When applying for jobs, a common interview question is, “How do you stay organized?” This and similar interview questions are designed to understand your time management strategies and organizational skills. Hiring managers need to know that you are an organized person who can meet due dates reliably without getting overwhelmed.
Here are 15 great answers that demonstrate good organizational habits that allow you to stay on top of things.
5 Tips for Your Answer
Here are 5 critical things to include in any answer about your organizational system.
- The first step is to discuss how you stay organized. It is a good idea to say that you always use a system.
- The best way to show your system is to share examples of how you have used it in the past.
- Discuss how you keep track of tasks as a part of big projects.
- Say that you use a to-do list of action items as an effective way to manage urgent vs. important tasks.
- Mention the use of tools such as sticky notes, project management software, or a digital calendar.
5 Mistakes to Avoid
These 5 important tips will help you avoid displaying bad habits or making interview mistakes.
- Do not mention difficulty with high-stress levels.
- Never discuss procrastination in any way or any context.
- Do not forget to include how you keep track of your time.
- Avoid indications of mental health issues, a lack of positive attitude, or poor emotional stability.
- Do not be late to or disorganized at the interview.
15 Example Answers that Demonstrate Best Practices in Your Work Style
Example #1: By Tracking Time with Google Calendar
To manage my time effectively and stay organized, I have a specific strategy. In my current role, I set goals for the end of every day and the end of the week. I use a Google calendar to track important dates and upcoming events so I always know the amount of time available. I estimate how much time is needed for specific tasks and set aside time blocks for each.
I try to keep as much time as possible available at the end of each day, and this is a great way to allow flexibility for when an urgent task is dropped on my plate unexpectedly. I stay late when I need extra time so that I don’t have incomplete work tasks at the end of the day, just in case there are fires in the morning to put out.
Example #2: Daily Diarizing and Collaboration Tools
I developed good habits for a highly organized life when I was in college. I was often involved in group projects working with other college students, and my team members usually had poor time management.
To manage group projects, I used a Google drive to collaborate effectively with my team members, and I made sure everyone’s tasks were done every single day. In my diary, I broke my day into blocks of time, blacked out class times, and created short-term goals for each free block. Large tasks would be broken into smaller chunks that fit into each block, and I prioritized high-value, urgent tasks first. I tried never to let any tasks overflow to the following week and used each Sunday evening to plan the week ahead.
Example #3: Proactively Planning the Day Ahead with To-do Lists
Throughout my career, I have always demonstrated a consistently high level of organization. I rely on a system to make sure that all tasks are managed effectively on a daily basis. I plan for the next morning by creating a to-do list at the end of each day.
At each team meeting, I always volunteer to help others if I have time available or ask to delegate tasks to team members if I am falling behind. I separate urgent tasks from important (but less time-sensitive) tasks, and prioritize the urgent tasks first. I build in time buffers so that I can take on last-minute projects from my manager as needed or double down on doing my best work if the time buffer is not needed for other tasks.
Example #4: By Maintaining an Organized Workspace
There are a few key things that I do to stay organized both at work and at home. First, I always try to plan as much as possible. If I know there is a project due or there is an upcoming deadline, I’ll start working on it early so that I have plenty of time to complete it.
Second, I like to keep a detailed calendar and mark down all of my appointments and deadlines. That way, I can make sure that everything gets completed on time.
And lastly, I try to stay tidy and organized in my workspace. This helps me avoid any unnecessary distractions and keeps me focused on my work tasks. By always being on top of my tasks, I can have the maximum time available to support others and take on new work as it arises.
Example #5: By Managing Personal Productivity and Efficiency
Managing priorities in a high-stress environment is as much about work-life balance as it is about time management. The first thing I do is to look after my health, sleep, and diet to make sure that I am in an optimum mental state at all times. As all tasks are important, I prioritize tasks based on three factors:
impact on the business, urgency, and ability to delegate.
Anything that someone else can do, I try to have shared with the best person for the job. For tasks that have the same urgency levels, I do the highest impact task first.
Finally, the high urgency but less important tasks are done last. I revisit my task list between tasks and during tasks if I have completed a sub-task. This method allows me to always work on the most relevant tasks and maximize productivity for the business.
Example #6: By Remaining Flexible and Completing Important Tasks During Off-Peak Hours
To provide maximum support for the people that come to me, I need a very specific approach for time management. As people do not always know when they need support, it is important that my approach is flexible and allows them to approach me as needed.
To remain flexible and productive, I have first become a morning person. By being in the office early, I always have time each morning to prioritize and plan my day as well as to knock out the most urgent task for the day. Second, my to-do list is always digital and is run as a bubble-sort list. Anytime a new task or meeting is requested, I compare it to the existing list and move it up or down in priority to the relevant time.
Finally, I stay late each day to complete any important tasks that were not completed in the workday so that I start each day fresh without building up a backlog of work.
Example #7: By Maintaining a Productive Routine and Limiting Interruptions
To make the best use of my time, I use a strict action list system to organize my day. I have a complete list of routine activities, project tasks, and one-off tasks that need to be done. I schedule my production time in my calendar and try to stick to these times to the maximum extent possible.
If meetings or other activities come up that I must attend, I will reschedule my production time as needed. I find that by blocking off the time in my calendar, it is uncommon for a conflict to arise without warning. I always make sure I understand the deadline for each activity assigned to me, and I schedule my personal deadline a day ahead or more when possible. By doing this, I can always manage my workload, move work up when priorities change, or take on new projects when they come up.
Example #8: By Removing Distractions and Working Sequentially
There are a few things that I do to stay organized. First, I try to create a schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. This helps me stay on track and ensure that I’m completing all of my tasks.
Secondly, I make sure to keep my work area clean and organized. This makes it easier for me to find what I need and reduces the amount of time that I spend looking for things.
Lastly, I try to avoid multitasking as much as possible. This can often lead to confusion and mistakes. By focusing on one task at a time, I can complete tasks more efficiently and accurately. To manage conflicting priorities in this sequential system, I used a daily to-do list and revisit it after each task to make sure I am always working on the most urgent priority.
Example #9: By Using Time Management and Collaboration Tools to Time Block (great for an Executive Assistant)
The main way that I stay organized as an executive assistant is through the effective use of time management and collaboration tools. I use a shared online calendar to make sure that my boss and I always have access to the same information. I encourage the use of time blocking to make sure that changes between tasks are consistent each day. This allows my boss to focus on the task at hand while I handle any multitasking I need to complete.
I keep a separate personal calendar and to-do list so that I know what I am personally responsible for each day while they are in meetings or working on ongoing projects. Finally, I find careful notetaking is key to making sure that there is a reliable and consistent record of conversations, appointments, and project information.
Example #10: Through Clear Communication and Delegating Tasks Based on Strengths (great for Team Lead)
There are a few key things that I do as a team leader to maintain a team of organized people. First, I use tools to coordinate the work of the group. This includes shared digital folders, OneNote, Outlook calendar, and MS teams. I ensure communication, scheduling, planning, and notetaking occur in the proper places. I check in with each team member on a regular basis to make sure that they are on the right track and delegate tasks to each team member based on their strongest skills.
I always plan the next week’s work at the end of the current week, and I try to schedule free time for myself so that I can personally take responsibility for unexpected tasks as they arise or help team members with particular tasks.
Example #11: By Applying a Repeatable Five-Step Process (great for a Manager)
That is a great question. I believe that having excellent organizational skills is one of the keys to being an effective manager. To do this, I use a five-step process:
- First, I always have clear and achievable goals for each day, week, and month.
- Second, I use the Ivy Lee method when preparing my to-do list for each day and prioritize tasks based on importance to the company.
- Third, I have effective time-estimation skills and can schedule the right amount of tasks to fill each day productively.
- Fourth, I create as much physical space as I can on my desk, as less clutter and distractions help me to do my work more efficiently.
- Finally, I look ahead and predict possible priority changes or unexpected tasks and try to maintain time in my schedule to address these.
Example #12: Prioritizing and Filtering with an Eisenhower Matrix (great for a Senior Manager)
I use a four-step approach to manage my time as a senior management executive. It is similar to the Eisenhower matrix.
- First, I filter what tasks I should address, what my assistant can address, and what should be delegated to my colleagues or to my team.
- Then I create a list for the next day at the end of the previous day. This list is always prioritized based on a combination of urgency and impact to the company, as everything I do is focused on delivering value to the shareholders and serving the company’s objectives. I do not allow anything except the most urgent tasks or meetings to interrupt my schedule.
- Next, I have my assistant manage and filter my phone calls and emails for me, which allows me to focus intently on the task at hand.
- Finally, I manage all of these steps by using tools such as Outlook calendar, MS To Do, Teams, and Sharepoint, which makes it easier to access my work anywhere and collaborate with others quickly and efficiently.
Example #13: Organizing with CRM Tools and Bubble Sorting (great for Sales)
There are a few things that I find helpful in staying organized as a salesperson. First, I make sure to keep a daily list of tasks and prioritize them based on importance using a bubble-sort technique. This helps me to make sure that I am getting the most important tasks done first and not letting anything fall through the cracks.
Additionally, I try to batch similar tasks together so that I can be more efficient with my time. For example, if I know I will be making a bunch of phone calls, I’ll do them all at once instead of spreading them out throughout the day.
Finally, I also use various sales tools and CRMs to stay organized and on top of my pipeline, improving my overall productivity.
Example #14: By Using Scheduling Tools To Avoid Overbooking and Separating Tasks from Each Other (great for Data and Analytical Positions)
The way that I stay organized as a developer is to compartmentalize my work and apply a system to each project separately. I utilize a schedule and calendar to plan out my day-to-day tasks and commitments. This allows me to see everything in one place and refrain from overbooking myself.
I also have separate folders for each project I am working on. This helps keep me to focus on one task at a time instead of getting overwhelmed by numerous tasks. Within these folders, I designate subfolders for different aspects of the project so that each piece has its own home. Finally, I touch base with my supervisor and team regularly to ensure that I am keeping on track with deadlines and expectations.
Example #15: By Managing Commitments and Building in Time Buffers (great for Consultants)
There are a few key things that I do to stay organized as a consultant. First, I make sure to keep a detailed and up-to-date calendaring system. This helps me keep track of both my personal and professional commitments, and ensures that I am always aware of what needs to be done and when.
Second, I establish clear boundaries between work and personal time, and stick to them unless there is a work emergency. This helps me avoid burnout and ensures that I am always fresh and focused when working with clients.
Third, I build in buffer time for projects so that I have time to address unexpected complications or issues as they arise. Finally, I make sure to schedule regular check-ins with my supervisor to get feedback on how I can deliver more value.
The easiest way to make a positive impact when answering a question about time management is to do the following:
- Discuss using a system to manage daily tasks and build in time buffers to handle last-minute tasks when they arise.
- Make sure you include the use of tools like an online calendar and set priorities carefully to differentiate important tasks from urgent tasks.
- Discuss how you always complete daily tasks by the end of the day so that you are organized the next day and can have a relaxed home life.
Doing these things is an effective way to make sure that you will impress any prospective employer. You’ve got this!
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.