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5 Organization Skills and Tips Every Project Manager Should Know

By Meaghan Kelly on November 4, 2020

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Meaghan Kelly

As pc/nametag's in-house Word Wizard, Meaghan creates educational content that brings people together and drives meaningful conversations in the events industry.

If you’re like most business professionals, you ’ve got a lot on your plate. From managing projects to developing budgets, overseeing teams, and prioritizing tasks, your day-to-day responsibilities can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t know how to best manage your time and keep organized. It’s up to you to determine ways to stay on top of your to-do list, be the best leader you can be, and deliver projects that make your team proud.

Would you describe yourself as an organized person? If so, great! The tips and tricks in this article will help you sharpen those skills. If not, no worries! Anyone can learn to be organized if they know how to cultivate healthy habits like the ones listed in this article. If you’re willing to learn and practice, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more successful project manager. You’ve got this! 🤗

Table of Contents

Organization is a Skill You Learn, not a Trait You’re Born With 🧠

Organization is a multi-faceted term that can mean different things to different people. However, here’s a definition we can work from to get you on the right track: “Organization” is the ability to effectively manage your time and tasks in ways that help you accomplish your goal.

But before we get into the nitty-gritty of this article, we’re going to let you in on a secret. Nobody is born organized. If this comes as a surprise to you, you’re not alone. A common misconception is that being organized is something we’re born with, when in reality it takes time to learn.

For example, organization skills involve more than making to-do lists and jotting things down here and there. Organization requires a multitude of skills like identifying goals, arranging priorities from highest to lowest, breaking large projects into achievable tasks, communicating effectively with your team members and so much more.

So, what does this mean for you?

The simple answer is that different people excel at different things. Much like listening skills and leadership skills, organization is a soft skill that takes effort to learn. It comes easily to some people, but it’s never too late to start upskilling or reskilling if you’re someone who procrastinates or could use a little help in the “organization” department.

What Research Says about Organized People 🔬

Research has shown that organization is, in fact, a skill we can learn. For example, one study found that people who practiced time-management skills felt less stressed and more in-control over their day.

Another study found that people who are highly organized, finish projects and complete their to-do lists regularly are less likely to experience stress and depression.

If you’re a person who is looking for ways to feel more relaxed at work, getting organized may be a great place to start. By clearing away the clutter and finishing up those projects, you’ll be able to rest easier and help you feel more satisfied with your job.

Project manager practices time management skills

Why Organization is Important to Your Business and Your Goals ✅

Deadlines get missed. Overdue tasks pile up. Paperwork gets lost. Feeling stressed yet? Nobody likes the consequences of being disorganized. Because most project managers wear many “hats” throughout the week, it’s more important than ever that they seek ways to balance a multitude of tasks to avoid work-related burnout and excessive stress levels.

If you’re someone who runs a business or team, supporting organized habits is even more important. For example, when team members are organized, they’ll work more quickly and efficiently, which ultimately impacts your business’ productivity and profitability. The most successful teams place “organization” as a top priority.

Solid organizational skills can also mean the difference between a “good” employee and “great” one. Read on to find even more benefits of organization in our next section.

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Benefits of Staying Organized as a Project Manager 🏆

Staying organized at work may seem like a big feat to accomplish, but it doesn’t take a ton of time or effort as long as you’re consistent with it. You’ll be most successful when you take time each day to stay on top of organizing your tasks and decluttering your workplace. The work you put in today will benefit you tomorrow!

Benefits of being organized at work include the following:

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1. Improved Productivity

Staying organized is a great way to return valuable hours to your day and focus more on important tasks at hand. As your organizational skills improve, so will your communication with your team. Not only will you start seeing better results, you’ll also enable your team to be more productive by your side.

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2. Reduced Stress

There’s no getting around it; the more cluttered your workspace and to-do list, the more stressed you’ll feel. By taking the time to clean your workspace, organize your documents and re-write your to-do list in an easy-to-read format, you’ll be better able to track down the items you need and continue with your day.

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3. Better Time Management

Did you know that organization and punctuality tend to go together? For example, by setting alerts on your calendar, you’ll ensure you don’t get too caught up in a task and lose track of time. Staying organized is also a great way to impress your manager, especially if you’re consistently prompt and show up to meetings on time.

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4. Smarter Project Management

As a growing professional, it’s important to focus on your goals and gain perspective on your priorities. By improving your organizational skills, you’ll stop having to wade through an endless sea of disjointed projects and instead focus on using systems that work for you, whether they are digital or physical.

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5. Easier Deadlines

As your task list gets longer, your mind is pulled in multiple directions (making it all too easy to forget important deadlines). Keeping your “ducks” in a row starts with taking steps to ensure you won’t get sidetracked with other urgent items.

While research shows that staying organized is great for our health, happiness and engagement at work, how exactly can one get started? Whether you’re a newbie to staying organized or a seasoned professional, we’ve got you covered with innovative advice that you can start implementing today.

Planner with positive message

5 Tips and Tricks for Staying Organized at Work 💪

Getting and staying organized may seem like a full-time job, but it’s easier than you may think. Start out with these helpful tips and tricks to streamline your work life and productivity, starting today.

1) Identify what elements of your job could benefit from organization.

You know to “get organized” but where should you begin? Here are six essential elements of your job that need to be organized for you to achieve your best work:

  • Your Workspace: Take time each day to declutter your desk. Get rid of any papers that can be recycled or shredded. For important documentation, create a filing system that sorts by date, project, team member, or whatever works best for you.
  • Your Computer Files: Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find an email or document you’re looking for. Ensure your files can be located more easily by being specific with file names. Finding what you need is a simple search away.
  • Your File Management System: Do you share a company drive or filing system with your colleagues? File organization is key, so make sure to create folders that are logically named and easy to find. This will help you and your team remain organized.
  • Your Calendar: Calendars are a project manager’s best friend. Use these to remind yourself of meetings, project deliverables and deadlines. This way, you’ll avoid being late or double-booking yourself on accident.
  • Filing Cabinets: Although many files live online nowadays, many teams still manage a variety of paperwork. Make sure these items are filed neatly in a way that makes sense to you, whether it is by day, year, alphabetical order or project name.
  • Your Work Phone: Stay on top of your day-to-day commitments by syncing your phone with your work email and calendar. You might also want to look at organization apps or electronic to-do list makers to help keep you even more organized (more on that coming up!)

Organized desk with no clutter

2) Explore tools to stay organized during your workday.

If time management is a challenge for you, you’re not alone. Even the most talented and motivated project managers struggle with time management from time to time. The good news is that modern tools have been created to help us work better, smarter and faster. And better yet? They’re incredibly easy to use and learn. Having a go-to organization tool like a calendar or planner is essential to being a proactive, productive employee.

Level Up: Master a Project Management Software.

A project management software (like Asana, Basecamp or Wrike) is designed to help you electronically plan, organize and manage your day-to-day tasks. Not only can you track how many hours it takes to complete a task, you can also track where you may be falling behind. If you’re looking to collect solid data that highlights your strengths and blockers, a project management system is the way to go. You might also be interested in looking into an electronic planner like Week Plan, Any.do or Trello.

Manager uses project management software

3) Seek resources to help you refine your organizational skills.

Becoming more organized is just one example of a professional development goal you can work on this year. Professional development helps you to stay competent and excel in your profession. You’ll also ensure that your skills and knowledge of trends stay up to date. If you’re looking for resources to help you learn a new skill or refine current ones, consider purchasing a book, listening to a podcast or taking an online course on LinkedIn Learning, Udemy or Coursera.

Project manager takes online learning course

4) Follow the “S.M.A.R.T.E.R.” approach to managing your goals.

When it comes to goal setting, one of the most common mistakes that project managers make is failing to measure the goal’s progress. You can use the “S.M.A.R.T.E.R.” approach to goal setting to alleviate this challenge and make your goals easier to manage. Follow these steps to ensure your success:

  • Specific” - Is your objective specific? List the steps you will take to achieve your goal.
  • Measurable” - Find a definitive way to measure the data you need to measure your goal’s progress.
  • Attainable” - Strive to achieve short-term goals that are realistic and within reach. This will help you build momentum towards long-term goals.
  • Relevant” - Make sure your goal is relevant to your goals, your department’s goals and your organization’s goals.
  • Time-bound” - Create a timeframe and deadline for each goal you create. When goals are time-bound, they’re measurable and hold you more accountable for getting projects done on time.
  • Evaluate” - Evaluate your goals on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Regular check-ins will increase the likelihood of remembering and achieving your goal.
  • Re-evaluate” - Finally, readjust your approach to achieving your goal, if applicable. Test for consistency and keep moving!

Give the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. approach a try today! Pick one of the goals you have on your to-do list this week and use it as an exercise. How does it hold up to this goal-setting theory?

Project manager writes down her goals in a planner

5) Share your organization goals with your team members and colleagues.

When you think of staying organized, you probably only consider your own workload. However, organization isn’t a solo sport. Your team plays a huge part in your success as a project manager and your ability to meet your goals.

Understanding how roles and teams fit together is a crucial part of getting things done and helping you be the best team member you can be. Remember to take the time to get to know the people around you and how their work impacts yours. Communication is key – make sure your team stays on task and ready to roll.

Employees collaborate on a group project

The feeling of accomplishment after completing a lengthy to-do list isn’t just satisfying; it’s also incredibly motivating and encouraging. By staying organized, you’ll boost your morale, your mood and even your resume!

Start taking small steps today and you’ll see big results before you know it. Just remember that each time you mark a task as complete, you’ll feel closer to attaining your goals and getting your job done right – quickly and effectively.

What’s Your Best Advice for Staying Organized?

Whether or not staying organized is one of your key strengths, it’s a good habit to get into. Employers value team members that consistently meet deadlines and know how to rearrange tasks according to priority level.

How do you stay organized at work? Let us know by leaving a comment below. If it’s useful to you, it’ll be useful to another planner.

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