Do you get distracted or overwhelmed at work and make a mess of things? If YES, here is an actionable guide on how to get organized at work when you are overwhelmed.

The question “how do you get organized at work when there is so much to do but so little time to do it?” is quite a popular one. When unexpected emergencies crop up and things you expect to happen does not happen, it is easy to slide into a deep feeling of being overwhelmed.

People spend so much time in their places of work and as such having a disorganized work environment will definitely tell on your personal life. As such, you will need to pay close attention to your work environment

Most a times, staff are not be blamed for not being organized at work because they are not told or taught how to get organized. It is not uncommon to show up at work and be told to go get your stuff done- go and be productive without actually being told how to go about it.

To be more organized at work, you will need to organize your mind, your time, your work space and of course your projects.

How to Get Organized at Work When You are Overwhelmed

  • Organizing your Mind

The first step to be more organize at work and to ultimately prevent feeling overwhelmed is to organize your mind by looking inwards. The average human being has over 70,000 thoughts on a daily basis and if these thoughts are not properly organized, feeling overwhelmed will be an inevitability.

When you succumb to the many thoughts that are going through your head, you will find out that your mind will become disorganized. The more you reflect on these intrusive thoughts, the more you give them power over you on a subconscious level.

Most of the thoughts that flow through our minds are just thoughts and not reality. However when you find yourself believing the pessimistic and distracting things your inner voices say, it has the ability to not only slow down your productivity but to also overwhelm you. Here are a few steps that you can use to unclutter your mind and keep yourself on track and thus avoid being overwhelmed.

i. Find the appropriate amount of challenge in what you do

When you are trying to get a task done at work, it can be easy to lose focus and succumb to intrusive thoughts especially if the task you are doing proves to be too much of a challenge or if it is too easy. It is really important to have a healthy challenge at work – that is a task that is not so complicated that it induces anxiety or too simple that it induces boredom. When you choose the task that is most suited for you, you greatly increase your chances of having a balance.

ii. Keep your emotions in check

Even though it is not impossible to always control the situation around us all the time, it is however very possible to control how we react emotionally to them. You have to first come to terms with what you are feeling and why you are feeling it.

Having done this, it will be easier for you to channel your emotions to produce the behavior that you want. Associating words with what you feel makes the emotions more tangible will help you to relax and find out what is behind your emotion. Never try to ignore your emotions and go ahead with work without first tackling them because they will eat away at you and thus reduce your productivity.

iii. Sustain your focus

Losing focus when you have an important task at hand can be quite frustrating. Research has shown that it takes between five to twenty minutes before people start to focus. If you can force yourself to stay on the task irrespective of the distractions you are experiencing for twenty minutes then chances are much higher that you will be able to sustain your focus and maintain a flow.

Try to put away all forms of possible distractions such as mobile phones, emails, social media et al. then try to stick to the task for at least twenty minutes even if you do not get much done within that period. There is a high chance that you will feel more focused after then.

iv. Take a break

The human brain and body is not designed to withstand long periods of work. While sitting at a desk for over 7 hours to get a task done may seem like a good idea, it can be quite counterproductive. Studies have found out that the most productive work cycle tend to be 52 minute of uninterrupted work followed by a break of about 17 minutes.

While it may not be easy for you to follow such a rigid schedule, the power of taking breaks within task cannot be overemphasized. Once you have taken the break, you must shift your attention back to the task you were doing before.

Sometimes, you could lose the focus you had before you took the break. If this happens, you will need to reorganize your thought again. Organizing your mind to experience free flow and prevent being overwhelmed can be quite easy but it requires attention and monitoring of self.

Organizing your Time

a. Begin with the end in mind

It is always important to have a sense of where you are going and the things you intend to achieve. Understanding and listing things that you need to attend to before the end of the day, week or month will help you to get a sense of clarity and purpose and thus help you feel more organized.

The next thing to do is to organize these activities you have in an order of importance so that you can get the more urgent and important ones sorted out first before you go over to the less important and less urgent tasks.

b. Time blocking

This is the act of scheduling time with yourself to do the most important work. Just like most people will put a doctor’s appointment on their calendar, it is also important to have a time for yourself to do the most important work. During this period of time blocking, it is important to avoid any form of distraction.

When you are time blocking, it is advisable to switch off your phone and shut down your email. To stop your fellow colleagues from interrupting you, you can try sticking some earphones in your ear. Once you are done with the time blocking, make yourself available again. This will help to inform people around you when you do not need interruption.

c. Invest in planning: There are a lot of planners out there that someone can make use of in order to plan their daily, weekly, monthly or yearly activities. These planners are available as mobile or desktop applications. Alternatively, you can also use the good old fashioned pen and paper.

Organizing your Workspace

In reality, it will be difficult to organize your workspace unless you first organize you mind and your time. Important business opportunities can be missed or get lost when there are a lot of papers on your desk. Here are a few tips to organize your workspace.

1. Ditch the unnecessary stuff

Even though letting go of things may be a scary concept for some, it is really necessary if you want to have an efficient workspace. Getting rid of extra things that you do not need is always a step in the right direction. When you get rid of the clutter in your workspace, it will feel more welcoming rather than cramped and overwhelming. Throw away or donate things you do not need to others.

2. Keep things that matter in sight

Strategically placing things that make you happy in your workplace will boost your mood throughout the work day. It could be a picture of you and your friends, family or a card from a loved one. Having such things around your workspace have the ability to bring out all the positive feelings you need to have in mind when things seem like they are getting out of hand.

3. Electronic workspace: Your digital workspace, be it your email or system and cloud filling system should be in an organized fashion that is intuitive. It is advisable to have all your files in well labelled folders so as to save your time when you need to get to them.

4. Have a trash can near your desk: having a trash can near your desk where you can easily dispose of paper and other trashes can help to get rid of trash that would have otherwise cluttered your desk.

5. Organize your desk before you go home

One of the methods that will allow you to start your day right is to organize your desk at the end of every working day. It is expected that at the end of the work day, that your desk would have gathered some extra clutter. Starting your day with clutter on your desk can be quite overwhelming so it is advisable to clear up your desk before you leave work every day.

Organizing your Projects

i. Don’t just have a to-do list but prioritize

It is natural to get a sense of satisfaction when you cross a task off your to-do list. But you should always make sure than the task you cross off are tasks that have a high impact on your work place. Getting things done doesn’t always equate to being effective. Do not just do the easy stuff because you can easily check them off, but do what needs to be done.

Ask yourself, “out of all these tasks, if I could do only one that will make every other thing easier or unnecessary, that will bring leverage to my business or workplace, will bring the highest income and impact, what would it be?” Focus on knocking that one off first.

The reason why people do not like doing this is because that important item you have picked may be the most difficult to achieve. It is not easy to check off or get done in 15 minutes. It may take a few hours of focused attention in order to get it done. Do not just look at what you can do but what you should do and knock that one out first, then you can proceed to the next task on the list.

ii. Have clearly defined milestones: when you start a project, it is good to have milestones which will not only challenge you but also serve as an indicator of progress. Do not just look at the whole project but look at the individual bits and take it one step at a time.

iii. Multitasking

Women are brought up being told that they are great at multitasking, but the truth still remains that irrespective of sex, multitasking is not useful especially if the tasks at hand are important. Multitasking involves spreading your attention to a lot of projects which mean that you are not entirely focused on any one.

Quite alright, a lot of tasks will be started, yet, a lot of them will not be completed in time or effectively. If you really want to get something done, give it all your focus as this will get it done a lot faster and will produce better result.

In conclusion, clear your mind- make sure that mentally you are sharp and good to go. Next, you should make sure that you are clear and organized with your time- which is your most valuable resource. Then clear your workspace both physically and virtually and still go further to organize your projects using all the steps outlined above. When you perfect these things, you will notice that you will feel less overwhelmed and more productive.