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10 Signs of a Productive Office

10 Signs of a Productive Office

Finding a new job is undeniably stressful. Polishing your resume, applying for jobs, interviewing, interviewing again – you really invest a lot in finding a new place to work. For this reason, I’ve compiled a list of 10 signs you should look for in a productive office. These signs will tip you off as to whether or not you will grow as a professional in your office environment. They might be small, but they are emblematic of the larger culture.

1. Work Space Layout

The actual physical layout of cubicles and other types of work space is a vital indicator of how much the company is willing to invest in its employees. As you walk through the office for your interview, you should be able to catch a glimpse of the physical work space assigned to employees of your level.

Take note, as this is an important sign of a productive office. If people are working at what seems like random set-ups, with desks strewn wherever they fit, then the company is likely not all that productive. If they invest in high quality cubicles or office space, that means the position you are interviewing for was definitively planned-for and will likely be empowering.

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2. Good Lighting

This is a surprising tip to recognize a productive office. As you go in for your interview, try to note the details of the lighting and the layout of the fixtures. If there are any dimly-lit areas, or if the ceiling is a hodgepodge of random lighting fixtures, then the management has not made it a priority to ensure that everyone can see their work. I have experienced this first-hand. Some of the most productive offices I have worked in have been the brightest, while the worst have simply been poorly-lit.

3. The Office is Colorful

Average or entirely unproductive offices will be bathed in taupes and egg-shell whites, as productive office environments, while not necessarily painted with rainbow murals, will be accented in some way by bright blues, yellows, reds, and other colors. Even better, if you are able to notice that areas seem to be color coordinated to work-styles – for example, IT works in areas with reds, creative teams work in yellow – then you are in a highly productive forward-thinking office.

4. The Office Allows for Ergonomic Comfort

Write this one down: if you notice anyone with a standing desk, you are in a highly productive office environment. If employees are allowed their own level of ergonomic comfort as they work, then the upper management has seriously taken into consideration its employees – a company doesn’t invest in the health of its employees in such a way unless it seriously cares about them and their work output.

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5. The Office is Full of Plants and Artwork.

The best office I ever worked was a non-profit organization that lined its walls with high-quality, professional photographs of our volunteers executing the mission of the organization. These photos provide much motivation for executing my work. Further, around each corner was a beautiful orchid, or some other type of plant life. As you walk around, you should feel inspired because of the things you see, and productive offices will spend money to make that so.

6. They Avoid Micromanagement

Once you get hired, you will be able to tell a lot about the office productivity quickly. When executing a task, take into account how closely your manager, or any manager, looks over shoulder, so to speak. Managers in productive offices walk a very fine line between being too hands-off and too domineering.

But if a manager is consistently taking a project out of your hands, reanalyzing it, and taking it in a different direction that you intended, spending much time on every detail, you have a micro-manager. This is the most unproductive of any management style, and productive workplaces don’t tolerate it.

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7. Teamwork yields serious results

In many office situations, when groups get together to work on projects, less is accomplished than if each person worked on the project individually. The hallmark of a productive office is valuable, results-oriented teamwork. If you consistently find that team-based solutions are much more effective than anything each individual could execute on their own, then you have landed in a great office environment.

8. People Telework

Good offices have embraced flexible work situations and gotten on-board with people telecommuting. If you hear of people who are able to flexibly work at home or from a remote location, then you are in a great office environment. I once worked in an office in Washington, DC, and my supervisor telecommuted from Seattle, Washington – it was the most productive work set-up I’ve had, and that was because of the flexibility my supervisor was afforded.

9. Music Is Allowed or Encouraged

Offices should allow people to listen to music in order to concentrate. If listening to music while working is discouraged or frowned upon, then the office most likely does not have your own creativity as its central mission. Of course, workers should wear headphones or take other measures to keep from bothering coworkers, but if you find that your musically-induced concentration is disliked by co-workers, then your office will likely be unproductive in other ways.

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10. You Receive an Agenda Before a Meeting

Some offices have three-hour marathon meetings that produce nothing, and this is likely because they lack an agenda. Once you are higher, keep track how often you get an agenda for a meeting. If you don’t consistently get one, then the meeting has likely been scheduled because of a manager’s need to make it only appear they are leading. If you consistently receive agendas, then you are knee-deep in a productive office environment.

Photo Credit: mjlacroix24 via Compfight cc

Featured photo credit: Rear view of businessman reading document in home office via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

The world has become a very distracting place, you don’t need me to tell you that. Where once we could walk out of our house or office and disappear into our own world with our own thoughts, we are now connected 24 hours a day to a network that’s sole purpose is to make us available to anyone and everyone at any time they choose to disturb us.

Of course, it is very easy to sit here and say all you have to do is turn off your electronic devices and just allow yourself several hours of quiet solitude; but the reality is far harder than that. There is an expectation that we are available for anyone whenever they want us.

However, if you do want to elevate yourself and perform at your best every day, to produce work of a higher quality than anyone expects and to regain control over what you do and when you will need to regain some control over your time, so you can focus on producing work that matters to you…

The good news: You do not have to become a recluse. All you need are a few simple strategies that will allow you enough flexibility in your day to stay focused to do the work that matters and still allow you to deal with other people’s crises and dramas.

Here are 7 ways you can stay focused and be less distracted.

1. Find out When You Are at Your Most Focused

According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

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Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

2. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

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3. Schedule Focus Time Every Day

This technique is a lot easier than you may think.

First, you figure out when you are least likely to be disturbed. For me, that is between 6 and 9 am. for a lot of my clients, they find the first 90 minutes in the morning at their workplace is when they are not likely to be disturbed. This is important because you want to be building consistency.

Most people start their day by checking their email and other messages. While they are doing that, they are not going to be bothering you. Now there is no rule about when you should be checking your email. The chances are email is not going to be where you want to spend your most focused time, so you can decide to check your email at say 10:30 am.

Dedicate 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 11:00 am for email processing and use the first 90 minutes of your day for doing your most important work. You will surprise yourself by how much work you get done in that ninety minutes.

4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

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Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

5. Learn to Say “No”

I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment for Your Focused Time

This has been possibly the most powerful tip I learned when it comes to focusing on what is important. Have a place where you do only focused, high-concentration work.

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Now this place needs to be clean and only have the tools you need to do your work. If it is writing a report or preparing a presentation, then it needs a table and a computer, nothing more. Files, paper and other detritus that accumulates on and around people’s desks need to go. A clean, cool and well-lit environment is going to do a lot more for your focus and concentration than anything else.

The dining table in our home is where I go for undisturbed, focussed work. I take my laptop or iPad, and only have my writing app open. Everything is closed down and the computer is in “do not disturb” mode. There is nothing else on the dining table just my computer and my water tumbler.

Because that is my designated focus area, I only go there to work when I have something that needs total focus and concentration. I am there right now!

7. Be Intentional

The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

The Bottom Line

The strategies and tips I shared in this post will go a long way to helping you become better at focusing on the important things in your life. No matter what they are, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

Protect it and it will be your servant. Give that control away and it will become your master and that is not a good place to be.

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Featured photo credit: Manny Pantoja via unsplash.com

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