People tend to focus too much on what app they can use to boost their productivity when often it’s their physical environment that’s holding them back.
Studies have shown that the average worker loses about an hour a day to disorganization. Consider for a moment what that means in productivity terms.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that you work 5 days per week and get paid $30 an hour (even if you’re a freelancer being paid by the contract you should still calculate what you’re making per hour worked to maximize your productivity).
Losing that hour a day to disorganization, costs you 5 working hours every week, (that’s more than half a day’s work) 10 hours a fortnight (getting that back could earn you a long weekend twice per month), and 260 hours per year.
If you work from home for someone else, that’s time you could be spending with your family, working out, tending to your garden, going out with friends, or reading your favorite book.
If you work from home as a freelancer, that lost hour per day is costing you $150 per week, $300 per fortnight or $7,800 per year. If you’re a business owner with 10 employees, they’re costing you $78,000 a year in lost productivity.
If those figures don’t make you want to get better organized, I don’t know what will. Try these tips for optimizing your workspace for maximum productivity.
Change your frame of mind
Think of your workspace as a command center. There are a reason institutions like the military, police, or fire departments enforce strict organizational practices. It’s because when the shit hits the fan, they need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Imagine being called to put out a fire, only to find that you still haven’t rolled up your hose and don’t know where your helmet is. If you’re an aspiring high performer, you also need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Over time, our offices and desks get so full of useless, non-essential garbage it’s not funny. Cull it all and get rid of everything you don’t need. Be ruthless. Old documents — file them or chuck them. Too many pens — keep a few on your desk and put the rest in your drawer or a cupboard.
Also, take some time to organise your cords and cables. Use velcro cable-ties to bunch cords together and pick a spot on your desk (preferably on your dominant hand side – more on that later) to keep devices on charge and on-hand.
When I was a younger man, I would use the single bucket technique for organizing my affairs. You know the one. Ok, I’ll explain. Take income tax for example.
Receipts and pay-slips came in, I put them all in a single, unmarked shoe-box along with any and everything else (including non-tax related stuff) I thought might be important enough to hold on to, and when 30 June came around, I would spend hours sorting receipts, throwing half of them away because they were useless and usually finding a bunch of important documents missing. What and waste of time.
A few years ago I came to my senses and started trying different processes and systems that actually helped me organize my affairs in a way that saved time, saved effort, and which led to better outcomes.
If you haven’t’ read it already, David Allen’s Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity is a great starting point for creating systems that will help you do a better job of managing your affairs (turns out I was on the right track though. He too uses a bucket system, just with more buckets. My friend Paul Minors has written a great book summary, download it free here).
Set up your space
A workspace that’s set up in the right way helps to reduce your risk of injury, save you time and energy and make you more productive. Try these tips for setting up your workspace:
- Get your monitor and keyboard into comfortable positions. Offices often have workspace assessors who make recommendations about how to set up your desk to reduce the risk of injury. While that’s reason enough, knowing how to set up a safe workspace will also enhance your productivity. Do some research on workspace setup and consider getting someone in to set you up properly. Your back, eyes and whichever wrist you use to control your mouse will thank you later
- To reduce clutter, only keep on your desk the office supplies that you use on a daily basis. Keep supplies you use weekly in your desk drawer and all others in a cupboard.
- Keep regularly used stationery and your devices on your dominant-hand side of your desk to reduce reaching across your body. Sounds small but it will save you time and energy.
- Keep your desk clear but be sure to include anything you need to facilitate the operation of your systems ie. in-trays and file holders (don’t go too minimalist). Avoid keeping too many personal trinkets on your desk – they’re just a distraction and you’re already at home so there’s no need to be reminded about how cute your cat is.
Use a clear-desk policy
It’s common for employees in government departments and some big companies to have to ensure that all desks are clear and clean before they go home. You should do the same in your home office. With a clear desk, you’ll be able to focus on work when it’s work time and forget about work when it’s not.
It will be a pain in your proverbial at first, but once you’ve been practicing a clear-desk policy for a couple of weeks it should only take you 5 minutes in the morning and evening to pull out and put away what ever it is you’re working on at the time. If it helps you to save an hour a day, it’s a winning investment of your time.
Even after changing your mindset, de-cluttering, putting systems in place, and setting up your desk properly, you’re still going to get a build-up of unnecessary papers and things laying around. Schedule a workspace clean-up in your calendar once a month or so to keep your desk in tip-top shape.
This post is an excerpt from my article – “How to be more motivated, creative and productive than ever before: a short guide to working from home” – click here to read the whole article.
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