In today’s association management world, it is a complicated task to keep all your association contacts and to-do lists properly organized. There are however, a few fundamental tactics that can help you stay organized in this fast-paced environment.

Being a new employee at an association management company (AMC) has been a challenge for me. The environment has created a need to learn to multi-task at a level that I’ve never had to before. This fast paced and exciting environment has inspired me to share some guidelines that I’ve adopted to aid me in my daily tasks.

Simplify Your Work Environment

Have your desk or workspace as free of clutter and unnecessary items as possible, and at the end of each day return it to that state. This will help you to think of your workspace as the physical extension of your work-mind. When you have paperwork cluttering your desk, it is difficult to stay focused on your task at hand.

When you have one project out before you, you will be far more inclined to focus on the one task. Colour coding documents and electronic apps, and setting up unique sounds for particular notifications and tasks will over time habituate and bring your consciousness into the frame of mind required for that particular task. There’s no limit to how you can express and facilitate your mental transitions in this way.

Create Structure for Your Work

New work habits can be difficult and uncomfortable to create, but once you have these new behaviours incorporated into part of your regular routine a lot of energy will be conserved. This energy can instead be focused towards the content of your work, leading to increased efficiency, work quality, and increased volume of tasks accomplished.

Each job will vary widely in this respect, but in all cases you’re going to need a way to structure your work. Future tasks and events can be easily digitized with phone apps and programs, along with the ability to schedule reminders and attach notes.

Create Daily To-Do Lists

Ideally, at the start of each day, create a to-do list and review it throughout your day. Prioritizing your day and checking off your accomplishments as you complete them will help keep you focused on your tasks.

Determine what is most important to accomplish that day, and lay that out in a way that reflects what you give your attention to in your day-to-day life. Perhaps you are a more visual person and will do well to lay out your tasks on paper, lying on your desk. You might even string visualized tasks and scenarios from the ceiling with linked events and actions sequenced in the planned chronological order. It’s good to have rituals, to create your own boundaries – like entry and exit points that serve as an outside reminder that one mode of work is complete and another has begun.

I recently read an article that advocated making the task you least want to address, as the first thing on your list. The logic is that you won’t expend any energy during the day trying to avoid that task.

Conversely the article suggested leaving the most desirable tasks for the last 30 minutes of the day, maximizing the likelihood that you will be motivated to complete them when you will have the least amount of energy.

Use the Digital World Wisely

While phones and computers are increasingly effective at multitasking, having a rolodex of contact information in front of you may reduce the complications of switching from one app or program to another. Simple things like this can go a long way in reducing stress and anxiety, which for that reason alone is a very effective practice. You can think of it as bringing you back to earth and keeping you level.

Remember that even if technology works for you, it may not work for everyone. Some association volunteer leaders may be more comfortable with pen and paper, and forcing technology upon them can make work more difficult. Other volunteers may prefer to work strictly online. Try to appeal to all of these people, because when your members do their work properly your life will be easier, too. Following these suggestions is easier said than done, so be sure that each organizational method you use represents and flows with the way you think and work. You’ll be on your way to creating a more organized and relaxed work life, both within yourself and at your work. Try different styles and combinations of organization, and when one works remember above all to stick with it. Eventually your method of organization will become a simple habit to you, and will benefit your association as a whole.