Organization is something many people strive for but find hard to achieve. However, it's a good goal to have: Being organized and efficient at work not only makes you a more valuable employee, but it can significantly reduce stress.
According to a study by leadership training company VitalSmarts, 83 percent of managers and 77 percent of employees are less stressed when they exhibit the productivity habits and traits of top performers. These include organization, time management skills, attention to detail, making to-do lists, keeping track of things and prioritizing tasks.
"A very small number of self-management practices literally change a person's life and are also beneficial to the organization," said David Maxfield, one of VitalSmarts' researchers for this study. "They dramatically improve performance while also reducing stress."
VitalSmarts, a licensee of the David Allen Co. for the Getting Things Done Programme in North America, conducted its research by testing the methodology described in Allen's book, "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" (Penguin Books, 2015). Based on Allen's steps, here are five key practices that will help you be more productive in the workplace. [What's your most productive work time? Here's how to plan your day around it.]
1. Write down everything that requires your attention ("Capture").
Keep track of all your commitments, tasks, ideas and projects by writing them down, rather than trying to juggle them all in your head. If you try to keep track of everything using only your memory, you're likely to forget some items or at least add unnecessary stress to yourself. It's much better to use a written list, an app or email to keep track of what you need to get done.
2. Decide what you need to do for each item ("Clarify").
For every commitment you have, identify in advance what steps need to be taken to get it done. Be very clear about what the action is and who you will need to contact to accomplish it.
3. Use the two-minute rule ("Organize").
The two-minute rule is simple: If a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately rather than putting it off. The time you'll spend letting these small tasks occupy your attention is not worth it when they can be knocked off immediately.
4.Reflect on your priorities ("Reflect and engage").
Before tackling your to-do list for the day, take some time to go over your priorities. This helps you make the best decisions about how to use your time throughout the day. A great way to make this routine is to create a list of objectives at the beginning of the week and refer to them each day as a reminder of your goals.
5. Review your successes weekly ("Renew through review").
Create a mandatory meeting with yourself at the end of every week to evaluate the progress you've made. Take this time to reorganize and align your daily work and projects with your long-term priorities. Make sure to identify what worked well and what didn't so you know what tactics to repeat and what to alter going forward.
Justin Hale, another VitalSmarts researcher, noted that when employees practice good productivity habits, it's a win-win for the individual and the business.
"Employees who learn to manage their workload quickly and efficiently don't just get more done, they get more of the right things done," Hale said in a statement. "They stop carrying the weight and anxiety of work, and free up their time and mental capacity for new and better ideas."