off schedule even a tiny bit, you’re likely to have trouble remembering other parts of your schedule that you didn’t change. That sort of confusion can slow down your work and make clear communication more difficult. 

An effective schedule helps keep you on task and helps make sure you and your coworkers are working together to meet all your project benchmarks. Blocking out your week and each individual day and working hard to stick to that schedule is a great way to boost your productivity. Find a blocking system that works best for you. You might break down your day into meeting time, solo work time, email time, and so on, or you might find that a looser system works best for you. 

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