How to develop organizational skills to win at work?
Having good organizational skills means that you excel at managing time, energy, space, people, and other occupational resources.
This means successfully completing tasks while minimizing how many assets you use, or, in other words, being as efficient as possible. Organizational skills are, without a doubt, an essential part of being successful in any role at work.
There are at least eight different skills which fall under organizational ability. The better you become at applying these skills, the better you will be at managing yourself and others, as well as your material resources.
The good news is that these skills are generally interconnected, meaning while you’re working on one skill, you’re simultaneously improving the others as well.
Whether you are leading a team or looking to advance in your company, this article will help you improve your organizational capacity by addressing each of the eight sub-skills.
1. Setting goals and planning how to achieve them
Becoming organized almost always starts with addressing your goal setting and planning skills. It’s hard to organize yourself, or anything else for that matter, if your thoughts are confused and you can’t communicate them clearly.
Clarity leads to focus and efficiency. Thus, the first step towards becoming an organized person is to know exactly what you want and what is expected from you at your job.
The most important tip on how to develop your planning and goal setting skills is to timebox your planning time in advance.
It’s surprising how rarely people are able to get away from distractions, to be able to take some time alone with a pen and a piece of paper; time just to think of and plan their next moves. Planning always begins with writing things down: there’s no magic formula.
It’s true that you should write down your goals using the SMART formula, frequently review and adjust them, and so on, but the most important thing is to take time especially for planning.
Just take a piece of paper and write down what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it. You don’t need to overcomplicate things – develop a habit of writing down your goals and then reviewing them on a weekly basis.
An important aspect of organizing people, and other resources, centers on making decisions – from selecting priorities, to allocating resources, to leading others towards your set goals.
All of these entail making decisions and standing by them. Of course, we all hesitate now and then, and we all make the wrong decision from time to time, meaning there will be times when we have to stop to reevaluate our approach.
Nevertheless, if you have consistent trouble making decisions, then the best advice is to practice, practice, practice. Whenever you find yourself hesitating, make a decision and then reflect on the consequences.
Start with decisions that won’t have significant consequences, and then work your way up from there. You can only conquer indecisiveness by consciously and deliberately making decisions.
But why is decisiveness such an important organizational ability? Being indecisive usually leads to simply doing nothing. It’s hard to be a highly organized person if you’re constantly weighing options, unsure of which path you should take.
You don’t want to rush or make irrational decisions, but you have to be able to analyze pros and cons, make a decision and then work with the consequences. It’s extremely draining for you and others if you’re constantly indecisive.
3. Time management
Time is the most valuable asset you have. Your time is limited in every respect, so you can only accomplish a certain number of tasks in a day, and only achieve a certain number of goals in your lifetime.
Thus, an important organizational skill is knowing how to manage time – your own, as well as other people’s.
Planning, setting goals, and making decisions are all important parts of time management in and of themselves. When we start practicing these skills, we eventually come to a point where we have to set daily priorities according to the plans we make.
That’s what time management is all about. Allocating your time for the most important things in a given day, week and month. What matters isn’t what you say your priority is, but what you allocate your time to.
Time management can be seen in two different ways:
- managing your tasks and
- your schedule respectively.
Task management consists of selecting the right tasks, determining what you should do yourself as well as what you should delegate, and allocating the optimal amount of time for performing tasks while making sure you still meet the necessary standards.
Having a regularly updated list of tasks is a sign of good organizational skills.
Besides managing tasks, an important part of time allocation is handling meetings (or your schedule, if you will). Deciding who you will meet with, and for how long is also an important part of time management and organization.
Making sure meetings are productive, focused on the topic at hand, recorded with meeting minutes, and that they result in clear decisions being made is another important aspect of being a highly organized person.
Effective coordination and management also means making sure time doesn’t go to waste. Using a time & attendance solution with analytics can also help you organize time as a resource much better.
4. Leadership skills / Being an effective communicator
As we mentioned earlier, organizational skills are important for managing both human resources as well as material resources.
For material resources, analytical and practical skills come in handy – experience with making spreadsheets, setting out budgets, following maintenance plans etc. For human resources, a completely different set of skills comes into play.
We can categorize all of them under the heading of “being an outstanding communicator” or, more broadly, “being an outstanding leader”.
That includes everything from inspiring people, to communicating your expectations clearly, to praising them when they excel, to being candid and forthcoming with positive feedback. This is probably the most difficult part of being an excellent organizer: managing people.
There’s no easy way to learn how to do it. Reading books, going to seminars, modeling outstanding leaders, having a great boss, applying new leadership techniques and constantly improving yourself are the only surefire way to develop these crucial soft skills.
You can read more about it in our blog post on how to manage a small team.
5. Mastering technology and organizational tools
Something which has become increasingly evident in the last decade is the necessity of mastering technology and organizational tools. Most high value work now happens behind a computer.
It’s rare to come across a complex project that isn’t run with the use of planning, HRM, communication and timesheet apps. If you don’t master the use of these resources, your organizational skills will fall behind.
You don’t have to be a computer geek, but you definitely have to take time to learn the main apps you’re making use of at work. You need to learn to use technology to your advantage, so the tools can amplify the organizational skills you’ve already developed.
It might be a significant time investment to master these tools and apps, but the rewards can be exponential.
Software is gradually taking over the world, and there is no sign that the trend will slow down, rather, everything is seemingly indicating the opposite. Thus, if you’ve neglected to invest in your tech skills, it’s time to start doing it right away.
6. Working under pressure and staying agile
When you organize something, things rarely go completely as expected. There are usually tight deadlines and frequent complications. Therefore, an important organizational skill is knowing how to manage pressure.
That means staying calm and following the plan through to the end while everyone else is panicking. Staying calm in tough situations is what separates average organizers from outstanding ones.
But being able to work under pressure isn’t the only thing that’s important. You also have to nurture a certain degree of agility.
The path towards your goal is never a straight line. If it’s wise to set clear goals, then staying flexible on your path to reaching them is also a must. Both skills, working under pressure and being able to adjust, are developed most effectively through practice.
When something goes wrong, try not to be rigid and dwell on the negatives, but rather look for alternative ways to attain your goal. Taking on gradually more demanding projects over time will help you grow a thick skin to handle these situations.
7. Tidy up and organize your workplace
Some people are big believers in “creative chaos”, preferring to work in a cluttered environment, but usually clutter only means that someone is messy, which is the opposite of being highly organized.
Keeping a clean desk and setting everything in its designated place is usually the environment people with good organizational skills cultivate. Messy spaces and chaos are nothing but distractions.
To help develop your organizational skills, make sure you live in a tidy environment. It doesn’t have to be sterile; it is enough to keep your space clean and everything in its proper place, nicely ordered.
You’ll feel more organized, you’ll have an easier time finding things, and the clean environment will motivate you to develop your organizational skills further.
Last but not least, we have to mention self-care. It’s hard to excel at organizing anything, if you aren’t taking good care of yourself. Organizational skills start with good self-management.
That means you must take good care of your physical health by making sure you get enough rest, nurture your intellect by reading and having stimulating conversations, and don’t neglect your emotional happiness and well-being.
When you’re at the top of your game, you’ll have a far better chance of successfully organizing resources and others. You always have to lead by example.
If you stop taking good care of yourself – by working too much, having a poor diet, avoiding exercise, being anxious constantly, not investing in your skills etc.; you’ll eventually start making bad decisions, your knowledge will become outdated, you’ll be tired and moody, and, sooner or later, you’ll burn out.
Thus, if you want to develop your organizational skills, start by taking good care of yourself – your body, mind, emotions, and soul. It’s called “sharpening the saw.”