There’s no denying the fact that a happy worker is a more productive worker. Walk through your local bookstore and you’ll find a bajillion books written on this very topic. Happiness in the workspace generally begins with a job you enjoy, a good team of co-workers, an inspiring (non-jerky) boss and a comfortable place to work.
I realize many of you reading along may not be in a job you enjoy. Who enjoys working anyway? Well, unless it’s something you’re passionate about, of course. But truthfully, those people you know and admire (envy even?) that are doing their “dream job”…keep in mind they also struggle with tasks within that career that aren’t so enjoyable.
Today I have good news and bad news.
Bad news? I can’t help you interview for / get that dream job….I can’t hand-pick the team of people you’ll work with…And I can’t help you with the jerky boss situation. But…
Good news? I can help you with suggestions on how to be more productive in your workspace. How to be more organized. How to bring a little calm to a situation or job that makes you feel unproductive and uninterested. This list includes tips for those working at home and in an office setting. It’s my list of 20 ways to be more productive and happier in your workspace!
1. Create a peaceful work environment:
I know, this can be easier said than done in some office spaces. But anyone can do small things to bring in some peace (more ideas follow this bullet point). Everyone has something that brings them peace – whether it’s photos of your children or a close friend/loved one, a photo of a favorite vacation spot, a focal point that immediately brings you inner peace or happiness. For me, it’s as simple as a candle, a cup of coffee and a clean desktop. Working from home is hard because there is a lot to distract me, but I find if I make my workspace cozier, I tend to feel more at peace which means my mind isn’t wandering to other things.
2. Adequate lighting:
Lighting is huge when it comes to working productively. If you have too much light and are working with the glare of a computer screen, it can be harsh and sometimes cause people to either lose focus from too much light energy…or feel overwhelmed and sleepy. Maybe you can turn off the overhead lights and sit near a window. If there aren’t windows, try a table lamp on your desk that has a light bulb that puts off a light that’s better for you and your work style.
3. Fresh air:
Again, if you don’t have a window you can open, maybe a small battery operated fan that circulates air. Or take small breaks to get outside for some fresh air. Breathing techniques are proven to be helpful.
4. Plants or flowers:
I pretty much kill every plant I bring inside the house. Outside? – ok. Inside? – not so ok. So, for me I opt for fresh flowers on occasion. This week I found peonies on sale at my local market so I grabbed a bunch to brighten my desktop…
I’ve heard succulents do well without much water or attention so that’s an option for those without the green thumb gene like me. Plants and flowers bring a life and joy to your workspace.
5. Have comfortable decor and chair:
Feeling comfortable in your chair, having your keyboard at the right height, and having items around you that feel like “you” – help you be more productive. You’re just more comfortable and happy when you’re….comfortable.
6. Have a specific work area:
If you work from home, have an area designated as your workspace. If you don’t have an office, maybe carve out a corner in your kitchen or dining room. A spot in the living room. Some place that isn’t “too comfortable” or a spot that makes you think about the billions of chores that need to get done.
7. Dress comfortably / Get ready:
Comfort comes from what you’re wearing too. And if you work from home, get ready! Working in your pjs or sweats can be counter-productive. Everyday I get ready because I’m out in public with the kids or on a job. But even when I know I’m working from home all day, I find when I get dressed a lot more gets done.
8. Set hours and follow them:
If you work from home, set hours for yourself and stick to them. If you work in an office setting, you can set hours or times during the day when specific things happen…or when you don’t do specific things. Own your schedule and your time! Don’t let it control you.
9. Finish yesterday’s work first:
Before starting a new day’s list of tasks, finish what you didn’t accomplish yesterday. Enough said here.
10. Have a master to-do list:
This one is huge to me. Having a master to-do list keeps you aware of the big picture but also helps get it out of your head and onto paper (or digitally). I have several master to-do lists for my job, the house, and otherwise. It gives me comfort knowing I’m not relying on my brain to contain and remember it all. Peace comes from within first, my friends.
11. Have a daily to-do list:
From the master to-do list, pull items for your daily to-do list. If you’re thinking about starting this idea, start small. Start by pulling 5 tasks you know you can get done, write them down, then cross them off the list … and feel accomplished. No need to overwhelm yourself with a daily to-do list that’s 20 items deep. That causes stress and more than likely at the end of the day you’ll feel sad and defeated that you didn’t get those 20 things done. Be realistic!
12. Tackle the hard tasks first:
Many of us are at our best in the morning so take that “fresh” time of day to tackle those hard items on your to-do list first thing. Or tackle the things that you generally dislike doing – whether it’s filing or e-mails – just get it done and over with and don’t look back for the rest of the day. You can do more of those hard things the next morning.
13. Set specific task days:
Filing tends to be the task most of us despise. Try working out a schedule to get those things done. For example, set Friday’s as filing day. Or Wednesday’s as e-mail inbox clean up day. Put it in your calendar and stick to it. If you stay on top of tasks they won’t creep up on you and become too overwhelming.
14. Don’t forget to take a break – a real break:
Yes yes yes! Take a real break. Not a break where you listen to a friend gossip and you end up taking on that unneeded stress and emotion. Not a break where you sit and scroll through your phone, Facebook or instagram. Turn it all off, go for a walk, sit quietly with the sun on your face, sit in a park and people watch (in a non-creepy way). Disconnect and give your mind a real rest for 15-20 minutes.
15. Don’t multi-task too much:
Yep, multi-tasking doesn’t work very well. Sure, you get things done…but are they done completely, with intent and to your best ability? Likely not because no one can do more than one thing well while doing something else at the same time. Try to focus on one task only. It’s hard I know because the world we live in loves to multi-task. But give it some mental focus and try!
16. Handle things once:
Don’t let things hang around. If you read an e-mail, respond immediately and delete it. If you open a piece of mail, open it completely and recycle the envelope, put the contents wherever is necessary. If you have a piece of paper come across your desk that needs filing, file it. Don’t push it aside for later. Which brings me to…
17. Have a paper system that works for you:
Paper is one of the biggest annoyances in a workspace. Paper clutter causes a lot of stress. If your current paper situation isn’t working, fix it now. Notice what you’re doing or not doing with the paper. Do you need updated files? More folders to contain categories? A shredder under your desk? A scanner? Figure it out and get on top of it. Even if it involved hiring a professional organizer to help you, it’s worth the money! Yes, it will be a big task to tackle, but once it’s set up and working for you, you’re golden!
18: Have some face-to-face time – network:
If you work alone in a job, try to connect with your professional community. I’m amazed how much the blogging world has evolved with various conferences and events we can attend. I haven’t attended any yet, but plan to very soon. In my professional organizing career, I’ve been able to join NAPO, which is a great networking and education organization for peeps like me. Most every industry has a way to network and connect. There’s really no bad reason to network. And remember, if you’re in a sucky job…networking is often times the best way to find a new one!
19. Don’t be chained to e-mail:
Much like Facebook or social media, e-mail can be a real time suck. With our smart phones it’s easier than ever to tap on your e-mail app and get an instant update. Try to set times for yourself each day when you check e-mail. Maybe it’s once every 3 hours, for example. Then you can focus on the e-mails, reply immediately, and move on with your day. If you stop doing a task just to check e-mail, chances are you’re distracted and are only going to lose focus even more.
20. Set a peaceful tone with music:
Many of us respond positively to music. While for some it can be a distraction. But if music works for you, especially while filing or doing something uninteresting, turn it on and be productive.
There are 20 more I could share with you, but these are some of the tips I have found work best not only for those I know, but for myself. Feel free to comment with what motivated you to work happier and more productively!