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Do you know who you are?

The very first step to getting truly organized is knowing how you think and how you work.

Are you a morning person? Night? Doesn’t matter?

Think carefully. When are you the smartest? When are you the most social? Diagram your day to take advantage of your best times and your down times so you can maximize your productivity.

I’m a morning person, so I do things that are hard for me like quarterly tax paperwork or learning a new skill first thing in the morning. 1-3 are slow points in my personal day, so I get up from my desk and take care of other things like laundry or filing during those hours. My husband is definitely not a morning person, so he starts his day with email and customer support before he gets into code crunching after lunch.

Do you need a perfectly clear space? Or do you work better with everything to hand?

Ever seen a picture of Einstein’s desk? It was piled high and looks like he’d never find anything. My desk often looks like that, but I know that I can find everything I need in an instant. For me, getting up to get something in the middle of a project is a distraction. For others, having a messy desk is a distraction and an irritation. It isn’t about what work theory is currently popular, its about what actually works for you. But don’t kid yourself. Saying you like everything to hand doesn’t work when you can’t actually find things.

Do you need a lot of variety, or do you prefer to get into a certain mindset?
Its important to schedule your day and your week based on how you work best.
If I have a big project, I like to dive in and mostly stay there until its done. A few hours here and there isn’t best for me. I schedule meetings on certain days and know I won’t get much else done that day. But that’s me. Some of my clients work best by doing office work in the mornings, switching to client meetings in the afternoon, and use evenings for brainstorming and making plans. Fighting with your natural inclinations just wastes energy.

How does your week look?
Personally, I hit the ground running first thing Monday. I do hard things, set up projects, make lists and plans. By Friday I’m answering emails, tidying my desk and ready to quit early. Many others like a slower start. Monday is for filing, answering mail, and outlining the week. Tuesday is a much more productive day. Think about how your week flows, and work with it, not against it.

Once you know what your work habits really are, instead of what you’d like them to be, you’ll be able to work with them to make the most of your strengths and take the next steps to organizing.