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90% of People Are Poor Listeners. Are You the Remaining 10%?

90% of People Are Poor Listeners. Are You the Remaining 10%?

So, if we show you two photos, one of Miley Cyrus and the other of Justin Bieber, two celebrities who are remarkably and androgynously alike, you would be able to tell who is who and make a correct identification, right? Now if only life was so easy that it let you spot the good egg, from the bad one – be it as a partner, a friend or even the choice of a job or a house.

Basically, life offers us many challenges and while it’s relatively easy to pass judgment on others, we very often err while self-introspecting. Most of us don’t consider listening as big an art as talking and because of this, a lot of us would call ourselves good listeners. But is that really true? Are we good listeners at all?

Identifying Good Listening vs. Bad Listening

So, do you think that you are a good listener? Well then, let’s check these identifying mannerisms of good listening vs. bad listening and check where we all can stand to improve…

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Hidden Meaning vs. Literal Meaning

A lot of communication lies in the tone and emotional cues, as well as the body language of the talker – and not just the words. To be an effective listener, you need to take in the literal meaning of course, but also read in between the lines. Listen for the tone, for the emotion in the voice, and look for the non-verbal cues as well. Empathize with the talker, find common points and ask questions if you need answers.[1]

Understanding vs. Gaining Information

We may often listen to get answers to a question. But effective listening goes hand in hand with understanding, and not just with the intent of gaining information. Many times, when we ask pointed questions, we skim-listen to the reply but don’t really understand the situation and stop listening after we think we have got the answer. You may look as if you are attentive and getting in every word but frankly your mind is wandering and you’re not really in the situation at all…[2]

Asking for Clarifications vs. Making Assumptions

Good listening means that you ask questions when you have a doubt, and not make any assumptions about the issues. Don’t let your thoughts or doubts come into the picture, and don’t let any of that color the current conversation. Clarify, once, twice or thrice even if you have to, to make sure all your doubts are cleared by the correct person and not just by your presumptions.[3]

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Listening to Digest vs. Listening to Respond

So many times it happens that we listen to something, only to be able to respond to it. Rather, while the other person is still talking – we stop listening and begin to formulate our reply – and often miss so much of what we were supposed to listen to, process and understand. Stephen R Covey right said, “Most people listen with the intent to respond, not with the intent to understand.” If your mind is moving ahead to the response and not listening, well, you lose out.[4]

Letting the Speaker Finish vs. Interrupting the Speaker

We may not always agree with what is being said, and may even have valid counterpoints – but all of us need to have the manners and the patience to let the talker finish first. Interrupting the talker, speaking out of turn and just generally being ill-mannered will make you miss out on listening and understanding the point being made as well as disturb the rest of the audience’s listening. Let the speaker finish, and then politely intercede to make your point.[5]

Boldly Agree To Disagree vs. Bow Down To Authority

Conversely, not speaking up when you strongly feel different will also go against effective listening. Listening to it not just hearing – it’s about hearing, then understanding and processing the thing you have heard, and finally forming an opinion about it. If you have patiently listened to and understood all that was being said and have a very strong point or interjection to make – you must speak up. Bowing down to authority at this point will make you harbor a lingering resentment towards yourself, yet again making you miss the rest of the talk or conversation since your emotions come into play. Once the speaker has finished, stand up and make your point boldly – you many agree to disagree at the end but at least you have said your piece.[6]

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Consistently Listen to One Topic Vs. Getting Bored Too Easily

As much as it is good for a speaker to be able to talk about one topic consistently and interestingly, it is even better for a listener to be able to listen about the same topic with full concentration. Only if you listen to what is being said with full concentration will you be able to glean the gist of it all.[7]

Listening With an Open Mind vs. Listening With Too Firm a Belief

To listen and listen well, you have to have an open mind to what is being said, even if it is going against your core beliefs. Like we mentioned above, you can choose to hear out the speaker patiently and then speak up or counter-argue the point you cannot digest – but at least listen with an open mind. You might end up learning something new after all.[8]

Listening With Fair Balance & Empathy vs. Listening Judgmentally

We very often tend to view the world with colored glasses – often shaded in hues of our beliefs, prejudices, and resentments. When we are listening to someone, we should listen not only with an open mind but also an open heart and keep our judgments and belief system aside. Do not start taking what is being said as an affront or insult – the person who is talking has a right to his own beliefs. Listen fairly, let the person finish and then if you want, you can choose to make your own point – without trash talking the speaker in turn.[9]

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Show Interest in the Speaker vs. Appear Bored & Tired of the Speaker

The person addressing the audience – be they experienced talkers or newbies – has a certain set of trepidation and wants to make sure that the audience is interested in what they have to say. If you appear bored, listless and distracted while they are talking – you are not only reducing their morale but also curbing their speaking enthusiasm and affecting your own listening skills as well. Be active, be alert and be interested in what they are saying to get the best out of them and your listening skills as well.[10]

Paying Attention to Key Meaning vs. Missing the Meaning of It All

Many people hear everything sometimes, but miss the meaning of it all but not paying attention to the key points, being too busy analyzing every little thing, formulating their own replies, getting blinded by the speaker’s charm, making notes etc… There will be times the speaker will verbally or physical emphasize a few things – pay attention to the meaning behind it all instead of focusing on the decoration…[11]

Making Sure the Understanding is Correct vs. Letting Confusion Mar the Listening

Finally, as we have been stressing – the difference between hearing and listening lies in the understanding of things. Make sure you have grasped everything that is being said, raise your hand and ask pointed questions if need be and only then move on to the next point. Hearing everything and understanding only a little means your listening wasn’t up to the mark at all.[12]

So pay attention to what is being said and concentrate on the meaning of the words instead of just hearing them – switch off those phones and keep micro-conversations at bay. Hear and understand for effective listening…

Reference

[1] TCB Devito: Communication Strategies
[2] Huffington Post: Are You Listening Or Just Reloading
[3] Facebook: Positivity Vibrations
[4] Business2Community: How to Truly Listen to Someone, Instead of Listening to Respond
[5] Info Please: Speaking & Listening Skills
[6] Forbes: 10 Ways To Brave Up & Speak Up
[7] Stack Exchange: How To Avoid Mind Drifting While Listening
[8] Boundless: Be An Open Minded Listener
[9] Lolly Daskal: The Heart of Listening
[10] Magnolia Etiquette: Show Respect to the Speaker
[11] Boundless: Components of a Speech
[12] Key Differences: Differences Between Hearing & Listening

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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

Where you work has an enormous impact on how you work – on your ability to focus (and stay focused) and your overall ability to be productive. That means the design of your office, whether you work at home or in a larger company environment, is of supreme importance. This isn’t just about Feng Shui, this is about producing results and getting things done.

According to studies done on workplace and productivity, the most significant factor in determining an employee’s ability to focus is their physical environment. In fact, it’s been said that a well-designed office can increase your productivity about 20%. However, despite the studies and statistics, nearly half of the employers interviewed don’t consider workplace design a good business investment.

So what is a productivity hack to do? What if you work in an environment that doesn’t promote focus?

Check these 15 factors and make changes where you can. A little adjustment can produce a lot of impact.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important factors in staying focused and feeling inspired to create, yet it’s one of the most overlooked and least invested in. Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and overall irritability. Dark spaces can actually produce depression.

If you work in a company office:
You probably have no control over your general lighting so bring in your own, if need be. Consider using natural light bulbs or a light therapy device.

If you work from a home office:
Open the windows and doors and let natural light in. Using lamps in a variety of areas for cloudy days or when it’s dark.

Chair and Table

If you’ve ever sat at a desk to do work but found yourself adjusting, stretching and moving too often to actually stay focused, then you’re aware of the importance of having a correctly fitted table and chair. In today’s work environment where so many of us are sitting for most of our day, it is critical that your throne fits your body probably.

Consider these quick ergonomic checks:

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  • Eyes 24-36 inches from the computer screen. The top of the monitor should be below or at eye-level.
  • Feet should be on a foot rest or resting on the floor.
  • A slightly reclined chair posture is best to reduce pressure on your spine and minimize lower back pain.

If you work in a company office:
Ask for an adjustable chair. Add pillows for your lower back or bum, if you need it. Many companies will also provide risers for computers to adjust the height of your computer screen (and a separate keyboard to keep your hands and wrists in the ideal position)

If you work from a home office:
Invest in a decent chair or at least use a few pillows to make the chair more comfortable. If the table is too high, add pillows to your chair. If it is too low, consider buying leg risers from your local hardware store and using books beneath your computer to raise the screen. Use a separate keyboard.

Clutter

Your mama was right, it’s important to clean up your room. Clutter may help the creative mind create, but it isn’t necessarily helpful for focus and productivity.

If you work from a company office: While you can’t control the cleanliness of the office at large, do keep your own environment around you clean. Spend 10 minutes every morning or evening making sure things are put away, filed, organized and generally out of sight so you’re not distracted by it later.

If you work from a home office: Because you work from home, the entire house or apartment is potential for distraction. If you can afford it, hire a professional cleaning service to keep your home clean. If not, schedule a specific day and time to clean your home. Commit to doing daily pickup at a specific time. And spend at least 10 minutes every day making sure your office  is organized and tidy.

Room Color

The colors around us all have an effect on our moods and brain function. It evokes both a physical and emotional response. So choosing the right colors for your work space has the ability to affect your productivity. For instance, blue has been said to illicit productivity. Mind you, too much of anything can be overwhelming, even color.

If you work from a company office: Bring in items from home that are a certain color that inspire you and keep you focused. Use postcards, magazine cutouts, even just blocks of color will do.

If you work from a home office: If you work from home, you have much more control over the colors around you. Consider repainting a wall, adding color to the table you work at, or hanging pictures that are dominated by a specific color.

Room Temperature

Most offices keep their temperatures around 65-68 Fahrenheit but it turns out that this might not be good for productivity. Warmer rooms actually make people more productive.

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If you work from a company office: Most offices are regulated by somebody else, so bring a space heater, sweaters and blankets to your work space.

If you work from a home office: Depending on the season, open the windows or adjust the heat or a/c so that you’re more comfortable and warm. Pile on the sweaters in the winter or add a space heater to your feet.

Room Scents

Like the color of the space you work in, our sense of smell can powerfully affect our mood, mindset and thus our productivity. Consider adding scents to your work space to jar your mind into focus when you start to notice yourself drifting off.

Try using these scents to stay focused:

  • Pine – Increases alertness
  • Cinnamon – Improves focus
  • Lavender – Helps to relax you during a stressful work day
  • Peppermint – Lifts your mood
  • Citrus (any) – Wakes you up  and lifts your spirits

If you work from a company office: Most people will not appreciate added scents to their work environment so you’ll need to keep it subtle. Keep essential oils in your bag or drawer and when you’re in need of a boost put a few drops on a handkerchief or cotton ball.

If you work from a home office: Use candles, incense or essential oils. You can also simmer herbs and spices in the kitchen to fill your home with a warm scent.

Noise Level

The noise level in a work environment can vary greatly depending on the size of the team you work with, the office design and company culture. But make no mistake, the noise around you affects your ability to stay on task. Not only can it be distracting, it can also raise stress levels making your ability to sustain productivity far more difficult.

If you work from a company office: Bring in noise cancellation headphones and use music services like Spotify or Songza and choose concentration boosting sounds, like white noise.  Find out if your office offers quiet work spaces for times when you need the utmost focus.

If you work from a home office: Sometimes the complete quiet can be as distracting as an office. Use a service like Coffivity to mimic the noise of a coffee shop, which has been said to help with concentration.

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Air Quality

Air quality can drastically affect our ability to focus and think clearly. Get this: OSHA estimates that the total annual cost of poor air quality in office environments costs employers $15 billion “due to worker inefficiency and sick leave.” Yeah, it’s serious business.

If you work from a company office: Talk to them about installing air filters. If there is a way to bring in fresh air through windows or doors, arrange to have them opened for at least a portion of the day. If nothing else, get a personal air filter to have on your desk or nearby.

Also, get a plant (or better yet, have the company buy and use more plants in the office!). Plants are great at filtering the air and providing clean, purified oxygen.

If you work from a home office: Open windows and doors and let in the fresh air. Install an air filter or get a portable air filter to keep near your desk. And, yes, you too should get a plant.

Different Spaces

If you can manage it, give yourself more than one space to work from. Putting yourself in a new space with different qualities and things to look at quite literally shifts your brain and helps you stay focused.

If you work from a company office: Many offices offer a variety of environments to work from: your personal space, lobbies, break out rooms, conference rooms, kitchens and eating areas and, if you’re lucky, they also provide lounge areas. Use all these spaces to vary your routine. Make sure your supervisor knows so they don’t think you’re slacking off and know tat you’re actually getting more done!

If you work from a home office: If you work at a desk, add a comfortable couch or chair to the room. If your space is less flexible or ultra tiny, think about more creative ways to change your work space. Rotate the pictures on your walls every couple of days. Sit on the other side of your desk. Get a lamp and multiple colored bulbs. Or go work at a café, the library or in a park.

Organization of People

Most employers organize employees around job function or in specific divisions. Instead, studies show that people are more creative and productive when they are sitting with colleagues that share the same goal or client. Not only are you able to get answers and generate solutions quicker, but because you’re directly accountable to the people around you, you’re more likely to stay on task and productive.

If you work from a company office: Ask your employer if you can experiment by clustering your group together in a conference room for a day or a week. Get feedback from everybody involved. Show the results. If your company won’t make permanent adjustments, perhaps they’ll allow you to work together a couple times a week when the conference room or lounge area is free.

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If you work from a home office: This is a little bit more difficult because when you work at home you’re not with colleagues. You can recreate a similar space digitally, however. Create a Skype group and have everyone logged in during working hours. You can do morning accountability and check-ins while remaining available for questions, solution-finding and general banter that promotes creativity.

Idea Storage

Ever been working hard when you’re suddenly distracted by a great idea? At first you try to push it away, but then the next thing you know you’re 20 pages deep into an online search on the topic. Ideas should be encouraged and cultivated, but when they come right in the middle of another task it can be incredibly distracting. Instead, create a place to store your ideas that’s easily accessed from your work space.

For both a company and home office: Keep pads of paper around, have a chalk wall, get a white board – when you have a spark of inspiration write it down right away to get it out of your head then return to the task at hand. Then, at the end of the day or when you have free time, collect all the ideas and review them. With a little time and space you can better decide if it’s worth pursuing or better to leave it on the back-burner.

Refreshment

Our brain needs nourishment to keep going, especially when we’re driving hard and staying focused. You can let a rumbling stomach go on for only so long before the brain shuts down. Assuming your different is like wanting your car to keep driving without having to stop and fill it with gas. A novel idea, but not realistic.

If you work from a company office: Pre-make snacks for the day and/or week. Or, bring in prepackaged snacks. Keep in mind that junk food has properties of diminishing returns so if you’re buying your food prepackaged think nuts, fruit, unsweetened yogurts, and hummus and crackers. Likely, your company provides coffee, tea and water so you don’t have to worry about supplying that for yourself.

If you work from a home office: If you work from home, this can be a key distraction. Try to reduce the number of times you walk into the kitchen each day. To do this, keep quick and   easy snacks pre-made or prepackaged ready and near your desk. Keep a water bottle nearby. And consider bringing a kettle into your office and stocking tea and coffee so you’re   not tempted to wander around the house and lose time poking through the pantry.

Bring in Nature

We are biological creatures, first and foremost. So we are deeply affected by our access to (or lack of) the natural world. It’s important for our psychological and physiological functioning, which directly affects our ability to be productive.

If you work from a company office: If you don’t have windows in or near your work space, bring in pictures of the outdoor world. Keep a picture of something natural as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks outdoors at lunch or in between major tasks. Just a few minutes outside in the fresh air and sunshine can boost our mood and shake out the doldrums. Be sure to add a plant to your desk, too!

If you work from a home office: Keep the shades open and, if you can, let in fresh air. If you can’t see anything natural out of your window, keep pictures of the natural world as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks. Or, just step outside and put your feet on the ground. Put plants in your office – research shows that having live plants in your office makes you more productive, happier and less stressed.

Digital Space

For most people, our primary work is housed within our laptops and our physical environment simply the backdrop to our digital lives. Make sure your computer has software that helps you sculpt the digital environment that best elicits productivity. Use focus apps like this one or this to decrease distractions. Or design your day using intervals with an app like this one to keep you at your peak focus throughout the day.

Featured photo credit: Phil Desforges via unsplash.com

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