A classic resolution as a new year approaches is to get organized, to reset and refresh, and to mark a new beginning both personally and professionally. Clients also typically look at the new calendar year with fresh eyes and a fresh budget to take on initiatives they want to tackle. As such, it can be an especially in-demand time for independent talent, which makes now a perfect time to get organized and ready for the incoming workload.
To help you be more productive and start the year on the right foot, here are some of our favorite organizational tips worth trying in 2023—from digital organization to decluttering your physical space to structuring your day.
Digital Organization Tips
A cluttered screen can make for a more difficult workday regardless how strategically you lay it out or how methodical you are at naming your documents. So don’t sleep on digital organization when you’re looking toward the new year.
Take ownership of your inbox
Email is an easy thing to disregard until it becomes overwhelming. Here are a few steps to take control of your inbox instead of letting it take control of you.
- Set up rules and alerts to automatically sort, forward, and notify you of important emails
- Use labels and folders to categorize emails according to their subject matter or the project they relate to
- Apply flags and stars to mark emails for follow-up or to easily find them again later
- Use snooze to remind you of important emails when you have the time to dedicate to them
- Archive and delete within reason, and unsubscribe from senders when their blasts lose value
Prioritize notifications—what gets a push?
Everyone feels entitled to our immediate attention on our devices. Beyond texts, phone calls, and emails, now websites and apps nudge you to enable notifications, even for something as arbitrary as a recipe site you might visit once and never return to. Only you can determine what is an automatic action item, but by being ruthless in only allowing the most important notifications, you’ll experience fewer disruptions throughout the day.
Spatial Organization Tips
A disorganized workspace has been proven to have negative effects on your productivity, which is why organizing your physical space should be a top priority.
Cut the clutter
Start by getting rid of any trash, miscellaneous dishes, or anything else that has an obvious home elsewhere. Once you see what’s left, sort between what’s essential and what’s sentimental. Sentimental trinkets are a key contributor to clutter, so be selective on which photos, memorabilia, and other odds and ends you allow into your workspace. For essential supplies, ensure that you discard or find another home for any duplicates to save on space. Only keep what you need and use on an almost daily basis and get everything else out of your way.
One tip to help you start implementing spatial organization is to spend 15 minutes at the end of each day clearing your desk and 15 minutes the next morning getting everything you need for your day’s activities. That way you’ll ensure that you start each day with a workspace that’s set up and ready for you to get the work done.
Give yourself some room
Just like whitespace in a design or a simple email, less is more when it comes to your physical desktop. Empty space on your desk or in your office isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, having space to work is helpful, allowing you to write notes, outline to-dos, build makeshift models, or whatever it is that helps you visualize or move forward with your work. A low-stress, low-mess workspace will yield improved performance over time compared to those that let everything build up.
Remote Work Organization Tips
Remote and hybrid work arrangements have become increasingly commonplace, requiring a unique approach to organization, productivity, and the projects themselves. Some professionals have been slow to adapt some of these best practices, expecting a post-pandemic bounce back rather than a new normal. But with hybrid work looking like it’s here to stay, now is the perfect time to refresh your approach to work.
Set a schedule and structure your day
One of the best things about being an independent consultant is setting your own schedule. While every day can look different, having a weekly check-in to set expectations with yourself, the client, or other members of your household on when you’ll be working can help provide structure to your workweek.
Have you tried making a daily/weekly to-do list to anchor your priorities and enhance productivity? It can be a very beneficial practice for professionals to maintain, especially while working remotely.
Write it out
Writing things on paper is better than typing things out in more ways than one. According to Psychology Today’s review of a recent study that investigated the merits of physical vs. digital notetaking, handwritten notes top the digital alternative in four ways:
- Jotting things down on paper is faster.
- Handwritten notes tend to be more accurate and have personalized flairs.
- Handwriting in a notebook triggers more robust brain activity.
- Writing by hand is associated with stronger neural encoding and memory retrieval.
In the study, researchers found that participants who used a paper datebook filled in the calendar within about 11 minutes, compared to 14 minutes for tablet users and 16 minutes for smartphone users. The authors also noted that accuracy was higher in the handwritten group—so keep a pad of paper or a stack of sticky notes and your preferred writing utensil handy and see how writing things down works for you.
Consultancy Organization Best Practices
One final area to focus on for organization best practices is with regard to your independent consultancy. Whether you’re just getting started, thinking of making the switch, or are well established in the practice, here are some organizational tips worth considering.
Focus on quality over quantity.
By nature, project-based work relies on organization, or else details, dates, and deliverables can fall through the cracks. With the ebb and flow of independent consultancy, it’s important to stay aware of your bandwidth so that you can maintain high-quality deliverables. Utilize planners, calendars, reminders, and take diligent, detailed notes to ensure optimal organization.
Create a system.
This may look different for everybody, and again, blurs some lines with productivity best practices. Perhaps you get caught up in the constant stream of emails; switch to dedicating blocks of time to email, whether it be at the start and end of a day or other scheduled times. Maybe the system is for communicating with colleagues, clients, and those around you—communicating when you’re available, busy, in meetings, on calls. Take what stands out to you from all these organization ideas and create your system from that. The great thing about a system is that you created it, which usually means you’re more likely to uphold it.
Let BTG take on some of the load.
More and more, skilled professionals are going independent to capitalize on their strengths, gain ownership over how they work, and select projects that interest and excite them. But just because you’re independent doesn’t mean you have to go it alone! From project scoping to invoicing, BTG will support both you and the client for success. Plus, you’ll receive benefits like professional development opportunities and supporting resources for research, graphic design, and more.
Let us help you elevate your independent consultancy practice.