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Ask the intern: How to stay organized in the workplace

“Hi Fiona, I’m about to start my international internship in Madrid and I’m quite a disorganized person. I’m worried I’ll not be able to keep on top of everything in the workplace. Do you have any tips on how to stay organized in the office?” – Megan

Hi Megan, thanks for getting in touch! Staying organized is something that personally I’ve always struggled with – I’m sure that my parents and ex-teachers would definitely agree. I’ve always generally gone for the organized chaos approach (I don’t recommend it). But, since starting my international internship I’ve learned the value of staying on top of everything. I now implement a few key strategies to help keep myself organized in the office, which I would love to share with you.

1. To-do lists

Since starting my internship I’ve learned that lists are your best friends. Writing everything down on paper is the best way to collect your thoughts and gather together all of the tasks that you currently have on the go. Not carrying around a mental list frees up your brain to focus on one specific task at a time, allowing you to efficiently begin ticking tasks off your list. Also, when you have a physical list it’s easy to add tasks which you (inevitably) initially forgot to write down. I would suggest that you take it one step further and categorize the list into long-term goals, short-term goals and specific tasks for today. But everyone’s organizational style is different, so play around and see what works for you.

how to be organized in the office

2. Organize your desk

Organizing your desk and throwing out any unnecessary bits and bobs that you might have accumulated is a great way to feel more on top of things in the office. It feels a bit like you’re tidying up your brain. Having everything laid out in a organized manner can make you infinitely more productive. Ticking things off your to-do list is much easier when you don’t have to search for that crucial piece of paper buried under a mountain of stationery, books and food wrappers. Once you have a set place for all of your necessities, it’ll be much easier to keep your desk a tidy sanctuary of productivity.

3. Prioritize

So now that you have created your categorized to-do list, the next thing to do to is to prioritize. Organizing everything and deciding which tasks are the most important or imminent is crucial. A great way to help with this prioritization is to make a calendar, whether it’s online or on paper. Once you have a calendar, you can begin to add your tasks and deadlines and give yourself a visual aid to refer to if you feel yourself shifting off-track or procrastinating.

how to be organized in the office

4. Don’t procrastinate

Of course, this is easier said than done. It is very easy to find yourself checking your phone, seeing what your best friends are up to on Facebook or daydreaming about your next vacation. A great way to avoid falling into this trap and reaching for your phone every two minutes is to keep your phone in your bag. If you find yourself getting easily distracted from your tasks, try splitting larger tasks down into quicker, more manageable chunks to keep yourself focused. If all else fails and you really can’t stop checking your Twitter feed, there are certain productivity extensions such as StayFocusd that limit the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites. (Phew!)

Although it may be nerve-wracking joining a new office and staying focused and organized, remember that you will be working on exciting projects in an office full of interesting people. Keeping yourself organized will allow you to fulfill your potential and be an asset to your new team within the office.

Now that you know how to be organized in the office, apply today for an international internship!

It’s great hearing from you! Send any questions or stories that you have to me at [email protected]

Photo 1. based on desk, by Jacob Enos, CC BY -SA 2.0

Photo 2. based on To Do List Chalkboard, by Mufidah Kassalias, CC BY -ND 2.0

Photo 3. based on Improved LEGO Calendar Front, by Bill Ward, CC BY 2.0

Photos and blog by Fiona Johnson

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!