Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Whether you are a business professional in a crowded office, or you work for yourself, use these tips to give your desk a productivity make-over!
DESK DISTRACTIONS TO AVOID
1. CELL PHONES/SOCIAL NETWORKING WEB SITES -- Personal cell phones are a huge distraction at work. Yes, it's exciting to get a fun text, BUT we all know how easy it is to spend the whole day texting, checking social networking sites, or even chatting with friends online -- where did the day go? This isn't a problem for killing down-time, but if you're someone who is stressed because you never have enough time, this is a great way to carve out a few more hours in your week -- these minutes really do add up. Focusing on your work will make you more competitive for your next promotion or landing that business deal -- and you'll feel more accomplished at the end of the day.
Many of my clients have struggled with this common problem, whether working in a traditional office or at home. When we switch tasks, we lose productivity because it takes our mind a while to switch gears. When we are interrupting our task to check a text or voicemail, we end up losing a lot of time in our day.
A study from Stanford University even showed that people who multitask the most are the least productive -- they lose perspective on which tasks are important enough to switch over to, and which are irrelevant.
Turn off that cell or hide it in a drawer with the volume turned off. Avoid social networking and chat sites on your work computer -- some employers block these sites making it easy for you, but other employers don't -- and if you work for yourself you'll have to have the most willpower.
One of my clients powered off his personal cell phone during working hours, and only turned it on during his lunch hour and after work. He found he was much more focused, productive, and ended the day wanting to celebrate by spending quality time with friends and family.
*It's important to let friends and family know about your new routine, so they're not left feeling ignored. Tell important people in your life which hours they can expect you to reply. In case of emergency, give loved ones your work phone number to call, to make sure you're available in case of a serious accident, etc.
2. BACKGROUND TV NOISE -- If you're trying to focus at work, or learn something new, avoid having a television (or even a radio with DJ chatter) in your office. While not always possible -- especially if you work in entertainment or finance, where TV screens are everywhere -- you should always try to reduce distractions. While you may feel your work is adequate, you are losing an edge by having a distraction stealing away a percentage of your attention -- your brain is doing many things at once at a low level, instead of focusing on one main task at hand. This means you may miss an important detail, it could hinder your creativity, or it may simply slow you down.
*Remove distracting objects such as televisions from your line of vision (and hearing if possible) while at work. If there is a lot of background noise at your office, ask your boss if you can find a quieter spot, or wear headphones and play classical music.
3. PERSONAL TASKS -- It's so tempting to try to "multitask" at work, and finish some home tasks: online shopping, writing a few personal emails, making travel plans, playing fantasy sports, or even paying bills online. Every time you switch to a personal task, your are losing time, as your mind needs to readjust and switch from one task to the other.
It's actually faster to batch together your personal tasks and do them all at one time (after work hours). The enables you to focus intensely, which is required for task completion. This is hugely important for my work-at-home entrepreneur clients, but equally important for those in traditional offices. If your mind is distracted wondering whether you should buy the magenta dress or the light blue one, you won't be as focused on your work.
Batch together home or personal tasks. Keep anything that could distract you from work in a designated place: a folder, a box, a bin. Whenever non-work items cross your path, toss them into this designated space, and return to them after work hours. To avoid worrying about personal tasks, keep a notepad with a to-do list in this same space, where you can quickly jot down "call Marie back tonight" or "get groceries." Writing down the task quickly will get it out of your mind and onto paper, and you'll see the note at the end of the day. You won't forget your tasks this way, and they won't distract you either.
4. TOYS -- They're adorable, but if you're the type of person who is tempted to really get into playing with those amusing toys -- such as the plastic creatures with whose eyes bulge out when you squeeze his tummy, then remove these items from your desk. You don't want your boss walking by as you're face to face staring at your silly creature, instead of at that expense report.
If they don't distract you, it's fine to leave silly toys on your desk -- so long as it doesn't lure co-workers to come play with them (and distract you).
THINGS THAT HELP
1. PHOTOS OF LOVED ONES -- Photos of loved ones can be helpful. Studies show that simply looking at a photo of a spouse or other important person can decrease feelings of pain and provide social support -- even just a photo results in this huge effect! As humans, we are social creatures and support protects us against stress.
This is hugely helpful if you're working and suffering from any type of pain -- from a headache to a serious ongoing pain issue. Or, if your job is stressful. Feeling more support and less stress will help you focus better on your work.
2. PLANTS -- Plants can help you relax since they connect you with nature. And they're about as distracting as a houseplant -- meaning, they're not very
distracting at all.
3. TO-DO LISTS -- Keeping a daily to-do list is hugely important. It will focus your attention on what absolutely matters today. Everything else can wait for tomorrow. Post a large to-do list in your line of sight for the entire day, and update it if priorities change. Write your to-do list out every morning: the act of doing so will focus your attention on what must be finished, making it easier for you to ignore less important tasks that may feel urgent, but really don't matter.
4. A MOTIVATIONAL PHRASE YOU CHOOSE -- Instead of hanging a corny poster, choose your own word or short phrase that you write for yourself. Ask yourself why you're even at work in the first place: what is your ultimate dream? What are you trying to accomplish? Sum this up in a few words, and post it in a place you'll see it all day long. It will remind you why you are working so hard, helping you to feel good about your accomplishments. A phrase like "Dylan's college fund" or "moving to Paris" or "I'm building a business I love" can go a long way in focusing your attention.
I have a client who is a financial trader who writes phrases such as "prove it" to remind himself that he needs to work harder to achieve his goals.
TO SUM UP -- Try out these tips to streamline your work day. You'll feel more focused and accomplished, have more time, and you'll excel at reaching your professional goals.
photos, free digital photos.