Organisational skills can make your life easier both at school and at work.
You probably have good organisational skills already. But thinking about what they involve and taking steps to improve them could have huge benefits in your academic and professional life.
'Organisational skills are sought-after by employers and help you do good work on time'
What are organisational skills?
Organisational skills help us plan our work efficiently. Good organisational skills enable to us to think ahead, prioritise, complete tasks on time and manage our own workload. They overlap with other skills, requiring good time management and to some extent decision making.
Employers look for candidates with good organisational skills because they can be relied on to get the job done on time to a high standard. They will benefit you as an employee by helping you stay on top of things, helping you avoid last-minute stress and late working.
Good organisational skills might also include:
- Keeping a tidy workspace where it is easier to work efficiently and without stress. Tidy desk, tidy mind!
- Filing things away systematically so you can find them again in future.
- Good record keeping, so you can find any information and paperwork quickly and easily. At school this could be your class notes, at work it could mean emails, invoices and receipts, meeting minutes etc.
Organisational skills at school
If you’ve ever done an art project, planned a piece of fieldwork or completed coursework, you have had to use organisational skills.
Imagine you’re working on an extended research project for A-level history. Think about the steps you would need to follow:
- Developing your research question.
- Work out what primary and secondary sources you need.
- Review your sources and reach some conclusions.
- Plan out an essay structure.
- Write the essay.
This is a complex piece of work and you need to use your organisational skills to work out how to complete it thoroughly and on time. One approach might be:
- Find out the deadline.
- Plan out the different phases of your project and how long you are going to spend on each.
- Make a timetable to help you divide up the time within each of these phases. How many texts do you need to read? How much time do you have to spend on each one?
- Review your progress regularly.
Without organisational skills, you would just dive into the project with no idea how much time to spend on each thing. This could lead you to start work too late, run out of time needed to read all the texts you want to and ultimately rush at the last minute, even missing your deadline.
Using organisational skills at work
Sometimes in the workplace, you will be given very specific tasks to do with a set amount of time. This will be managed closely by your line manager. This is probably what it will be like when you start your first job.
Over time, your manager will expect you to manage your own workload more. This is particularly the case if your work involves big projects, if you work from home or if you’re part of a small team. But even if there are no big projects to work on, the more you can organise your own time and workload, the easier it will be for you and your manager. This will make a better impression and help you progress in the organisation or get a good reference when you leave.
Good organisational skills will help you get on if you want to manage a team, do a senior role within an organisation or work for yourself.
Techniques for improving your organisational skills
Here are some techniques you can apply in your school or work life to improve your organisational skills:
- Prioritise your work in a list at the beginning of each day. You could do this on post-it notes, in a notebook, or electronically on a Sticky Note or online task list.
- Keep a rolling list of tasks you need to complete. Ideally, mark these with a deadline and a priority. You could keep this in a spreadsheet, a Trello board or if you prefer on a piece of paper or individual post-its.
- Plan out your day, breaking it down into chunks when you will focus on different things.
- Similarly, plan your projects – make a high-level timetable before you get started, then adjust this as you progress.
- When you get a new project with a long deadline, work out when you will start it rather than forgetting about it and then panicking at the last minute.
- Use your calendar – online or on paper – and set reminders about projects or tasks.
- Decide when you work best then save this time for "deep work", when you need to concentrate without distractions. Tell others that you need to focus without disturbances during this time. You could discuss this with your manager.
- Keep your manager up to date with your progress and ask for help or extensions as soon as you know you will need them.
Take this skill a step further by checking out our guide to developing good time management.