The Most Important Organizational Skills (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Sep. 25, 2020
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No matter what industry you work in or what role you perform, organizational skills are highly sought after by employers. Being able to prioritize, plan, and effectively manage one’s time are all transferable skills that increase the efficiency of any business.

With strong organizational skills, unforeseen issues are less daunting, and plans are in place for every eventuality. While every employee has a different organizational style, some organizational skills are important across the board

What Are Organizational Skills?

Organizational skills are all about being able to prioritize tasks, maximize efficiency, and maintain structure throughout a workday or a project’s life-span. Discipline, cognitive flexibility, and memory are all crucial to being a strong organizer. With strong organizational skills, deadlines are never a cause for concern, just another factor in determining which tasks get done first. Hiring managers aren’t just looking for folks who can keep their desk decluttered; they want intellectually nimble employees who can fit into the overarching organizational structure of the company.

List of Organizational Skills Great Organizers Have

  1. Time management. Deciding how to use your time effectively is fundamental to organizational skills.Time managementis all about creating and keeping realistic deadlines, proper scheduling, and discipline. Knowing what tasks require immediate attention and which can be delayed, and for how long, is crucial to proper time management. With strong skills in time management, you’ll never feel overwhelmed by your workload, because you know exactly which tasks have priority.

  2. Physical organization. This is probably the organizational skill that first springs to mind when one thinks about organization. Keeping your workspace free from clutter, appropriate filing/record-keeping, and managing your physical resources efficiently are all elements of physical organization. Knowing where to find important documents or other physical resources is essential for your workplace efficiency. Things like filing, record-keeping, and inventory are all elements of physical organization.

  3. Mental organization. It doesn’t matter if your desk is super clean if your mind is all over the place! Mental organization is all about thinking things through in an orderly fashion. Being able to analyze what resources are required for a task, ready documentation ahead of time, and keep a big-picture strategy in mind are all important elements of mental organization. Think of mental organization as keeping your mind decluttered: concentration, focus, and memory are all prerequisites to a mentally well-organized employee.

  4. Communication. Communication skills get their own section, but being an effective communicator is all about being organized. Miscommunications are a big hurdle for efficiency and the organization of a team. It’s important to keep your team in the loop with your progress on a project, but it’s equally important to be a good active listener who understands what’s being asked of them and the priorities of various tasks.

  5. Delegation. A key element of good teamwork is being skilled in delegation. That means keeping a mental inventory of your teammates (and your own) strengths and weaknesses, so you know whom to task with different elements of a project. Delegation isn’t limited to those in managerial roles. A team that’s able to effectively plan a project together shows strong collaborative and interpersonal skills.

  6. Self-motivation. Sometimes you don’t have anyone telling you exactly how to spend your time at work. At moments like these, you must know what tasks are most in need of your time and attention. Taking initiative and completing tasks without supervision or assistance will earn you a reputation for self-sufficiency. With a reputation like that, you’ll notice more opportunities start to come your way.

  7. Prioritizing. An important facet of mental organization is being able to prioritize your various assignments. Being able to break down multi-step processes into their components and deciding the order to complete them shows off your problem-solving skills. If you can also foresee potential issues and create solutions for them ahead of time, you’re showcasing your strategic abilities.

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    Prioritizing is about making the most of your time and energy, and reducing stress for you and your team throughout a project’s lifespan. It doesn’t matter if you check off three things from your to-do list before noon — if you failed to complete the most important thing on that list, you’re not prioritizing correctly.

  8. Planning. You know the old saying: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Planning is all about taking a step back from the assignment at hand and determining the most efficient means for its completion. This helps you and your team from getting lost in the weeds and keeping an eye on the big picture. Good planning incorporates elements of time management, delegation, mental organization, and physical organization.

  9. Collaboration. Collaborating effectively benefits everyone. It’s not just about delegating tasks appropriately (although that is part of it).Good collaborationalso means knowing whom to turn to when you need help with something and being available for team members who need your help. If you’re stuck on a project and you waste an hour tracking down assistance, that’s an example of poor collaboration leading to an inefficient workday.

  10. Goal-setting. An element of planning issetting goals. While planning might involve digging into the minutiae of a project’s parts,goal-settingis much simpler. It’s about taking a realistic view of who is working on the assignment, what resources are needed for its completion, and the time each element will take. Distilling that into a deadline that aligns with your company’s objectives is what setting goals is all about. Those who regularly achieve these goals prove themselves to be well-organized individuals.

  11. Flexibility. Unforeseen issues arise all the time in business. Another expression comes to mind: “Man plans, and God laughs.” Being an organized employee means doing your best to build in time for potential setbacks. But it also means not losing your cool when your top-notch plan starts to fall apart. Regrouping, identifying new priorities, and staying focused under pressure sets you apart from an employee who has a breakdown every time his well-thought-out plan hits a speed bump.

  12. Decision-making. If you’re a well-organized employee, you shouldn’t shy away from making decisions. You’ll already have a mental inventory of all the necessary information, the ability to distill that into a plan, and the skill to make a decision based on the larger plan and its elements. Being goal-oriented and keeping your workload organized will create an atmosphere where you can make decisions without sweating.

  13. Strategic planning. The big picture doesn’t get any bigger than strategic planning. When you’re planning strategically (as opposed to tactically), you’re not thinking about how best to organize your day, your week, or even for the lifespan of a given project. You’re thinking aboutcorporate goalsas they fit into a much larger time frame. While this may be more important for someone in a leadership role, being a good strategic planner is a nice quality to have in any role.

  14. Scheduling. In a personal sense, scheduling is important for maintaining self-discipline. Having a calendar marked with various deadlines, or a day-planner that sets out goals for different chunks of the day will keep you on top of your assignments. It’s all about knowing what you can do in a given time frame. It’s also about scheduling meetings with relevant people well before you need to talk to them, which goes hand-in-hand with collaboration. Pair proper planning with top-notch scheduling and you’ve got a recipe for a well-organized employee.

  15. Self-care. Not exactly one you can include on aresume, but important nonetheless. Keeping your home life organized will help you feel less overwhelmed at work. That means getting a good night’s sleep, eating well, keeping up good hygiene, and setting aside time for relaxation. Having your personal life under control will help keep you free of distractions throughout your workday, making all of the above organizational skills that much easier to achieve.

How Can You Build Your Organizational Skills

Putting in the effort to improve your organizational skills will strengthen your resume and benefit your career.

Like any soft skill, organization skills always have room for improvement. Reflect on what organizational skills you already possess and where you’re lacking. Maybe you always keep a tidy desk, but your ability to plan and collaborate effectively is weak.

Start making an effort to reach out to your teammates more regularly so that your plans are better aligned with the team as a whole. Or maybe you always know what task to prioritize, but your desk is a cluttered mess.

Invest in some organizing aids and start and/or finish your day by tidying your desk to perfection.

Whatever level of organization skill you have, doing a few things can have an immediate impact on your organizational skills:

  • Set goals for your organizational improvements (it’s your first organization project!)

  • Keep a tidy workspace

  • Make a to-do list (and stick to it)

  • Create a schedule for the next week or month and consult it regularly

  • Read books or watch videos on the best organizational practices

  • Download someorganizational skill apps

  • Keep up communication with your colleagues

How to Showcase Your Skills

When you’re writing a resume and/or cover letter, the crucial question to keep in mind throughout is “how is this information relevant for the job for which I am applying?” Read job listings and pick out keywords related to organizational skills. For example, words like schedule, collate, file, data entry, inventories, invoices, etc.

While you can include organizational skills in the soft skills section of your resume, you should also pepper the rest of your resume with evidence of this fact. Even better if that evidence is quantifiable. For example, “Implemented an employee productivity tracking system that improved efficiency by 17% among my team.”

Remember that the quickest way to prove your organizational skills is by having a well-organized resume and cover letter.

Organizational skills are vital to success at any position in any industry. Perfecting yours and showcasing them effectively while applying for jobs will go a long way in improving your odds as a candidate.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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