An Office Makeover to Boost Productivity

Veggettes office before organizing

Two types of change can be made during an office makeover that will both boost productivity. The first has to do with our physical environment and the second relates to our work habits.

Workspace Changes

First we will focus on when we need to make changes to our physical environment, the actual workspace itself, and how to do it.

Productivity increases with an office that is current with your work, your position and job description. However, frequently what I see is an office where the current work is stacked up on the desk and the file cabinet and desk drawers are filled with ancient history.

Here are some hints to help you decide if you would benefit from an office makeover.

  • You have a new job title or job description in the same company. This may mean you have changed offices or you could still be at the same desk.
  • You are working for a different company.
  • You are now working from home.
  • You are in business for yourself and your company has changed direction in what it offers and/or you have new products.

If none of the above apply, but you are losing items and your office looks like a windstorm came through, it is time to tackle the job of purging and setting up current systems. This also is a good way to organize your mind for your current work, and it will reduce your working stress. Things that are hanging around our office are not only cluttering up the physical space but are also creating mind clutter.

Work Habits

Let’s review the above scenarios and the pitfalls they present for your office:

  • We tend to hang on to material from old projects and committees on which we serve. Now is the time to toss this material or pass it on to someone else. The same goes for newsletters by mail or by email that don’t pertain to your current job. If this is a new position, it often makes sense to keep some of the previous person’s material until you get familiar with your new work. What is not okay, and what I often see, is the material still filling up desk drawer space two years later. Open up your desk and see if this is true for you.
  • If you found yourself taking boxes home or with you to your new office “just in case,” it is time to do the purge. Sometimes I see boxes and more boxes taking up space years later that have no value.
  • You are now working from home. If you are not careful, your new office can creep into the other rooms of your house. It also is important to keep your time organized because another pitfall is that you may find yourself working all hours. Some of my clients find it helpful to close the office door and actually put up a sign saying “Office Closed” to give them some separation from their work.
  • For those who are in business for themselves, as I am, it is important for your office to keep step with what your business is right now. Purchasing another filing cabinet is not the answer. A client wanted to buy a new filing cabinet before I came so we would be able to file his current work. I suggested he wait. Turns out three of his four file drawers were filled with information that had nothing to do with his current business. Money and space were saved by getting his office current.
See the Results

You can check out pictures with the results of hard work that made office spaces less cluttered from the Business page of my website.

Change in your office can be very freeing — making your office more organized, look better and feel bigger. Another huge benefit of reducing your office clutter and your mind clutter is that you will be more focused, more productive and accomplish more with less stress.

Create a Productive Workspace Using Gardening Principles

Are you challenged by a cluttered, disorganized workspace or office?

If so, your love for green living things and gardening may hold the solution.

If you like to garden but are challenged by organizing drawers and work surfaces, think of your workspace as your garden spot. If you can weed your garden, you can de-clutter your office.

It is easy to pull one little weed from your garden, but if you leave it long enough to grow and get established, it becomes a project. The same thing happens when you put off clearing that little stack until tomorrow, then tomorrow, then tomorrow.

Stacks of paper grow just like weeds; eventually, you have a huge stack to tackle.

Weeding and de-cluttering are the same: The sooner you do it, the faster it goes.

You plant tomatoes and lettuce together so that when you select salad vegetables, they are in the same garden spot. “Like items together” is a useful organizing principle. Following this principle in your office tells you where to put things and where to retrieve them.

It is best to weed or plant in one garden row at a time. Likewise, organize one area at a time in your office — just a desk or drawer. Finish it completely before moving to the next spot.

Seasoned gardeners plant kitchen herbs where they are easy to reach before the evening meal. Apply the organizing principle “Prime Items in Prime Space” in your office by putting the most frequently used items in the easiest places to reach.

The wisest gardeners weed a little each day. Most of us don’t have the time or energy to weed the entire garden at once. Organize your workspace in short sessions — perhaps 15 to 30 minutes at a time. It is simpler to make the smaller decisions, and you’ll be motivated by feelings of satisfaction and completion.

When your garden has the flowers that please you and the vegetables you enjoy, your garden is successful. Likewise, the definition of good office organization is “you like it and it works.” If you like how you’ve arranged your workspace, if you can find what you need, if you can be productive, then you have achieved good organization.

When we feel overwhelmed or we need to make huge changes in our yard, the smartest and most economical decision is to hire a landscaper. Similarly, when organizing is a personal challenge, hiring a professional organizer can be an excellent, tax-deductible investment for a business.

As you accomplish each task, no matter how small, stop and pat yourself on the back for the progress you have made. That will motivate you to do another area. Your efforts will definitely increase your productivity and be well worth the time you invest.

Creating Uninterrupted Focus Time Pays Off

Getting individuals to set aside uninterrupted Focus Time is like pulling teeth, but when they do set the time aside, they find the greatest relief.

Are you tired of staying late to accomplish your work or coming in early on Saturday because you are behind?

I know your days are full and you don’t have a minute to spare, but are you open to trying something different?

Do you work best focused for long periods on one project or do you prefer variety in your day?

It was eye-opening for one coaching client to realize that she worked best when focused on one project, not moving from one thing to another. It made a tremendous difference in her time management and productivity.

Another client worked best and stayed motivated by switching tasks but still worked best in blocks of time.

Creating Focus Time is a way to get projects done, finished, eliminated! To do this, you need solid blocks of time. I’m not talking about being unavailable to clients, coworkers or family for hours, but can you schedule a single uninterrupted hour to focus on a project?

It has been said that if we create Focus Time, without distractions from our phone or e-mail alert, we can get four times the amount of work done than if we allow interruptions. This may mean putting a sign on our door that says, “Working on a project. I will be available at 11:00.”

Put this topic on the agenda for your next office meeting. Discuss how each person can get Focus Time. Could two individuals swap time to cover each other’s phone calls? Maybe it would be a good idea to close your door and put a note on it. Remind everyone to respect each other’s Focus Time. Unless smoke is coming out of the air vent, don’t interrupt each other. It takes 20 minutes to wrap our mind around detailed projects and an interruption puts a person back at square one.

Here are some guidelines to help you can get more Focus Time:

– Select a time each day in which to focus, realizing that some days this may need to be flexible.
– Who do you need to communicate with about this time?
– How will you remind others not to interrupt? (examples: by e-mail, a sign on your door, or verbally at staff meetings)
– What will you need to turn to turn off phone or e-mail alert? Do you need to redirect your phone calls?

Think about this: You can get done in 10 minutes of Focus Time what might take you 40 minutes with interruptions. An hour of focus on a task or project allows you to maximize your productivity, move forward and complete projects. This will have a tremendous impact on eliminating Mind Clutter and shortening your work day.

What To Pull Out of Your Files for the New Year

Having a filing system is essential for keeping paperwork under control and holding down the paper piles.

Sometimes, even organizers break their own rules. I had actually gotten behind on filing at home. Recently, I bit the bullet and did all of my neglected home filing for the past 3 months. And the reason this is a “no-no” is because doing it all at once is a terrible job; even listening to Car Talk on the radio wouldn’t take the pain away.

As we start 2018, vow to no longer procrastinate this year and to stay organized. Why not get a head start? Now is a good time to organize, re-prioritize, and purge your files. When doing so, go ahead and pull out:
1. Everything for your 2017 taxes
2. Anything that is considered a “business expense”
3. Any material that you want to focus on in your business in 2018.

In doing so, you will already have a jump-start on the new year. I even recommend doing this frequently to avoid my home-filing situation.

Organizing Golden Rules

Follow these Organizing Golden Rules to guide any organizing project.

Consistency – When you form a good organizing habit, stick with it. Example: Always put your bills in the same place.

Like Items Together – Group information by subject. Name the file by asking yourself what you will be thinking when you need it.

Prime Items in Prime Space – Use it every day–keep it at arm’s reach. Use it once a week or less–you can get up and go get it.

What Will Make Me Need This? – This is a much more decisive question than “Will I ever need this?” Use it for papers in your office or home.

Simple is Smart – Ask yourself: “How and when will I need this in the future?” How it will be used will then tell you how to organize it.

Don’t Forget to WOW Yourself! – Patting yourself on the back will energize you to organize other areas. WOW yourself and keep moving forward!

Reclaiming Your Office

I bet you are wondering if a Professional Organizer ever needs to reclaim her own office. Yes!

Here’s how it went. Even professionals need to work at being Clutter-free & Organized.

I had been working pretty nonstop with clients – in their homes and offices. Plus, I had been
traveling with my business. Also, after every speech there is a certain amount to undo and put
away. Unfortunately, I came home and didn’t follow my own advice to allow for an office reentry day.

So what did I do? Well, if you have read any of my writings, you know I suggest an easy win. So my easy win was to empty all the trash containers. Immediate improvement! Then I practiced what I teach: I started in a corner of my office. That meant taking apart all the material from my Florida speech and getting my speaking case ready for my next presentation. One corner now looked much better.

Next I tackled my desk, which still was covered with material from a coaching session for some certification I am working on. I had left it a mess the night before, after finishing a 9:30 p.m. phone call from a coaching client on the West Coast. I must admit, when I walked out the door of my office that night, “I didn’t care.”

In organizing it is not “now or never”, it is now or later, and my later had come. Per my own advice, I celebrated when I started to see clear space. Then I went for lunch, came back and did some 3-5 minute tasks to get them off my desk. Next, on to organizing my standing desk. I had momentum! I could do it!

Organizing Tip 1. Start with some “easy wins”.
Organizing Tip 2. Start in a corner and work around the room.
Organizing Tip 3. Celebrate your successes. They’ll motivate you to keep going.

The Real Life of a Professional Organizer

The business life of a professional organizer is that they help organize homes and offices, as
well as time management and productivity issues.

Many professional organizers are born with an organizing sense, but take that ability and continue education for certification in the field. Some, like myself, focus on also becoming certified in ADD/ADHD management and what affects a person with it
.
The majority of professional organizers are not hyper-organized, with every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed – we are real people. I was reminded of that as I looked around my office
today and realized it was totally cluttered. I had left a major office reorganization project midway through as I moved onto a huge home re-modeling project, and I had not disassembled my tools from a recent class.

So today the professional organizer has to follow her own rules, and organize her own office. Using the CFO system, and working while standing, I am going to reduce my clutter by
working on my visual clutter – what I can see.

I will use the CFO (Clear-Fast-Organized) system in two places:
1. I have a lots of different things piled on my desk, so I will be doing a desk rescue to get things sorted and back where they belong.
2. I will be going around the perimeter of a room, picking things up and asking “Why is this here, and where should it be?”

Though a professional organizer may look as if they never have a hair out of place, they are actual people who can get overwhelmed and let organizing fall to the wayside. That is one of the reasons a professional organizer can be helpful – they can relate to clutter getting out of hand

Overwhelmed at Your Desk? Try Standing Up

You may have seen on NBC’s “Today Show” the standing desk weatherman Al Roker has in his office. Or possibly you read The Washington Post report that 10 percent of AOL employees in Dulles, Virginia use standing desks.

Are you wondering if standing desks are the new “flavor of the month”? Not so!

Doctors point to research showing higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even mortality among people who sit for long stretches of time. That is not why I started advocating standing to work, but it can be strong motivation.

Standing is not a new concept in working efficiently. Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway worked and wrote standing up, and Albert Einstein theorized standing up. Standing certainly worked for them.

I am not suggesting tossing your comfortable chair and office desk. In my office, I have a standard office desk and chair plus an art table that I use as a standing desk. I alternate between the two, depending on what I am doing.

Research has shown you have more blood in your brain when you are on your feet. Therefore, you are more decisive and make better and faster decisions. In addition, your paper stacks are not in your face. Subconsciously, you are bigger than the stack and so you feel more able to conquer it. When a client and I are trying to conquer a Mount Everest stack of papers, we tackle the job while standing unless health issues dictate otherwise.

One day I was working with a client whose paper stack would have reached the ceiling. After standing for a while, he asked, “Can we sit and do this?” I agreed, but when I later mentioned that I find this work goes faster when people are on their feet, he started to chuckle. I asked him what was funny. He said, “You are right. Ever since I sat down, I am reading the front and back of each piece of paper before I throw it away.” Back on his feet he went and soon his important papers were secured into a system that he felt comfortable using.

Need more motivation to try standing for some of your work? A Yale University study revealed that people who sit for more than half a day at work have a 60 to 70 percent greater risk of slipping a disk than their mobile coworkers.

When should you stand?
– When work feels complicated
– When you dislike a job
– When you have lots of papers to sort
– When it’s your body’s down time and you still need to be productive
– When your back is tired from sitting
– When you are returning to your office loaded with handfuls of papers
– If you are on e-mail overload and have a portable computer

A client of mine with attention deficit disorder said the suggestion to stand took away his tension. He was able to focus more clearly and stick with work longer. Schools that provide stand-up desks for their ADD students see a huge improvement in their work.

How can you put standing in your office into practice?

Once you find how effective this is, you may want to look at a permanent standing desk. Anderlyn-Desk.com offers an addition you can use on a desktop or other surface, adjustable to your height. And, if you are really into multitasking, there are companies that sell a standing desk with a treadmill.

Standing can be a simple and smart way to refocus your energy and work smarter.

What is the Next Step?

Often when we think of a project, we think of all the steps, get overwhelmed and then do nothing.

When I ask my coaching clients: “What is the next step?”, that frees them up to move forward.  The next step is usually do-able.  It is when we think of the next 20 steps involved that we get stuck.

That is how I am tacking my yard this spring – one step at a time.

Reduce End of Year Stress

Feel like you are on overload?

Give yourself permission to cross some items off your list, or at least say, “Not this year”.  One of my clients used an expression that I love.  When she was working on one area and became concerned about another, she just said to that area, “It’s not your turn!”

Writer and linguist Lin Yutang says, “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the nobler art of leaving things undone.”