How to be more organised at work

laptop at desk
Six expert tips to help you take back control of your working life, improve organisational skills and boost productivity...

British economist John Maynard Keynes once famously predicted that advances in technology and productivity would eventually result in a 15-hour working week.

We were going to have all this free leisure time at our disposal while still earning enough to satisfy our material needs.

Never mind a 15-hour week, there are plenty of people putting in 15-hour days. That is partly because of technology and the fact we can be contacted anytime through emails.

But it also comes down to the fact that some of us could be better at time management or fall short when it comes to organisational skills.

So, we’ve gathered together tips from experts that will help you to become less stressed and more productive...


1. Take Control of Your Email

Louise Chunn is the founder of and former editor of Psychologies, In Style and Good Housekeeping. This is her five-point plan for organising your emails...

  • Set aside specific times to read emails rather than responding to each and every notification, allowing it to interrupt concentrated spells of work

  • Create VIP notifications for people whose emails you shouldn’t miss

  • Keep your email messages short and responses will often mimic your brevity

  • Don’t have dozens of email files – keep your subjects broad. You can usually word-search to find what you happen to be looking for anyway

  • Pick up the phone – it’s more personal and will often solve the problem more quickly and definitively


2. Don’t be a busy fool

Graeme Donnelly is a member of IoD London and the founder of B2B business Rapid Formations. He says...

It’s great to be busy – it’s usually a sign that business is going well – but no one wants to be a busy fool! It’s impossible to address every task and idea as and when they pop into your head, which is something we tend to learn only through experience. Organisation, clarity of thought, focus and self-discipline are essential if you want to achieve your goals while remaining sane.

Plan, write things down, prioritise, delegate and don’t make time for the tedious jobs you tend to put off. The better you are at organising yourself and your commitments, the more you’ll achieve. And the less likely you are to become overwhelmed.

Consider setting aside some time in the early mornings. Use this time to plan the day ahead, or to tackle the tasks you’re unable to do during working hours.

I prefer early rises, and I also work a Saturday or Sunday morning when the family is asleep. This allows me to work in peace without neglecting anyone, and I get to enjoy family time without worrying about what hasn’t been done.

3. Do Your Own Review

Graham Allcott has taught employees at eBay and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation how to use their time more efficiently and is the author of How to be a Productivity Ninja. According to Graham...

Henry Ford once said: “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” At least once a week, spend some time in “thinking mode” to review your second brain’s to-do lists and see the wood from the trees. Doing this for a concentrated couple of hours is a great investment – it will save you time, reduce your stress and generally make the rest of your week much easier.

4. You Are What You Eat

Performance nutritional consultant Laurent Bannock says...

“If you eat rubbish, you’ll feel it. Make five minutes in the morning to prepare a healthy breakfast to take to work, such as a low-fat yoghurt with a tub of berries and seeds, rather than grabbing something on the way in. Prepare a lunch of smoked salmon and a bean salad that can be eaten cold too. If you don’t always have time for lunch, keep some high-energy snacks, such as almonds and apples or bananas and cheese chunks, handy. This should help you to avoid grazing on highly processed foods.”

5. Get More Sleep

Norman Blissett is the CEO of consultancy firm Gallanach and a Fellow of the IoD. He says...

"It’s estimated sleep deprivation costs the UK £40bn and 200,000 lost working days. The biggest productivity gains can be made from those sleeping fewer than six hours a night getting a little more. Tired workers are less productive, take more time off and are less healthy. Employers can help through employee health and wellbeing programmes.”

6. Delegation

David Allen is the author of productivity bible Getting Things Done. He writes...

Often, it’s important to realise that you can’t delegate the whole outcome – if you’re responsible for improving your company’s credit line, you’re accountable for that – but the next step [down] could be delegated… Clearly defining roles and accountability in your business makes it easier to see which elements of your project list could be handed off, and it becomes an easier conversation once people understand what’s really on their plate.

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