7 Ways to Get Organized at Work (And Caregiver-Proof Your Career)

We all know working while caregiving has its challenges. So it’s incumbent upon you to set yourself up for success as best you can. That way, when caregiving does impact your job this year (and you should expect that it will!), your reputation, your inbox, your projects, and your network are all strong enough to weather the storm.

Here are 7 ways to get organized at work and plan for a productive year.

  1. Take control of your email. Set up a system to manage your email and stop letting your email manage you. First, sort your email by sender. Read your bosses emails first, clients second. Then admit it: there are people whose emails you never read, so delete them. Next sort your emails by subject. Delete all but the last emails in a chain. Next, sort by date. Delete any emails that are older than three months. By now you should have cut your email 40-60 percent.  Finally, scroll through the remaining emails and do one of three things: delete, take action, or file. And no fair sorting emails into folders called “To Do” or “Read Later.” The only emails you should file are emails you need for reference or back up.
  2. Organize your electronic files. Does your computer screen look like the junk drawer in your kitchen? Clean it up! Think about how you will search for items and then set up folders to match that thought process. Will it be by project: marketing, sales, recruiting? Will it be by client? Will it be by action: hot, pending, on-hold? The only right system is what works for you. And when you’re done, as a bonus, set your background image to a picture of the reason you work: it could be the people you love and care for, a future vacation destination, or your dream home.
  3. Thin out paper files. Electronic files aren’t the only ones that need a tune up. Take a few hours to go through your paper files too. Make sure things are filed in the correct places then thin out what you don’t need. You should take only three actions during this process: save, recycle, or shred. If you do take time off of work for caregiving, your coworkers will be able to find what they need in your inbox, online, or at your desk.
  4. Update your online image.  How are you showing up on online? Google your name. What shows up on the first page? Is it what you want professional colleagues to see? How are your profile pictures on the company website and your social media accounts? Is it time for a new picture? Schedule a photo shoot if necessary and then book an appointment at a local blowout bar and a makeover at Sephora. The $90 you spend to prep for the shoot will be worth it. Your professional online image will outlast the memories of that week your parents were sick and you showed up for work with a dirty ponytail three days in a row.
  5. Complete your LinkedIn profile. Is your LinkedIn profile complete? Create a headline: instead of your job title and current company, use descriptive terms about your skill set and value. Fill out the summary section and add keywords that represent your professional experience. Do you have recommendations from coworkers and clients? If not, ask for some. You may not be planning to switch jobs this year, but you always want to appear ready to be scooped up by the competition.
  6. Unsubscribe to 5 industry newsletters and then subscribe to 1 new one. Get rid of at least 5 email subscriptions that you never open. Lose the guilt and the clutter. Now choose one new newsletter and commit to perusing it weekly. You need to make an effort to stay relevant, especially when colleagues perceive you as distracted by your personal responsibilities.
  7. Schedule a monthly networking lunch. As caregivers, it is very difficult to find time to network outside of work hours. So go ahead and build in some connection time during the workday. Start by blocking one day each month for a networking lunch. Surely, you can spare 90 minutes (I threw commute time in there!) a month to keep your professional network strong and healthy.

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