Whether you’re an entrepreneur trying to build a one-person startup, the president of a large division of a sprawling corporate structure, or in just about any role in between, being more productive at work is likely important to you (and almost certainly to your boss).
There’s no shortage of productivity-focused websites, blogs, books, videos and workshops to help you supercharge your productivity — in fact, the abundance of resources can be overwhelming. With so many guides, tips and strategies, how do you decide where to start?
That place might be literally right under your nose. Many experts point to your physical workspace as an essential element in boosting productivity. It isn’t just the place you sit or stand for hours each week. Think of it as your command center: as essential to doing your job as a cockpit is to a pilot. Here are 5 ways to make your workspace more efficient, less stressful and more productive.
1. Choose ergonomic furniture.
You can spend a bundle on proper chairs and desks, but they’ll repay themselves many times over. You lose significant time when you’re distracted by discomfort and pain caused by chairs and desks that just don’t fit you or the work you’re doing. If you have to choose between equipping your workspace with ergonomically optimized furniture or, say, a more expensive monitor or printer, choose the furniture. The fastest, slickest computer in the world can’t do anything while you’re on the chiropractor’s table.
2. Eliminate clutter and purge
A cluttered office or workspace just isn’t conducive to being productive. “Clutter and chaos in any environment is overwhelming,” said Julie Bertram, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based professional organizer who’s helped executives in companies such as Bank of America, ESPN, Target and the Charlotte Bobcats get their offices in order.
“It makes it hard to find things, know what to do or to begin a task. You spend your time looking for things or you get distracted by the clutter, so you aren’t as productive as you could be if there was order.”
Keep personal items to a minimum (more on that later) and use folders to organize the loose papers in your office. Toss or recycle anything not important enough to put in a folder. Bertram recommends creating piles of what you have titled by project, to do, goes to someone else, and trash. Everything in those piles can be put into files or disposed of immediately.
3. Organize your desk.
One simple rule here: Keep important things close, file or put away the rest. You don’t want a lot of supplies and files on your desk, but you also don’t want what you use daily somewhere you have to get up from your desk to retrieve. One way to decide which is which is by putting all your current desktop items on one side. When you use something from the pile, move it to the other side of your desk. At the end of the day, get everything still in the original pile off your desk. Keep only the files containing current work in a rack so you can see each one, and store the rest in a filing drawer or cabinet.
Find a good place (such as a drawer) for your personal devices and gadgets so they’re close but not visible and distracting. Keep your business phone on your dominant hand side so you don’t have to reach across your body. And maintain a healthy amount of empty real estate, again on your dominant side of your desktop, to provide a space to review, file or sign papers.
4. Consider color choice.
When it comes to your workspace, color choice can either improve or impair your mood and mindset. Oranges and yellows are known to help stimulate creativity, for example, making them a good choice for people in creative industry jobs. Granted, you might not be able to select the wall color in your office. But including even a small amount of the right color into the personal items on your desk or in your cube can help set the right mood for productivity. Speaking of which …
5. Minimize personal items.
Photos of family, friends or your favorite vacation spot are important for work-life balance and help keep things in perspective at work. But realize every item on your desk or within sight of where you’re working is a distraction. Every item impacts your brain to some degree and ultimately how focused you can be. The consensus among workspace organization experts is to have no more than 3 personal items out at a time.
Ready to make an office supply run? Be sure to take stock of what you have and complete the purging process first. Beyond proper furniture and a few items Bertram says are near-universal musts — file folders, a label maker for files, and drawer dividers/organizers — you might find you don’t need to spend much money to optimize your workspace.