I want you to think for a minute about all the things you have learned throughout your training experience.

Remember the day that you started your first externship or internship? Do you remember all of the emotions you were feeling, the thoughts running through your head, and that knot in your stomach that wouldn’t go away?

How many times did you ask yourself, “Where do I start?” How many times did you tell your peers, “I just don’t know where to begin”? How many times did a supervisor or professor give you a sly smile and say, “Well, what do you want to do?” leaving you with a perplexed face and even a sense of panic?

Despite being thrown to the wolves, little by little you learned how to do things on your own.

What you probably didn’t realize was that you were getting yourself organized and using the outcomes of your previous experiences to achieve your objectives. You had a better idea about how to do things because you had been organizing your thoughts more effectively with each new task that came your way, and you did this by drawing from positive past experiences.

But What Does Organizing Mean?

Dr. Muchinsky cites Louis Allen’s definition of organizing as “the process of identifying and grouping the work to be performed, defining and delegating responsibility and authority and establishing relationships for the purpose of enabling people to work most effectively together in accomplishing objectives” [1].

According to Margarita Tartakovsky, one of the Associate Editors at Psych Central, organizing is “not a one size fits all” [2] concept, but every individual has the capability to organize. Why do we organize? It’s simple: the goal of organizing is to help you perform well.

What sometimes makes organizing unenjoyable or overly challenging is the fact that getting organized is not a difficult thing to do, but staying organized is very difficult.

As an aspiring clinician, you get pulled in many directions, whether you are working on papers, studying for midterms or finals, working on research proposals or abstracts, writing your dissertation, working on your internship applications, or even starting an internship. With all of these tasks to juggle, it is not uncommon that sometimes your ability to manage all of these things falters.

However, it is in the midst of this chaos that you must stay organized to be productive.

Below are six tips that I have found helpful.

Making Organization Work for You

1. Know Thy Self

Because organizing is not “one size fits all”, decide how your personality can help your organize.

Here is what I mean by that:

Some individuals work best in a structured environment, while others thrive in an unstructured environment. Some people can hear something and know exactly what to do, while others have to visualize something before they execute a task.

The most important thing is to know your limits and realize that it is okay to ask for help when you feel stuck or have too much on your plate.

2. Find When You’re Most Productive

Are you a morning person or are you an afternoon person? Or are you a “don’t talk to me, I haven’t had my coffee yet” person? In short, when are you the most effective at doing work?

Whatever the time of day may be, keep this in mind when organizing and doing work-related activities: the idea is to work smarter, not harder.

Thus, if you know the times of the day when you are most productive and efficient, then go ahead and plan for having more activities or tasks scheduled during those times.

3. Create Deadlines & Commit to Them

How many times have you said, “Okay, I’m going to have a task done by this date,” but then life happens, work happens, distractions happen, and before you know it you are pushing that deadline back to the last minute? And then you feel bad about it!

So why not do the opposite? Commit to the deadlines you establish for yourself and feel good about completing them.

Now, the caveat about this tip is that you make deadlines obtainable. Making realistic deadlines sets yourself up for success rather than failure.

4. Procrastination is Your Frenemy

Yes, you read that right. Procrastination is a “frenemy.” It is a friend in that it warmly encourages you to not do the things that you don’t want to do, and it becomes your enemy when important things you put off never get done.

Leaving things for the last minute can become overwhelming and taxing. For example, putting chores off during the week can lead you to become a “weekend warrior,” which in turn can lead to burnout.

I have found that breaking things down into small tasks does the trick to avoid procrastination.


5. Pat Yourself on the Back

Reward yourself. Go to the movies, go to lunch, meet up with your friends, do anything that you find enjoyable after putting in some work.

To stay motivated and continue to be productive, you have to know when to take a break – and not feel guilty about it.
Remember, it is all about balance. If you are neither motivated nor happy, tasks will take longer to complete.

6. Make a Contingency Plan

One of the best ways of getting organized and staying organized is knowing that things do not go as planned. This goes back to tips #2 and #3. How many times have you said “I want to do ten things” and you are only able to do a few? Out of those ten things you want to do, pick the ones that are more important to do in that one day.

Remember, just because Plan A does not work, it does not mean that Plan B will not work either. Or Plans C, D, or E for that matter!

In conclusion, if there is something that you should take from this post, is that in the midst of chaos, Keep Calm and Get Organized.


[1] Muchinsky, P. M. (2012). Psychology applied to work: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology. 10th Ed., Summerfield, NC: Hypergraphic Press.[2] Tartakovsky, M. (2013). 9 Lesser-Known Tips for Getting & Staying Organized. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2016. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/10/19/9-lesser-known-tips-for-getting-staying-organized/

Iván G. Rodríguez-Flores, MS
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