1. Digitize: Scan and file all documents and receipts, then shred/trash what's not needed anymore.
2. Manage: Information management is key! Find software that will help organize your documents on a secure server or your desktop (that is backed up regularly). Cloud-based servers are all the rage now, so find one that works for your needs. An added bonus is that most companies that offer cloud-based storage have free accounts, so this option is budget-friendly as well.
3. Retrieve: You want to have the ability to locate files and documents easily once they are stored "in the cloud." Find a cloud-based platform that has an adequate search feature to enable quick retrieval for your files, so that you're not wasting time sifting through thousands of documents.
4. Secure: For confidential documents, Donna Smallin Kuper recommends that you find a cloud server provider that offers "bank-rate encryption" so that your documents are safe and you won't have to worry about private information being seen.
5. Schedule: Use a calendar and block out time for important events, tasks, or just for meals. As Donna Smallin Kuper says, "If it's not scheduled, it won't get done." You don't have to schedule every second of the day, but you want to ensure that the necessities get done on a regular basis.
6. Limit: Only plan on crossing three to-do's off your list each day. Plan out your day in manageable chunks of time that are realistic and attainable, rather than trying to combat a list of fifty to-do's and not completing any because you were too overwhelmed.
7. Closing Time: Pick an end-time and stick to it. Make time for your family and yourself so that you can attain a comfortable level of work-life balance. You don't want to burn yourself out on work and lose sight of your priorities outside of work.
8. Start Small: Choose a task that will take 15 minutes or less and begin there. Don't overwhelm yourself from the get-go, because you'll only end up burning out. Donna Smallin Kuper suggests to start with something as simple as cleaning out one drawer in your office. Remember, do things in "bite size" pieces.
9. Delegate: One of the best kept secrets of organized and productive professionals is knowing when to outsource tasks that you're not as proficient in or that bog you down on a regular basis. A great example of this is a small business owner hiring a part-time intern or assistant to help with the day-to-day responsibilities such as managing emails and your calendar. You will be surprised how much time is freed up when you have even the slightest bit of help with the "little things" in the office.
10. Maintain: Staying organized is much like dieting: you won't see results unless you maintain the regimen consistently. In order to stay organized, Kuper suggests that individuals pay regular attention to their progress or regression, and "if you fall off the wagon, get right back up and start over." Also, don't forget to reward yourself for making progress, because these little incentives will help keep you motived to stay on track. Should you begin to regress, be sure to nip the bad habit in the bud before it derails you for good.
Hopefully, these tips will help you get organized so that you can become a more efficient and productive professional. Remember to start small and work your way up, otherwise you may become overwhelmed and discouraged. If you still need more guidance, go to Unclutter.com for more tips and resources about organization. Happy organizing!
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(Photo Credit: Donna Smallin Kuper/Unclutter.com)