Though it hardly seems like it, in some parts of the nation, spring has arrived. If the weather is sloppy and indecisive, that’s all the more reason for office workers to control what they can, starting with a good spring cleaning not only of their workspace but also their inner workings.
Eighty-three percent of HR managers surveyed by the staffing firm OfficeTeam said the appearance of an employee's workspace at least somewhat affects their perception of that person's professionalism, so simply tidying up can be an image enhancer. OfficeTeam, based on input from the International Association of Administrative Professionals, recommends sitting in the visitor chair to see what others see when entering the office or workspace. Clean and arrange the workspace so it’s visually appealing to all occupants including guests.
Make it easier to find things by paring down supplies. “It’s easy to acquire an absurd number of pens. They’re given away everywhere and seem totally practical, so they’re never thrown away,” says Apartment Therapy website founder Maxwell Ryan, who knows a thing or two about thriving in small spaces. “Grab every single writing utensil in your desk and select 10 that you actually like and use regularly.” Get rid of the rest.
Arrange drawers hierarchically. “The closer the drawer is to you, the greater the importance. Additionally, the closer the drawer is to your dominant hand, the greater the importance,” Ryan says.
Prioritize the top-most drawers for supplies used on a daily basis. “Be very selective about the items you put here. Clutter can easily accumulate, and when everything is important, nothing is,” Ryan says.
Setting aside what HR managers think based on appearances, employees who tend to accumulate clutter and piles can sharpen their focus and improve their performance by clearing just their desktops, says New York-based professional organizer Andrew Mellen. Paperwork not related to the task at hand can be distracting and anxiety-inducing. “Keep whatever’s relevant in front of you,” he says, and stash the rest in a box or on any other surface, be it a chair or credenza. Even the floor is preferable because keeping other projects out of sight makes it easier to focus exclusively on the most important priority.
See multitasking for what it really is — a stop-and-start way of working that precludes the sustained focus necessary for projects that require higher cognitive processes. Employees who aren’t in customer service or some other role that requires immediate responsiveness should schedule uninterrupted work sessions when they silence the phone, send calls to voicemail and log out of email, Mellen recommends. Setting a timer at the start of a work session helps “hold your focus,” he adds, “so you won’t get lost in some sort of reverie.”
Spring is a good time to get rid of mental clutter that weighs workers down and fogs their ability to see possibilities and opportunities, says Lauren Rosenfeld, author of “Breathing Room: Open Your Heart by Decluttering Your Home.” (Atria Books/Beyond Words, April 2014)
Counterproductive thoughts about past performance prevent workers from reaching their potential. Two common culprits are guilt and regret. “Guilty thoughts are always telling us that we’re not as good as we could have been. When we focus on guilt about past performance, we drain our ability to perform efficiently and effectively in the moment,” Rosenfeld says.
Regretful thoughts “tend to insist that we constantly relive the missed opportunity or the poor judgment call,” she adds. “Reliving these stories over and over again will pull you further and further into a past that cannot be changed. All real and powerful change happens when we let go of regret and focus on the opportunities that are available right now.”
Freeing the mind of guilt and regret can take time, but every action that instills a sense of pride and accomplishment is a step in the right direction. So get rid of all those surplus pens. Hey, it’s a start.
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