When you’re not organized, everything becomes a greater challenge. Whether you’re looking for your favorite sweater, your passport, or your schoolwork, things seem to disappear. Staying organized is a skill that not only makes it easier to find things when you need them but also to stay on top of all aspects of your life.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Staying Organized in College and High School
- Tips for Getting Organized at Work
- Tips for Keeping Everything Organized at Home
If you include organization as part of this year’s New Year’s resolutions, it’s time to get started. Organizing isn’t a one-and-done chore. It’s an ongoing practice that takes a lot of patience and perseverance. To make this process a bit easier, follow our tips for how to stay organized at work, school, and home.
Tips for Staying Organized in College and High School
In school, organization is one of the most important skills to develop. While it’s important to always study, do your homework, and pay attention in class, this is only one side of the story.
Without proper organization, you’re more likely to miss deadlines or waste time.
1. Use a planner
Planners aren’t a waste of precious backpack real estate. Your planner can be a notebook, a paper calendar, or a digital tool.
As long as you have a way to keep track of deadlines, homework assignments, and other important dates and times, you’re on the path to success.
2. Write everything down
Speaking of planners, you have to actually get into the habit of using it. The reality is that most people don’t have a perfect memory.
Write down all events, due dates, ideas, meetings, and so on.
3. Set your own due dates
You don’t have to stick to the due dates set by your professor. While these are definitely important to pay attention to, you can also set your own deadlines.
For instance, you might challenge yourself to complete all your assignments at least one day before they’re due. These earlier deadlines give you more flexibility.
4. Stop multitasking
Multitasking is the enemy of organization. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you can do it all, but science says otherwise.
Neuroscientists agree that when you switch from task to task, you actually accomplish less.
5. Declutter your workspace
Another way to stay organized involves taking charge of your workspace. Your notes, papers, brochures, and other things add up quickly.
They take up valuable space in your binder, backpack, desk, and even your mind. Read our guide on downsizing and getting rid of junk if you need some extra help.
6. Don’t combine subjects
If you’re in the habit of using notebooks or binders, make sure you keep those organized as well. Use only one notebook or binder per subject. For instance, have a notebook for history and a separate one for English.
Why separate everything? Having the ability to store everything simply and easily by class does wonders for your ability to find what you’re looking for later. When everything has a place, it’s much harder to lose things.
7. Plan before you start working
Are you just about to dive into a study session? Take a few minutes to plan first. Taking 5 minutes to plan before your daily studying keeps you on schedule.
You want to ensure you’re working on the most important tasks first, and that you’re not forgetting anything that might be coming up.
8. Use the two-minute rule
If a task takes two minutes or less, do it immediately. The “two-minute rule” is a popular way to make sure your smaller tasks don’t pile up over time.
It’s easy to put off answering that email, organizing your binder, or filing your homework properly.
9. Clean after each study session
Once you’re done studying, don’t just close your books and head straight to Netflix. Take a few minutes to clear your desk and make sure it’s clean.
Not only does a clean desk help you feel more motivated to study when your next session comes up, but it also keeps clutter from gathering in your workspace.
10. Write all your questions down
Finally, when you’re studying, get in the habit of writing all of your questions down. Having questions pop up during your study session is normal, but you don’t want to forget about these passing thoughts.
Keep this list easy to access, and store it in your school bag for the next day. From here, you’ll know exactly what you need to cover more carefully or what to ask your professor.
Tips for Getting Organized at Work
If you want to succeed in the workspace, organization is a key part of this process. To stay organized at work, you’ll need to streamline both your actions and thoughts.
11. Create clear goals
When was the last time you thought about your career goals? Creating long-term, actionable career goals gives you clarity not only in your day-to-day life but also in your future.
Consider where you want to be in the next 5, 10, and 15 years, and break these into smaller goals.
12. Time block your day
If you have a particularly busy day of work ahead, don’t fret. Try time blocking to square away the time you need to get everything done.
These time blocks serve as deadlines for all those smaller tasks that often get in the way.
13. Keep things within reach
Do you know how much time you waste each day looking for things? Whether it’s your favorite stack of sticky notes or your coffee cup, keep things within reach on your desk.
When you have time, take inventory of everything you need on your desk to make sure it’s organized effectively.
14. Eliminate desk clutter
Speaking of keeping things within reach, is your desk overwhelmed by non-essential items?
While having your favorite photos, desk plant, and other knick-knacks might spruce up the place, recognize when enough is enough.
15. Do a digital detox
Clutter isn’t just physical. It’s also digital. Clear out your inbox, folders, and virtual workspace when you have the chance.
If you stay on top of this, you’ll never be overwhelmed by things like piling up emails and lost files. Delete your unused Gmail and Microsoft accounts while you’re at it, too.
16. Cut down on meetings
While some meetings are unavoidable, many are actually big time sucks. Workplaces lose a lot of meeting time with setup time, banter, and other unnecessary tasks.
When you go to meetings, come prepared with an itinerary and questions.
17. Take more breaks
How do breaks help with organization? Simply put, your body needs them. The human mind is only able to focus for so long.
Scheduling breaks into your daily workday makes smaller tasks easier to get through, and it also gives you a much-needed refresh.
18. Make a workday routine
What’s your workday routine? Too many people lack a simple routine for their workday. They shuffle between their desks, meeting spaces, and coworker’s offices looking for direction. Instead, create your own routine that works with your habits in mind.
This could mean you start the day checking your email, and you always take an afternoon break at 3 pm. No matter what routine works for you, stick with it.
19. Have a central to-do list
We’ve all been guilty of having too many to-do lists. This is a productivity time waster. It’s a better idea to consolidate your to-do list into a central list, preferably a digital one.
Color code your list and set deadlines to see everything in one place.
20. Set alerts
Missing a deadline is one of the worst things that could happen at work. To make sure you’re always on top of everything, set alerts online or on your phone.
Most digital calendars send reminders before meetings, events, and other important things, so you’ll never be caught off guard again.
Tips for Keeping Everything Organized at Home
Not only is home where your most important things and paperwork are stored, but it’s also where you go to unwind every day. If your home is cluttered and disorganized, it’s hard to truly relax.
21. Downsize your things
When was the last time you tossed or donated things you don’t need? You don’t need to move homes to downsize your belongings. Learn how to downsize in your own place, whether you get rid of clothes or cut down on clutter.
22. Group things together
When organizing your home, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff. To make things simpler, put like items together.
If you’re organizing your documents, for example, place homeowner documents in one area, personal and health documents in another.
23. Label containers
If you’ve ever tried to sift through unlabeled boxes, you know what a chore this is. Labeling boxes, containers, and bins with what’s inside is the best way to always stay on top of your things.
This is especially important for stuff that’s stored away long-term, like holiday items.
24. Put things away
The simplest part of organizing is also the hardest habit to learn. You’ll need to train yourself to put things back in their spot every time. If it’s easy to leave things out once you’re done with them, it’s equally as easy to put them away.
25. Use all space
There are likely areas of your home that aren’t working effectively. From under the bed storage to shelving units, make sure you’re using all the available space in your house.
This gives you more room to organize without things piling up.
26. Protect your documents
Pay particularly close attention to your important documents when organizing your space. These are the last things you want to misplace.
Storing important legal and financial records in a safe or document organizer is the best way to keep them secure.
27. Try a new method
If you’re struggling to keep your home clean and organized, try something new. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. If you want something minimal, try Swedish death cleaning. If you’d rather consider the meaning behind your things, look for what “sparks joy.”
28. Set goals
It’s overwhelming to tackle a huge organization project all at once. Don’t hesitate to set goals when it comes to organizing. For organizational projects, that means going room-by-room or even area by area.
29. Rent a dumpster
If you need to dispose of a lot of things that aren’t recyclable or donatable, it might be a good idea to rent a dumpster.
These are more affordable than traveling to and from your local waste management facility, and you’ll avoid having trash pile up in your home.
30. Create a tracking system
Finally, think of a way to track what you use over time. Most of the things in your home probably aren’t used regularly. Even if you’re not ready to part with them now, you might be open to it in the future.
Track what you use over time to see what you’re ready to get rid of. This way, when you come back to organizing in a few weeks or months, you’ll have a clear picture of what to keep.
Organize Your Entire Life
Staying organized is a great way to feel in control of your life. You don’t need any large changes to see real progress. Soon enough, you’ll feel equipped to take even the larger steps towards a more organized life.
Along with organizing your life today, give some thought to the future. Start end-of-life planning to take care of the bigger questions that may eventually fall onto your loved ones. Again, every step forward counts.
If you're looking for more organization inspiration, read our guide on the best books on organization for beginners.
- Hamilton, Jon. “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again.” NPR. 2 October 2008. NPR.org.