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11 Key Organizational Skills That Will Help Get You Promoted at Work

Towering piles of paperwork do not portray a professional image. A cluttered desk looks chaotic and sticky notes stuck to your computer screen don't scream promote me! If you're embarrassed when your boss drops by your office, here are some simple organizational skills to get you noticed at work—for the right reasons.

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Keep out only what you need

One of the most basic organizational skills is to keep what you need most often within arm’s reach. Something you use every day should be closer than something you use less frequently. Ideally, while seated at your desk, you want to be able to grab the things you need to complete the task at hand without getting up from your chair. By the way, check your desk ergonomics to help you be productive. If you’re wondering how to organize your desk, keeping necessary tools within arm’s reach is perfect because you can easily put things back when you are finished using—again, without getting up. Short on storage space near the desk? A rolling cart can also be useful—roll the cart to your desk while you work then roll it away when you are finished.

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Label, label, label

Labeling is a one of those key organizational skills and can help you keep your desk and office decluttered. Labeling is an easy place to start if you are trying to figure out how to get organized—plus, it’s one of the top 50 organizing tips you’ll wish you knew all along. Your space will look more professional and it will be super simple to find what you need and put it back when you’re done. There is a trick to labeling things; be very specific! Your label should indicate exactly what goes there. Never use words like “miscellaneous,” “this week,” or “extra supplies.” Use the specific project name and give it a date or deadline to help you stay on top of demands.

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Put decluttering on calendar

Tasks like cleaning, purging, and organizing are often put on the back burner because you are so busy just trying to get through your workday. In reality, a cleaner, clutter-free office makes your job easier. Take a few minutes every day to keep your office tidy to prevent things from piling up. Purge unnecessary clutter accessories, personal memorabilia, cluttery collections, excessive silverware packets, and unnecessary office tools on your desktop. Toss office supplies you haven’t used in the past year. Donate any that are still in good condition—but no one wants the stapler that doesn’t staple. If you’ve upgraded office equipment, let the old stuff go. And try out these 10 effortless habits of clutter-free people.

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Remove clutter magnets

Horizontal tiered trays, in-and-out baskets, and even side chairs are often just a catch-all for loose papers, periodicals, and junk. Take a moment to remove or reorganize the spots where clutter collects, and then set up specific storage strategies that will keep the piles from heading skyward.

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Cut junk off at the pass

Though it will take a little analysis, look for ways to prevent future clutter. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions like vendor catalogs and brochures from companies that you can easily order from online. If you don’t need the hard copy, or if you can get another one easily, then stop the hard copies from coming to your desk. Recycle the duplicate copies of reports, paper memos, meetings minutes, handouts, and brochures—and always think twice before hitting the “Print” command on e-mails and work papers. Ask yourself if you can save the documents as PDFs in a clearly labeled file on your computer. Improve your work and home life: Take the declutter challenge of eliminating these 43 useless things in 43 days.

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Smart supplies

While it may be tempting to fill your desk drawers with office supplies, no one needs a six-pack of adhesive tape rolls on hand at all times. Unwrap the bulk box, keep one in your drawer and return the rest to the supply closet. If you fear running out, set up your own separate supply box, and restock/reorder for it as needed. This will keep your desk and desk drawers tidy while keeping you well supplied.

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Don’t let the small tasks pile up

Follow-through on a simple task if it will take just a moment longer. This includes things like re-filing a folder as soon as you are finished using it instead of putting it down to be filed later. And keep your e-mail inbox to a minimum by reading the e-mail and taking an extra moment to reply. This is one of the top must-do organizational skills—wrap up mini tasks in the moment.

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Beware the sticky note

Another great organizational skill is to take notes and write reminders in a single spiral notebook. You can cut down the jumble of sticky notes and corral loose scraps of paper with phone numbers, appointments, and meeting notes scribbled on them. Keep an ongoing record of notes, phone calls, conversations, to-do’s and more, this will keep your desk and your mind clutter-free.

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Put technology to work for you

Take a picture using your phone’s camera to help you remember important things like where the cords get plugged in when setting up the audio-visual components. A quick snap of the configuration, when they are plugged in properly, means you can duplicate it at another time. Instead of you struggling to attempt different combinations you’ll be the one other’s call to help them out. A big bonus if you can save your boss’s meeting! Here are some other ways to get noticed at work.

Use these same organizational skills to keep reference information at your fingertips; things like the model number ink cartridge or battery size—even which way to place paper in the copier paper drawer to make a double side copy since it is more than likely you’ll have your phone with you when you need to refer to the information.

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A quick, clean finish

One of the very best ways to keep your desk organized is to spend ten minutes filing and organizing at the end of the day. Use the time to put away things you used like stray file folders—your goal is to get your desk in order before you leave for the day. These organizational skills will help you start tomorrow with a clean slate while ensuring that you didn’t overlook anything.

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For a better, more successful tomorrow

While wrapping up at the end of the day, you can prepare for tomorrow by glancing at your calendar and making a to-do list on the spot. Pull out any materials you’ll need for the next workday, such as a client file or a background folder. This is an organizational skill that will get your day off to a running start.

Now that you know how to get organized and stay that way, try bringing up your new organization skills in your next performance review—mention how they’ve have made you a more efficient employee. This will help your manager justify giving you an increase or promotion.

Jamie Novak
Jamie Novak is a cleaning and organizing expert with more than 20 years of experience. When she's not on deadline, you can find her searching for the mango slicer that mysteriously disappeared from her kitchen utensil drawer. The author of "Keep This, Toss That: The Practical Guide to Tidying Up," she covers cleaning and organizing for RD.com.