September 15, 2020

Organizing your time and work - The basics

Organizing your time and work - The basics

Hey everyone, I am starting my productivity series' articles! With the new normal, a lot of people have found themselves working from home and might have lost their bearings. Here is my first article about basic and simple tricks to get anyone quickly started and organized.

If you're like me, dealing with a lot of topics often switching between 3 or 4 during a day then you can easily get lost and ending up doing nothing.

Organization and determination is key to make all your projects move forward.

For the impatient, key notes of this article:

  1. Find a suitable place to work
  2. Prepare your work the day before
  3. Structure your files and folders
  4. Get the basic tools
  5. Set a target weekly and commit to it

1) Find yourself a suitable place to work

Photo by XPS / Unsplash

Whether you are working at the office or at home, make sure to work in a place where you can focus on your job. If you are working from home and have husband, wife, partner, kids or other people living you, make sure to create a simple regular agenda and inform people around you about it. Think about keeping time for your personal tasks.

For those who can afford, working in a quiet coffee shop can also help. It removes you from the comfort of your house and as you are paying for it and can stay there for only a limited time, you might see your work move forward quite fast.

Get rid of your phone or deactivate notifications on your devices.  Close your social media tabs in your browser, unless you need them to work!

2) Prepare your work the day before

As simple as it is, this little trick will definitely boost your day as soon as you get up. You'll start with clear tasks and won't waste time thinking about how to get organized! So be sure to reserve some time after your working day to organize the next day. Having a task board might help for that but I would suggest keeping it simple. Try also to put 5 or less tasks in your agenda. Those will serve mainly as guidelines to work.

Next day agenda

  • Writing 2 posts for my technical topics
  • Working on my PayPal integration for my portfolio website

3) Get the basic tools

Photo by Burst / Unsplash

Nothing is as annoying as leaving your current task to find your tools. Keep all your tools handy, pin them to your taskbar add shortcuts of those tools on your desktop.

Here are some common tools you'll use

  • Web browser: Probably the one you will use the most often. Make sure to bookmark your useful websites! You can even create bookmark folders and throw all your related websites in them.
  • Notepad: Ultra basic text editing, useful for copy, adjusting, pasting.
  • Snipping tool: To make screen captures of your work, procedures.
  • Timer: Up to you, but I found that they increase focus a lot. I often start a countdown of 30 mins and try to finish my tasks, like writing this post before the countdown reaches zero.
Do not let the countdown limit you though, use it as a tool to focus and not to finish the job quickly leaving errors behind you :)
  • Basic office suite: Google docs and sheets, quick and easy online editors with collaboration and sharing features. OpenOffice, is an open source tools which you can download and use at no cost.
  • Customer management: You can start with google contacts for now and move to a CRM software (Customer relationship management) later.

4) Structure your files and folders

Photo by Wesley Tingey / Unsplash

Folders are often the basic structure for projects as it's available on all Operating Systems. However, I'm sure you've already seen yourself with a desktop full of icons and folders, most of them not related to each other. So folders alone are definitely not enough, we need to strucutre them too.

Create a structure for your folders

For developers and IT people, a simple structure might be:

/doc
/bin
/src

/doc will be used to store your project documentation, /bin used for any application or executable needed for your project to work and /src will be the folder containing the source code or main content of your project. This structure can be easily adapted to any other field.

Another example, for a music professional, might be:

/samples
/midi
/plugins
/releases
/drafts
/contracts
If your system support folder tagging, then it might give you another level structuring, your folders could be tagged by type of project or even tagged by topic. Have a look at https://www.tagspaces.org/ which is an open source tool for folder and file tagging.

Storing and making backups of your files and folders

Organizing your files and folders is great, but the probability of you losing all your data due to a hardware issue or human error is more likely than you think! If it never happened to you before, it will :) it's just a matter of time. So how to prevent that?

Use a cloud storage platform. If you are OK with saving your content online, then saving them on Google drive, Dropbox or other cloud storage services will definitely be of great help. You'll also be able to quickly collaborate with your team and  share your deliveries to your customers.

5) Setting a target weekly and commit to it

focus on the target
Photo by engin akyurt / Unsplash

Feel like nothing is moving even you have structured all your work and tools? Well time to set some targets and putting a little more pressure on yourself.

Often when people think about goals, they overdo it with paragraphs of text of what they want to achieve. My advice would be to keep it simple, one target per week  

If you are a developer: Write and test a module successfully.

If you are a music producer: Compose and publish a track.

If you feel that its not release ready, try uploading it in music community websites like bandlab and get some feedback!

Remember, one target per week and commit to it!

I hope that this article helped you increase your productivity and don't forget, those are just the baby steps towards a more organized work. The next article on productivity will push the level higher introducing content versioning, content management and more.

Until then, stay safe and curious!