Saying “No” at work

Whenever you answer your phone, reply immediately to an email or answer a knock on your office door with a “sure, I can help you now”, you’re effectively saying to the person at the other end “Here is my time – you do with it as you wish”.

As soon as you say “Yes” to a request, you’re changing from proactive work to reactive work. It’s not on your terms. Only you know your priorities, and only you should be making decisions about your time.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to respond immediately, of course. But if you’re honest with yourself, a lot of the time you don’t have to.

How to say “No” so you’re working on your own priorities first:

  • Have times during your work day that are proactive, focussed times and your phone goes to voice mail or to a colleague (you can return the favour during their quiet time if you both work together)
  • Turn off your email notifications and choose a few blocks of time a day for email and only check and reply in those times
  • Have a carefully scripted response to people who interrupt you. Something like “I’d love to help you; I can see it’s important to you. Unfortunately my focus is on another task at the moment and I can’t give your issue the attention it deserves. How about I come and see you in an hour?”. And then honour that promise.

You don’t need to say yes all the time – you can still help people and be proactive in your own work at the same time.

 

What do Activity Based Workstations and Clear Space have in common?

One of the major trends in corporate workplace design is the move to an Activity Based Workplace environment (ABW).

It is a different type of work environment where workers are not assigned a permanent office, desk or workspace, nor are they assigned a particular type of space based on status or job type. Rather, workers predominantly use mobile devices and choose the appropriate workspace for the activity undertaken on a day-to-day basis or project they are working on at the time.  This is in stark contrast to the tradition of employees arriving at work and heading to a specific ‘owned’ workspace.

ABW strives towards a utopia where humans aren’t territorial or insecure and where the physical environment facilitates maturity and personal responsibility in all workplace situations.  ABW is the hot trend in workplace design because it can save millions of dollars in real estate costs and when done properly, improve productivity.  lt requires a largely paperless office which offers additional benefits, such as a reduced environmental footprint, reduced storage requirements and increased security.

Late in 2013, the Bendigo Bank will consolidate a number of sites in to their new Grenfell Street Head Office, which has been designed as an ABW environment.

Supporting employees with behavioural changes to embrace the ABW revolution is imperative to the successful implementation of the model – and the productivity and efficiency improvements that go with it.  To help with the transition, beginning in September, Clear Space will start delivering a number of workshops for the Bendigo Bank.  A customised program has been developed that will address specific challenges for their staff whilst complementing the other change management strategies the bank is assisting staff with.

Titled “Space, Time and Paper Management”, participants will learn simple yet effective, ready-to-use tips and techniques for instant results and application.  It will appeal to and deliver benefits for individuals working in various departments, and having differing needs and day-to-day objectives.

The elements and learning outcomes from the workshops include:

1)    Space Management

  • effective portability and mobility
  • locker storage and control / avoiding the need to store at home
  • choosing the most suitable ABW area
  • reducing belongings by learning how to let go

2)    Time Management

  • managing interruptions and distractions
  • single versus multi-tasking
  • batching tasks & using digital task lists
  • creating routines

3)    Paper Management

  • knowing what to keep, archive and cull
  • reducing paper use and dependence
  • finding what you need, when it’s needed
  • setting up a suitable system for actionable paperwork

We look forward to helping Bendigo Bank with this exciting transformation.

Productivity Death by Mindless Escape

We all want to run away from things sometimes

Procrastination affects everyone, but for some it seems to really affect their life – especially their work. It’s a real productivity-killer. I was chatting about it with a friend recently who said that she has become particularly good at some PC games because when she can’t face work, diving into a game helps her to cope. She’s engaging in a mindless escape from a difficult reality.

Most of us engage in mindless escapes – TV is a prime example (most commercial TV at the moment is particularly mindless, but I’ll save that rant for another time, lucky you…). But there is also Facebook (sometimes looking at photos of someone you don’t know seems an entirely useful way to spend time), or Twitter (do the useful links EVER stop coming? It’s Mindless Escape Heaven there) and other things such as watching kittens take on dogs in YouTube videos or reading up on Scandinavian Twig-Chair making.

My friend knows very well she’s escaping, and even talked about the cost/benefit of the escape. However, she still doesn’t know how to stop the escaping and the procrastination associated with it.

I suggested that it’s okay for her to play Angry Birds – that she shouldn’t try to stop altogether. But what she should do is first take 10 seconds to write down what it is she’s escaping from. The act of actually realising what we’re putting off, and then writing it down, means that your mindless escape all of a sudden becomes a conscious choice. And we can control our choices.

You still may engage in the escape, but by being aware, the escape may well be for a shorter time. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break – it’s how long and how frequently you take that break (and the quality of the break) that is important.

What do you engage in mindless escapes to avoid doing? Can you reduce that and be more productive, or at least, more conscious?

6 ways to de-stress your email

Email is a sort of necessary evil. Given the fact that most of us don’t have the option to ditch it altogether (the phone calls I could handle, but could we really go back to just snail mail and faxing in business?), we are pretty much stuck with it.  As awesome as it is in many ways, it can also cause a great deal of stress for many people.

Here are some quick changes you can make that may take a little of the ‘evil’ away.

  1. Keep your inbox to as few emails as possible, and have a habit of emptying it daily. If you can’t action all the emails every day, use a task management tool to record those you still need to action and then file them away. You could also use flags or categories to mark them as Pending Action so you don’t forget about them.
  2. Don’t trust “unread marks”. Sometimes we accidentally mark emails as unread then lose them in the clutter without reading them. If it was an important email, that could really ruin your week.
  3. Think twice before hitting “send”. Could this end up being a chain of emails that take up a lot of time? Would you be better off with a quick phone conversation? Sometimes a 10-email conversation can be made over the phone in just 30 seconds. And the more emails you send, the more emails you get in reply!
  4. Write shorter emails. One line of thought is that you can construct any email you wish in 5 sentences or less (or even three, but my verbose personality objects too strongly for me to try that one!). That will save you a significant amount of time (once you get used to it, of course – the first few times I did it I spent a fair amount of editing time reducing my words!).
  5. Keep your folders to a minimum. Try the ‘no scroll’ rule. If you have to scroll to get to a folder, you have too many. We don’t need a great deal of folders – most email programs have a great search function that enables you to find emails you’ve filed using key words (not to mention that we’d only go looking for less than 20% of the filed emails anyway). If you have too many folders, you spend too long worrying about where to put things, and where to find them again. Keep it simple; only go to second-level nesting, and keep the first level to one screen. Or try having just one and using ‘search’ and ‘sort’ to find them.
  6. Unsubscribe – you don’t have enough time to read them anyway. Instead, bookmark the blog or website so you can go and look at it when you need something or have time for some reading.
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