It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to thrive in chaos. It feels disorganized, unscheduled, and without direction. If you’re unable to effectively organize your work and resources, you’ll likely find yourself twisting in the wind, unproductive, and unable to catch up.
Without employing key organizational skills, you’ll miss tasks, deadlines will sneak up on you, and you’ll always be chasing the day rather than conquering it. That will lead to a working life full of stress and anxiety.
If you want to reach the pinnacle and stay on top of today’s competitive administrative support profession, you need to use any and all advantages and tactics in your favor. Your peers are finding new and innovative ways to work smarter while also utilizing tried and true methods for navigating this complex role with grace and skill. Stellar organization is one of the most valuable skills to have as an administrative assistant.
Disorganized assistants often work reactively, while organized assistants prepare, plan, and protect their time. This allows them to laser-focus on what needs to be done and complete tasks and projects in the most efficient way possible, wasting little to no time in the process. Disorganized assistants, on the other hand, find their days often consist of:
- Being blindsided by deadlines that were set long ago
- Moment after moment filled with disarray and confusion
- Frustration expressed by leaders and other team members
- A constant, unrelenting feeling of being underwater
- Exhaustion and fatigue from just trying to keep up
How Assistants Can Improve Organizational Skills in the Workplace
There’s some really good news. If you’re not someone who is inherently organized, you can learn how to develop those critical skills. You’ll find using these skills on a daily basis will be transformative to your career. They will help you stand out and separate you from the pack. Here are seven key strategies that will show you how to improve organizational skills in the workplace:
1. Time management
Start seeing yourself as the master of your own time. Obviously, at times, you’ll be pulled in different directions, but beginning to become more organized by taking control of your time will allow you to meet those moments of turmoil with more intention and intelligence. You will begin to see interruptions as a minor annoyance rather than something that shapes your day.
You’ll need to make the most of your prime time; a certain time of the day when they are most productive. Some work better early in the morning, while others work best in the evening. You should schedule your most demanding and challenging work during this time. Of course, if your business involves meeting with other team members or leaders, you need to coordinate your prime time with theirs.
You’ll also need to minimize unnecessary and avoidable interruptions. You might not realize this, but you waste a lot of time dealing with interruptions during your workday. From personal conversations to the enticement of your cell phone at your desk, distractions steal valuable time. Turn off your mobile phone, close the door to your office while focusing on key tasks, reduce the time spent on personal conversations, and avoid useless meetings. Here’s a great resource for reducing time-sucking interruptions.
Plan for success. Thinking as far ahead as you can and developing a thoughtful plan of attack will allow you to better organize each day. So, be proactive! Disorganized people take work one task at a time, coming in prepared only to take on whatever comes up that day. However, that means you are reacting to a situation rather than preparing for it. The best way to make the most of your day is to plan and prepare for it.
Know what you need to do for the next day and prepare before you leave for the day. This not only takes the guesswork out of your workday, but it might also give you some insights and ideas of how to do the work more effectively. Check out our blog to learn more about a proactive approach.
Being a good planner involves utilizing lists. Make a list of all the things you need to do for each day. You’ll find that far fewer tasks are forgotten, and you’ll get the satisfaction of seeing your to-do list get crossed off throughout the day. Lists provide a concrete way to keep track of the tasks you need to do. Too, they motivate you to keep going because you get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in crossing each item off your list. You can find some effective tips for list-making in our dedicated article.
Note that there are different formats you can use to create your list. Try out each one. Some administrative assistants prefer apps, while others rely on trusty pen and paper. No matter which method you use, the creation of the list will help you focus and structure your day.
3. Digital Organization
Digital organization refers to the systematic approach to keeping digital files, data, and resources structured and easily accessible through electronic means. It involves categorizing, tagging, and archiving digital information in a way that enhances efficiency and productivity, particularly in a work environment. This can include email management, digital filing systems, cloud storage solutions, and the use of software tools that aid in sorting and retrieving digital documents and data.
Because the vast majority of our work takes place through digital means, this is why we dedicated a specific module to digital organization in our course, Digital Efficiency for Administrative Excellence.
If you are feeling disorganized in this area, set aside time to get your digital office in order. Restructure your emails, develop a filing system, and decide how you want to sort your digital tools for better efficiency. Once you establish a system, make sure to maintain it and develop it as needed over time.
If you’re not currently using a schedule, you need to start immediately. This strategy goes hand in hand with making a list. While you are making your list of tasks and projects, you should also be making a schedule. This involves giving each task a prescribed time during which to accomplish it. You can ensure you meet all your deadlines, and nothing is left by the wayside. Here’s a great resource that includes the foundation of stellar scheduling.
Be generous with your time estimates for each task or project so that the schedule is realistic. The last thing you want is to take the time to compile a list and schedule that ends up making you feel like you were only able to accomplish two hours’ worth of work.
Learn to view your calendar with an eye to the bigger picture. Don’t just focus on what’s happening today and tomorrow. Take a look at the coming weeks. Learn to anticipate what’s coming and think a few steps ahead. Hone your scheduling skills even further by watching this short video.
5. Resource Allocation
You are the master of your own domain. That’s important to remember. While you may think of resource allocation as simply something someone else at your company has to worry about, embracing the principles of the concept for your own workplace can actually save you time and headaches.
For example, ensuring that your workplace is neat and easy to navigate can make you a better assistant. Arrange your work area for maximum efficiency. You can minimize the time and effort it takes to get things done. Even putting the photocopier next to where you keep your paper supplies can help save a few steps and trips that ultimately increase your productivity. The organizational skills employed by administrative assistants are crucial to the success of any business or department.
It’s a smart idea to establish a filing system. While most files are going to be digital, you still need to know where everything you need is stored. Looking for lost files will take up as much of your time as looking for misplaced items. You need to make sure all your files are in the proper place and named correctly. You should have a master document of all your files and the location of those files.
Learn how your peers have developed ingenious ways to manage their resources by joining the Office Dynamics Facebook group. These administrative assistant tips and tricks can really help you step up to the next level.
6. Goal Setting
Nothing feels better than setting a goal and crushing it. Give yourself that kind of fulfillment as often as possible. It’s a real boost!
Set daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals for yourself. They could be as small as, “respond to all emails within a 24-hour period” or as lofty as, “develop key administrative assistant skills so I can mentor other assistants.” Both small and large goals will help you develop motivation and the discipline you need to get the job done.
Remember to be flexible. Adding new goals throughout the year or adjusting an existing goal is okay. The world of business can be volatile and unpredictable, so always be willing to change course if needed. That doesn’t represent failure. In fact, that represents maturity and the willingness to pivot as needed in order to keep moving forward. That’s what really matters.
Learning to delegate tasks to other team members will allow you more time to focus on high-level projects. You might think you are saving time and money by doing everything yourself. However, the fact is, you can save a considerable amount of time and effort by delegating tasks to the right people and focusing on core activities that will make you money. In this article, MindTools dives into the psychology behind the fear of delegation and how to overcome that fear and learn how to employ this skill to create more productive time for yourself.
After you first identify what tasks you’d like to delegate, you’ll need to make sure that you pick the right people to whom to delegate. Make sure it’s someone you trust and someone who has a propensity to tackle tasks with motivation and attention to detail.
Ensure, when making that handoff, that your team member has a crystal-clear understanding of what they need to do. Encourage them to ask follow-up questions and to check back in with you if they get stuck on anything.
Think collaboration is the same thing as teamwork? Think again. Collaboration allows space for different viewpoints and perspectives, unique approaches, and open conversations. This represents a departure from the traditional idea of teamwork. When collaborating, it’s not a requirement that everyone be on the same page or even have the same goal in mind. It’s actually more productive when team members honor their positions while working collaboratively to accomplish “bigger picture” goals.
Embracing the notion that you’re alone on an island is both untrue and can be harmful to your career. Instead, learn to work with your peers. Don’t shy away from taking advantage of their experience, knowledge, and skills. You’ll probably learn something new and strengthen a key relationship with another team member. Learn more about the power of collaboration.
9. An Organized Desk
An organized desk is not just about aesthetics; it’s a cornerstone of productivity for administrative professionals. A cluttered desk can lead to a cluttered mind and impede your ability to focus and operate efficiently. Picture this: a workspace where everything has its place, items are grouped by task, and the only papers on your desk are those currently in use. This isn’t a dream—it’s entirely achievable with a few straightforward strategies.
Start by designating homes for similar items and activities. Keep all your writing instruments in one holder, align sticky notes for easy grabbing, and gather your notepads in one spot. This way, when you reach for a tool, you know exactly where it is. Embrace minimalism—regularly use the “round file” (aka the trash bin) to discard what’s no longer necessary, and be judicious with personal items. Your desk is a command center for work, not a personal gallery.
For paperwork, adopt a robust filing system that minimizes pile-up. Keep only the most critical documents at hand; everything else can be filed or digitized to reduce physical clutter. Use your drawers and cabinets strategically—empty them out, categorize your items, and reintroduce them in order of necessity. The most frequently used items should be the most accessible.
By taking the time to organize your desk now, you’re not just tidying up; you’re setting the stage for ongoing efficiency, professionalism, and stress reduction. Implement these tips, and you’ll transform your desk from a source of stress to a productivity powerhouse.
These techniques can help you improve your organizational skills in practical and workable ways. Let’s face it: Your job is already stressful enough. Once you begin to implement these strategies, you’ll likely notice a marked difference in the flow of your day, how much control you feel over it, and how accomplished you feel at the end of it. In the madness of our modern world, that alone is worth so much.
Office Dynamics has tons of free online organizational skills training. Check out these webinars to learn more about how to develop administrative assistant skills and reach all of your career goals!