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Category: Productivity
Rid Your Office Space of Distractions & Disgrace!

We face distractions everywhere, but the seemingly endless time-wasters at work can affect not only productivity, but one’s reputation and self-esteem. To put forth your best effort on the job, it’s vital to know the difference between easily fixable distractions and activities or perceptions whose impact on productivity can be misunderstood.

One of the greatest potential obstacles to productivity is your work environment. To address distracting noise, including conversations, music and presentations, consider masking it with professional-grade headphones or by placing a white noise machine in the vicinity of the sounds.

In the pre-Internet era, talking on the phone at work was a necessity. That’s no longer true for everyone. Even though it might seem like a convenient way to complete some office tasks, answering non-urgent calls sets you up to be interrupted and delayed. Set specific time periods during which you don’t take calls unless they are truly urgent. Indicate this on your voicemail greeting, letting callers know when they can reach you or when you will be able to get back to them. When you must take phone calls, stand while talking on the phone. It will shorten the length of the conversation.

Though phone calls eat up time unnecessarily, embracing social media to share ideas with colleagues ultimately can help you become more productive. While it may sound counter-intuitive, one ASU management professor says technology can bolster personal relationships with telecommuting workers, part-time employees and staffers who work in satellite offices. The professor says that social networking sites nurture casual and candid rapport and can be an important ingredient in building links between coworkers.

Myths about effective work habits can actually reduce your efficiency if you buy into them. For example, multi-tasking doesn’t necessarily boost efficiency. Rather, multi-tasking may be a sign that you can’t commit. Cognitive research has revealed that “every shift in direction, every switch in tasks…costs.”

The phrase “time management” doesn’t make sense because time cannot be managed. We can’t manufacture time or manipulate it. Focusing language on “time” rather than on “priorities” results in avoiding responsibilities. It justifies sitting in a time management course rather than completing a task.  We can manage priorities, but not time itself.

It’s also a myth that the most productive people are the busiest. If productivity means acting on priorities, then reflection, assessment, conversation and planning are required for real productivity.

The bottom line is that understanding what constitutes a needless distraction and what can translate into helpful collaboration or “priority management” can lead to a superior work product. Minimizing true distractions and maximizing opportunities to connect with colleagues is the essence of real productivity.

To learn more about eliminating time-wasters, listen to Take Control of Your Time audio.

How to Finally Manage the Mail Pile

Are you tired of looking at the stack of mail that’s piled high on your kitchen counter?  Then when you need to locate a piece of paper, it takes undue time sorting through the pile to find it.  Or worse yet, you can’t find it at all!  If you don’t have a system at home for managing paper, this is the result.

Here are tips to help you whittle down your mail pile to nothing.  By following the FAT system, you can sort through your mail in short order.  Use the FAT system to either File, Act on, or Toss mail.

File – When sorting mail, if you come across anything you need to reference later, file it.  I use hanging file folders in a bin in the kitchen where I sort my mail.  I have file folders labeled To Do, Pending, To File, and To Read.  In addition, I have file folders for coupons that I want to save, my kids’ school (notices, calendars, etc.), and church (directory, upcoming events, etc.).

Act – If I come across anything that will take me three minutes or less, then I’ll take action immediately.  For example, a short notice that needs my signature.  Also, be sure to put meetings, appointments or other important dates on your calendar.  If it’s something that will take longer than three minutes, and I need to address it later, then I put it in my To Do file.  I address things in my To Do file on a weekly basis.

Toss – Immediately toss junk mail or catalogs (that you don’t read) into the wastebasket.  In fact, when I sort my mail, I sort it over the wastebasket!  I get more junk mail than you can imagine.

You can use the same technique for emptying out school backpacks.  My kids brought home papers from school on a daily basis.  Once school calendars came home, I’d put important dates on my calendar, and then file the school calendar in the School file.  If I needed to review school notices, sign and return them to school, I’d put it in my To Do file to complete when I had time.  When the kids brought their school work home, we’d review it together, and then I’d decide which papers or artwork would be displayed on the refrigerator, which were to be saved in the kids’ school file, and then tossed the rest.

By following the FAT system, you can easily manage paper at home, and be rid of the mail pile once and for all!

5 Time Management Myths

Are you not as productive as you’d like to be?  Maybe your beliefs and attitudes towards time are holding you back.  Here are five myths related to time management.  Review these to determine if old, out-dated beliefs are hampering your productivity.

Myth #1: There isn’t enough time.

How many times have you said, “There isn’t enough time.”  The truth is that you and the most accomplished people have the same amount of time.  We all have just 24 hours in the day, and 168 hours in the week – no more and no less.  It’s how you choose to prioritize your time that makes a difference.

Myth #2:  I’ve got to figure out ways to save time.

There is no such thing as saving time; however we can certainly utilize our time better to become more efficient.

Myth #3:  The more I work the more I’ll get done.

Just because you work more hours, doesn’t mean you’ll accomplish more.  Activity isn’t the same as accomplishment.  In fact, if we work ourselves to the point of becoming fatigued, we are actually less productive.  Research shows it take five-times longer to solve a problem when we’re fatigued.

Myth #4:  If you want a job well done, then you have to do it yourself.

Many people think they have to perform a task themselves in order to do it right.  However, that’s not necessarily true.  Top achievers orchestrate the work flow and trust the talents of others.  They’ve learned to delegate effectively, and therefore get more accomplished.

Myth #5:  High achievers work harder than others.

High achievers don’t necessarily work harder than others, they work smarter than others.  They know their priorities and focus on the right things.  They also make more efficient use of their time.

For tips on how to better utilize your time, listen to Take Control of Your Time audio CD.

Delegating at Work

Do you feel overwhelmed with your workload?  Many of us fail to delegate even when overloaded with work, because we have a hard time giving up control.  We feel like we need to do it all ourselves.  Let me tell you, I was once a control freak, holding on to every project to make sure it was done my way.  “It needs to be right”, I told myself, so who better to assure it than me?   It goes back to high expectations.  We have a problem trusting others to do the job up to our standards.  We follow the old adage – If you want a job done well, do it yourself.  This kind of thinking can keep us prisoners of our work.  It puts undue pressure on ourselves, and doesn’t give others an opportunity to develop new skills.

If you have someone at work that you can delegate to, by all means, do so. Trust others even when it’s difficult. Let go of control. This will free you up from the trivial duties to focus on more strategic activities that will increase your effectiveness.

I learned that delegation takes a certain knack, one that we can all learn, if we try.  How do you delegate?  Here are four steps in the delegation process.

Decide – What tasks can you delegate?  Ask yourself, “Can anyone else complete this task?”  If so, then decide to whom you’ll delegate responsibility.

Discuss – Meet with the employee to describe the project or task.  Share your expectations and desired outcome, but not necessarily the “how”.  Be sure to provide the proper tools and resources.  Also discuss and negotiate the time frame or deadline.

Support – For longer-term projects, follow-up and monitor progress; assist if they need guidance.

Recognize – Acknowledge the employee’s effort and results.  Let him or her know how much you appreciate their help.  A simple “thank you” goes a long way.

By delegating effectively, you’ll increase your overall productivity and effectiveness – and reduce your stress.

Conquer the Clutter

You’ve probably heard that a cluttered work space is the sign of a creative mind.  Not so!  It’s the sign of a stressed out worker who has too much to do.  Having an organized office can save you hours of time.   A person who works with a messy or cluttered desk spends, on average, 1-1/2 hours per day looking for things or being distracted by things.  The time you spend searching for an important file can be better spent on any number of tasks.

If you want to make the best use of your time, then the first order of business is to organize and simplify your work space.  As my colleague, Christine, a professional organizer, says, you must be ruthless in clearing the clutter.  When you have a clean and orderly work space, you’ll be glad you were.  These tips will help you get started conquering the clutter.

  • Make as much open space as you can on your desk top.
  • Keep your work tools (stapler, paper clips, etc.) handy where you can easily access them.
  • Purchase accordion or hanging file folders.
  • Set up the most efficient filing system for your needs (with files alphabetized).
  • Touch a piece of paper only one time.  File it or toss it instead of creating another pile of items to deal with later.
  • Clean out your file cabinets.  Toss files that you haven’t used in a year or longer.
  • Purge your phone books, catalogs and reference books if the information can be found elsewhere (such as online).
  • Buy a shredder for purging documents with sensitive information.

Having a clean and orderly work space with a clear-cut filing system will help you become more productive.  A neat work area will not only save you time looking for things, but also provide a sense of peace and calm.