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According to psychologists, messy environments reduce our focus, tax our brain and make our overall working lives more difficult. In addition to this, the “Pygmalion Effect” suggests that tidy individuals are more likely to be seen as ambitious, intelligent and kind – all factors which subsequently lead to better performance at work.
Tidying up can sometimes feel like a never-ending process. We swing between moments of having a tidy environment to a chaotic one. Why can’t we seem to tidy and keep it that way?
One of the main reasons for us not being consistently tidy is because of our intrinsic motivation behind it. You need to ask yourself whether you really want a tidy workspace based off your own initiative or because external factors require it. Secondly, you should be in control; don’t rely on others to do it!
Before you get started tidying up, it is a good idea to have an effective plan in place.
When you encounter anything, ask yourself:
Books can provide us with knowledge and inspiration but can also become a barrier to tidying. Although a full bookshelf can seem fulfilling, we might keep books for the wrong reasons – like impressing others…
Gather all your books into one space and ask yourself those 3 earlier key questions: Does it spark joy, is it needed for work and will it lead to future utility?
If you find you cannot answer any of those questions, then it might be time to let it go!
1. The pending ones
These are the ones that require future action. Think outstanding bills and things like proposals that must be reviewed.
2. The ones we MUST keep
Most workplaces will have things that are required by law – these might be long-term contracts or legislation.
3. The ones we WANT TO keep
These might spark joy or be valuable for other purposes. You need to be brutal here, however. If they get in your way and are not worth it then get rid!
Make clear but simple categories which work for you. If you are a designer maybe break everything down by client and then have a master admin folder for general bits. If you do a lot of ad-hoc work maybe a date type filing system might be best? Ask yourself: How do I approach my work and how can I simplify how I obtain things I need?
Regularly maintain a box – whether it be physical or digital – for things which are pending. This is your place to put things when they don’t have a place yet. Think new documents – do not just put everything here though! It is instead a short-term stop-off for documents.
There are usually 3 ways we approach our emails: all of which can lead to problems.
1. Those who stay alert
These are the people who stay alert for inbound emails.
2. The spring cleaners
These are the people who purge their inbox occasionally.
3. The accumulators
These are the people who let emails accumulate and then rely on the search functionality. If your inbox has at least 1000 emails in it then this might be you!
It can be easy to fall into the trap of doing more work than we should. It can be so troublesome that psychologists have coined it “Over-earning”.
We tend to invest lots of energy into things that don’t really matter. We might originally undertake a task to achieve a specific objective, but we can lose sight that we have achieved our goal and instead try to maximize whatever we can get.
Instead of spending time enjoying the rewards, we have earned we instead keep working for the sake of it.
Instead of making time to dive into focusing on one task we instead jump from one seemingly urgent task to the next. We work on auto-pilot and complete assignments based on what has been deemed urgent instead of the important tasks. What usually happens is most tasks become urgent when they are not, and it is no surprise that we feel overwhelmed and suffer the negative consequences because of that.
Multi-taskers tend to be among the least productive people at work. Research suggests that by multi-tasking you could be decreasing your productivity by as much as 40 percent. We can only think of a limited number of things at once: take on too much and you are likely to end up doing a few things poorly rather than one thing especially well.
You do not have to let your schedule get the better of you. Here are some tips on taking control of your schedule:
1. Identify your ‘core tasks’
These are your central, ongoing activities that justify your existence at work.
2. Identify the ‘project tasks
These are the kind of tasks that have a discrete beginning and end.
3. Identify the ‘developmental tasks’
These are the ones that help us learn and grow such as reading, training, and attending conferences.
Most of our decisions are ones made with little effort or focus, however, other decisions can be high-stakes and require intense thought and then there are the medium-stake decisions which fall in between and are the ones we are likely to put off as they aren’t as easy to make.
When tidying your decisions follow this process: Forget about the small ones, organize the medium ones and reserve your energy for the large and important ones.
Instead of doing everything perfectly – forget the idea about being a perfectionist and completing everything perfectly, you might be able to cope for a week but after a while, you’ll get fatigued and start doing a poor job on everything. Instead, perfect the jobs that need to be perfected.
That business presentation to a potential client? Get that right! Where to go for lunch with a friend? Who cares? Choose anywhere!
1. Show up
This means not being only physically present but mentally present too.
2. Come prepared
Read any agendas sent over and bring any information along which might be useful.
3. Put away distractions
Other messages can wait… Give the meeting and its participants your full attention!
4. Speak up
Everyone has something useful to say, do not be afraid to give your thoughts on the issue.
5. Do no harm
It should be a place to spread positivity and ideas, not negativity and gossip.
1. What do you want to accomplish?
Is the meeting even required in the first place?
2. Do you need to invite everyone?
Fewer people but more engagement is better than lots of people with little engagement.
3. Let others know the purpose of the meeting.
Send out an agenda to help others decide if it’s useful for them.
4. Encourage participation.
Meetings are a place to spread and discuss ideas, make sure everyone is heard.
5. Set realistic timelines and keep it short, like 20 minutes.
6. The Endgame
End the meeting summarizing everything that has been discussed, and what is learned.
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