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How to Create a More Productive Workspace

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Messy Desk

Do you ever have to sort through piles of papers or folders to find the one you need?  Do you have to ask a coworker for a vendor’s phone number or business card again?  You know you have it somewhere…

I once inherited a workspace with a new job title.  That meant I also inherited the previous owner’s multiple stacks of… um, geesh, old receipts, expired insurance quotes, unfinished work and projects, spreadsheets, food wrappers, loose change, and I kid you not, hair accessories and nail polish.

I found uncompleted forms past their expiration dates, but I couldn’t find the current report my boss wanted!  It’s not possible to be your most productive if you’re working in an unorganized fortress made from sky-high stacks of paperwork.

The most organized and efficient person I knew always worked with her desk completely clear of everything except only what she was working on at that moment. Her office was so calm, serene and comfortable.

My new office was a hellhole of stress and inefficiency. So I took some deep breaths and went to work filing and organizing to make my space workable and efficient. Chaos produces stress, and order relieves it.

A clear and uncluttered workspace can make you more productive. Work will feel less overwhelming if you keep your space as uncluttered and organized as possible. It will give you a mental lift when everything is clean and clear, and you will be less likely to lose or forget anything important from getting buried!

Three Rules to a More Productive Workspace

1.  Improving Your Mindset

It is widely documented that taking periodic breaks from your work will recharge and reenergize you. It will actually help you to focus better and think more clearly, making you more productive.

It is important to take short breaks throughout the day to let your thoughts reorganize and declutter.  Just as your mind needs rest to be more productive, your eyes also need rest away from your computer screen, and your behind needs to get out of your chair!

Every day, try to take a short break in the morning and another in the afternoon just to walk around. If the weather is good, try to do it outside. There may be days that are just too busy when you can’t actually get away longer than to use the restroom, but there should be other days when you can do this.

Good physical health contributes to a sharp, organized and productive mind. Look for opportunities to move around more and stay in your chair less.

Using the restroom is a great opportunity for walking around. Is there a longer roundabout route you could take there? Can you take stairs to use the restroom on a different floor? Taking the stairwell instead of the elevator is a great way to get in a bit of exercise. Try taking an extra set or two of stairs if possible.

An easy way to clear your head and to keep from getting stiff shoulders is to take big, deep breaths from time to time and also get up and stretch (when no one is looking!) The little oxygen kick from deep breathing is great for energizing your mind, and the stretching is great for your circulation. You’ll immediately feel better each time. Remind yourself throughout the day to sit up straight and not slouch, too.

Try to eat outside on your lunch break whenever possible.  If you can’t get outside, you could take your lunch to your company’s break room if they have one and socialize. Physically getting away is best. But if that is not an option, perhaps you can close your office door. This is a rest break as much as a lunch break. If you don’t have an office, you can still swivel away from your desk and “escape” into a book.  The point is to get away from your work for a mentally healthy reprieve.

Takeaway:

Developing a mindset that allows you to stay fresh means taking breaks and moving your body. Find excuses as much as you can to take regular breaks to help you process all the information that you deal with every day.

2.  Organize Your Desk

Do you ever search for an item or note on your desk, shuffling through piles of papers looking for it? You know it’s there, but where? It’s frustrating, and it makes you seem less efficient.

To keep your desk space as clear as possible, try keeping office supplies in drawers or shelves. Dishes of paper clips and tape dispensers take up valuable real estate on your desk and make it appear more cluttered.  Return any items you use back to their “home” in their designated drawer, shelf or cabinet when you don’t need them. If your desk does not have drawers, you could get a small wheeled cart with drawers or shelves that you can push underneath your desk.

Keep an efficient filing system. (Remember the stacks of miscellaneous mess I inherited?  It took several days to completely overhaul the filing system.) The best way to start if you have a bad situation is a complete filing “makeover.” Begin by boxing up everything more than a year old and sending the boxes to a storage room. Then clearly label every folder and file them in drawers where every label is visible, neat and orderly. Remember: Chaos produces stress, and order relieves it.

At the end of the day, if there is any work you’ve completed that you have not already filed away, do it now. Then organize all the projects you’re still working on for the next morning by urgency or importance. Anything that still needs work, but you know you will not be doing it the next day, can go into a special file drawer. It will be handy when you need it, but not in your way or in danger of getting “lost” on your desk.

This system of clearing your desk each evening will keep you on top of everything, no matter that more work keeps accumulating during each new day. Each morning when you come into work, your projects for the day will be already laid out and ready.

Nothing will fall through the cracks with deadlines or being forgotten since you physically see what needs to be done every evening and every morning in a clear and organized way. You can always lay your hands quickly on any work without fumbling around through piles and stacks of folders.

Takeaway:

Clear your desk at the end of each day, so you start fresh every morning.

3.  Organize Your Email

I also recommend keeping your email inbox as empty as possible.  Without a system for clearing your inbox, you live in danger of forgetting to take care of something important and having it get lost in that sea of emails.

As soon as you can in the morning, begin clearing out email.  Once you reply or complete each email or the task involved with it, immediately delete it if you can.

For email tasks that should not be deleted, create folders for completed correspondence by category. If you are not confident to delete, you can move it into one of those folders. But get it out of your inbox when you’ve completed the reply or task. Then you’ll never have to worry you may forget to follow up on an email. If it is in your inbox, it needs your attention. Simple. If you need to retrieve an old email, you can use the search feature to easily find it without having it sit in your inbox, clogging it up.

Takeaway:

Put “to do” items from your email onto your task list, so you can clear out your email without having to look at emails multiple times.

Your Turn

What works for you? What are your favorite tips for organization and productivity?

* Contributed by Deborah Shelby who writes inspiration for a happier and better life at Prayerful Mom.

5 Ways to Bring Yourself More Career Success and Happiness

micro improvement

micro improvement

* Quick update! The Unlock Your Superpowers manifesto is so close to being finished. Stay tuned for when it goes live and a Facebook Q&A date.

Last week I had a conversation with my friend Matt. We were chatting while our kids played together and we sipped on some Earl Grey tea.

He joked about how he wished that all he had to do was play music and not have to worry about booking his gigs, marketing, finances, etc.

Have you ever said something similar?

Matt’s a popular local musician in San Antonio. He put in a lot of hard work to get to where he is now.

He laughed. I smiled and took a sip of my tea.

Those words have been bouncing around my head every since they flowed from his lips.

Everything he does from booking gigs to marketing all support his ability to do what he is passionate about.

I recently said something similar. Just recently I was frustrated because I was passed up for a speaking gig. In that moment I wished my great life to be something different. I wished my book was a best seller. I would have gotten that speaking gig I said to myself.

The words flowed out of my mouth. I couldn’t stop them. I paused and smiled at this thought.

I know it’s a good book, filled with great information, but nowhere near a best seller.

I have learned to smile when I’m getting down on my life. It’s how I cope with difficult situations.

Let’s Break It Down

As a parent of a 4-year-old, I realize that we like to try to take 4 steps all at once. Instead of getting us to our destination more quickly, it can cause us to fall on our faces. We may have had far better results just enjoying the walk.

You’ve probably heard the phrase:

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I know I’ve been so focused on a goal before that I forgot about the journey. Have you also forgotten to enjoy the moment you are in for its inherent worth?

There’s so much we miss when we don’t enjoy the journey, because that is the stuff of life. It’s kind of like you can’t laugh at a joke before you hear the whole thing otherwise the punch line doesn’t make sense.

This Is Where the Secret Lies

Maria Forleo was on Oprah’s Sunday show talking with two other panelists about life lessons, seeking and spirituality.

When she said:

“Bring passion to everything you do.”

A little light went off in my head. Then she said.

“Passion is like a muscle that we can build through use.”

Then the light went full bright. Yes! I knew what she meant.

I’ve talked about this before here and here and in my manifesto on Unlocking Your Superpowers that I’m completing in the next few weeks. In there is another quote:

When you do work you love, you do amazing work.

When you do work you hate, you do crappy work.

That’s why it all starts with passion, then the focus and strengths come into play to turn an action into a superpower.

How do you go about bringing passion to everything you do? First you must start with the basics. Let’s look at a 5 step process that I use with my coaching clients.

1. Become a Watcher of Your Thoughts

The words you choose before you start on a task will determine your mindset. If you say I “need” to wash the dishes, you’ll most likely go into the task dreading every moment. When you say, I “want” to wash the dishes, there is a positive choice you are making before you do the task.

You can check out a short interview I did with Jason Fischer, about mastering your internal dialog over at Domino Connection, my close your connection gaps blog. You might want to have a notebook handy because he digs into some great ideas.

2. Give Your Full Attention to the Situation

If this was your last day on earth, what would you do?

Think about this question for a few seconds. What really matters to you?

If you’re like me, you might notice that your sip of coffee tastes a little better. You might imagine what it would be like to never have another sip of coffee again.

When you give your full attention to the moment, you don’t let worrying thoughts bother you. How could you? Right?

3. Feel Gratitude

When you feel gratitude, your passion will kick in. When you really appreciate what you already have, it helps you find the right perspective. Instead of worrying about needing an extra hour of sleep, you think I’m up and awake so that I can enjoy this day for all it is ready to give me.

Try keeping a gratitude journal and work on making this a part of your daily life. You can learn more about creating your own gratitude journal here. The key will be to be consistent with keeping your journal so it becomes a habit.

4. Listen to Your Emotions, then Let Them Go

Your emotions should help guide your decision-making processes. Successful people always feel first, then make a decision after they’ve had a time to process their emotions and rationally weigh out their options.

This process will allow you to make decisions based on happiness as well as logic.

Once you’ve made your decision, it’s also essential to let your emotional attachment to the outcome go so you can enjoy the present moment.

5. Develop Career Building Habits

You probably used to practice every day. Whether it was soccer, piano, or homework, .you worked on improving yourself. This habit is ingrained in you and can easily be re-energized if given a little motivation.

One idea is to try creating a 30-Day Challenge for yourself. Ask yourself, “What part of your career could use a little help?”

For example, do you need to grow your network? If so, what could you do every single day to find more people you can help as well as lean on them when you need help?

I’m working on bringing you action oriented courses like a 30 Day Connection Guide and course and Unlock Your Superpowers course to help people grow their network. Would this interest you? If so, please fill out this survey link and let me know a little more about what you want help with so I can create something that can really help you grow your career.

Putting It Together

Your career is dependent on micro-improvements. When you try taking small steps every day, you can turn your career into something that makes you happier and helps more people.

Try applying one of these ideas to your career and let me know what happens after one week. If you like the results, I suggest turning it into a 30-Day Challenge in order to make it into a habit.

What has helped you bring more or the most success and happiness to your career?

* I can’t wait to share the Unlock Your Superpowers manifesto with you. I think you are going to love it. Stay tuned. :)

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