With our frenetic lifestyles, it rarely seems that we have time for anything. We’re continually swamped by notifications, emails, our managers demanding us to finish work etc. the list goes on and on.

Left unchecked, feeling out of control and disorganised can lead to increased stress and mental health issues. But all is not lost. You can regain control of your professional and personal time and get your organisational skills into better shape. Here’s our top tips!

Find a method that works for you – don’t just aimlessly try to plough through!

There’s no right or wrong way to improve your self-organisation skills, but having no plan isn’t going to help. Whether it’s writing a simple to-do list at the start of each day, setting reminders on your smartphone, or using a more sophisticated app or project management system, try different methods and see what works for you.

If you’re setting yourself goals, ensure your targets are achievable. Writing a to-do list longer than the Bayeux Tapestry is going to be totally unachievable within your set deadlines and will waste a lot of paper. Be sure to set yourself a fair amount of tasks and no more; not fulfilling tasks feels nasty (we’ve all been there) and if you’re striving for better organisation, this can be a regular pitfall. 

Okay, so I’m working through my tasks, but it’s still all getting away from me!

There’s a few techniques you can employ and our favourite is the Pomodoro Technique. No, not the tomato, but a way of splitting up your work and rest time. In short, it revolves around the ratio of taking a short 3-5 minute breaks (aka, a Pomodoro) for every 25 minutes of work.

Once you’ve taken four Pomodoros, you can take a longer 15-30 minute break and then the cycle starts again. It’s super simple, but it helps keep you focused, and then rewards that.

Set yourself boundaries

When we’re not 100% organised with our work or personal lives, it can feel like we never truly switch off. Bringing some routine and structure can help us feel in control of our activities and professional obligations. This may mean setting your phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ when in the office, in class or writing that important essay.

To ensure you relax when it’s your time off, you may decide to not answer any emails outside of working hours. Another example might be not drinking on work or study days, even if your colleagues or classmates drag you down to the pub after a long day.

We all have different limits and thinking about where you want to set these can be a powerful and liberating exercise. Establishing boundaries always helps!

Learn to say no – where reasonable!

Isn’t everyone just extremely demanding? You might not just be overreacting. You have your roles and responsibilities, but everyone can tell a story of when their boss asked them to do something that wasn’t in their role description, or when you took on a colleague’s workload so they could enjoy a nice holiday, or when your housemates dragged you out to the pub on a Tuesday night.

It’s great to be kind but you can’t always be a ‘yes person.’ Learning to say no, fairly, politely and firmly is a great skill to develop and can work wonders for your self-organisation and personal life. This doesn’t mean shut down your boss when they ask you to do something that is reasonable, but if they ask you to stay late and you don’t have to, politely decline. We’ll discuss this more in another post.

Look after your health – it has an impact

This works both ways, and we’ll explore this in another post too. Poor health and lifestyle choices can impact your day-to-day activities, especially in a personal environment.

Eating unhealthily means you won’t get enough nutrients and energy to last you through a challenging day. Drinking to excess is likely to make you feel terrible the next day and maybe even make you miss that wake-up alarm (which in a professional environment is not an excuse!).

Ensure you get to bed at a reasonable time, reduce your screen time (especially in the hours before sleep), eat and drink healthily and exercise where possible. Most companies and some universities encourage healthy exercise and activities, whether that’s by a cycle-to- work scheme or special clubs at lunch breaks. 

Employ some of the advice above and we promise you, you’ll start earning back that time you think is always slipping away.

On a final note, never forget to reward yourself for hard work and your achievements. Kicking back with classmates or partying with colleagues is important; don’t let your social life disappear too. But maybe, save it for the weekend.