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.

Weekend Weightlifter – cull some paperwork

This weekend we’re going to attack some old paperwork. You don’t need to spend all weekend on it – you can spend as little as 15 minutes and make a difference!

Find some old filing in the home and take a handful of it out of the files.  Assess each piece of paperwork one at a time and ask yourself if you need to keep it or not.

Reasons to keep papers include:

  • It was used as supporting documentation on one of your last five (seven in the US) tax returns (invoices, receipts, superannuation)
  • It has historical significance (your grandfather’s migration documents)
  • You need to keep it for legal reasons (your car registration papers or your Will)
  • You need to keep it for warranty reasons (the receipt for your vacuum cleaner)
  • It’s useful when something goes wrong (your dishwasher user manual)
  • It’s a hand-print of your daughter when she was a baby
  • It proves something (residency, that you paid for something, that you did a certain qualification, medical records etc)
  • You’re going to use it soon (a gift voucher)
  • It makes you very happy. VERY.

Reasons to ditch papers include:

  • It’s a document you can obtain online whenever you need it
  • It’s a user manual for an item you don’t have anymore
  • It’s a bill that was paid 2 years ago and you didn’t claim it as a tax deduction
  • It’s one of 3,000 drawing of stars your daughter drew (a handful of the same drawing from the same age is sufficient)
  • It’s one of 50 payslips from 1987 (again, keep one for nostalgia, sure – but you don’t need them all)
  • You took it out of a magazine several years ago because you thought you might make that stool/soft toy/cake/party decoration one day (you can get SO MUCH online these days)
  • It’s memorabilia that makes you sad/angry/guilty

You can spend as little or as long as you want, as long as you ditch as much as you can in that time!

 

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?

Small desk syndrome?

Desks are fabulously useful. You can spend a lot of time sitting at them, pretending to work. And the more stuff you have spread around you, the busier you look, right? Well, what if you have a tiny desk?  How do you manage to look busy (or, more seriously, stay organised) when you have a teeny tiny amount of space on your desk?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Keep your active paperwork vertical. A stand of manilla folders takes up less space than a couple of piles of paper, and a magazine file of journals takes up less space than a pile of them on the desk corner.
  2. Keep your reference paperwork off your desk entirely. Try a filing cabinet, or binders on shelves. If you look at it infrequently, it should be off your desk
  3. Curb your stationery addiction. I know, it’s awfully pretty and fun, and it makes you feel organised, but you don’t need 60 notepads, 7 staplers and a bucket of paperclips. Nor do you need a billion pens that don’t work (throw them out – not back in the drawer!)
  4. Try to use your vertical wall space as much as you can – install shelving or add a hutch to your desk
  5. Have routines that include an end-of-day desk clearing – file your paperwork and put away your stationery. If you do it every day, it will never get out of control. And you won’t come in on Monday to the smell of curdled cappuccino, either.
  6. Try using a magazine file as your inbox instead of an in-tray (which is an unrestrained pile waiting to happen anyway!). And empty it daily (not yearly!).
  7. Ditch everything you don’t use regularly, and limit the amount of personal ‘knick knacks’ on the desk. They’re lovely, but it’s prime real estate that they’re hogging!

Tiny desk = no worries!

 

How do you STAY organised?

Many people work hard to get organised. They do a big cull, pull everything out and create homes for their stuff. They make it all neat and tidy and breath a big sigh of relief when it’s done.  However, they all face a similar struggle once they finish de-cluttering and organising their space. How do they maintain it? How do they avoid having to do it all again in a year’s time?

They  feel a little silly at this stage, because they think it should be easy once it’s all organised. But it’s not – you still need to work on it. Your space will not change in the long-term if you don’t change, no matter how clever you are!

This is where routines and habits come into play.  Organised people are organised partly because it’s the way their brain works, but also because they have built up a repertoire of habits that positively reinforce their organisation.  There is more than one way to build habits, but my favourite is by introducing them through routines.

When you introduce a routine, try to think about what you always do out of habit already, and ‘stick’ new habits onto it. If you always turn on the coffee machine as soon as you wake up, add a positive habit to that routine such as checking your calendar while you wait for it to brew. Once you have a habit ‘sticking’ (around a month of trying should get it working okay), add another. Keep going until you’re a well-oiled machine.  You’ll free up your brain, have a more organised day, more organised spaces and be able to enjoy life a little more.

Share with us – what habits and routines do you have that help you stay organised? My favourite is choosing my next day’s outfit the night before – it saves so much time and reduces stress a great deal!

Getting organised for tax time

Are you scared of doing your tax? Overwhelmed by the enormity of the task? Wouldn’t you feel wonderful if this year you had it all wrapped up by the end of July?

The end of the financial year may not be looming large quite yet, but those that like to have their tax all sorted by the 1st of July are already getting organised for it.

If you’re completely overwhelmed by how you’re going to get this year’s tax organised, these simple steps can help.

  1. Make a 2010/2011 file – it can be a box, a manila folder or a binder. It doesn’t matter what you put it in really, so long as you have one.
  2. Write a list of paperwork that needs to be included so you can check them off when they go in the file. Include: receipts, charity donations, utility bills, group certificates, health insurance paperwork and dividend statements, among others. If you can get a list from your accountant that would be ideal.
  3. Go through your piles of paperwork (or filing cabinet, if you have it all organised) and collect up what you’re missing. Do it in small bursts (15 minutes or so a day) if your piles are largely unsorted.
  4. Add to the file for the next month or so, then at the end of June sort it all into groups (income, expenditure) and it’s all ready to do that return on time!

Don’t strive for a ‘perfect’ file. All it needs to be is all together. It’s as simple as that!

(note: this advice is for those in the Australian tax system. If you’re in another country use it as a guide, but be aware you’ll need to customise it to suit your nation’s terminology and tax laws).

You’re not alone

I had an amazing night on Friday night speaking to a group of business women in Balaklava, SA. They are an intelligent, hilarious group of girls and many of them commented at the end “I’m so glad it’s not just me!”.

So I decided to write a few things down that I have found to be VERY common, but that everyone is ashamed of doing and think they are the only ones that are ‘slack’, ‘disorganised’, ‘lazy’ etc. You’re not, you’re just normal!

Most people at some stage have:

  • A pile of paper hidden away that they’re too scared to look in
  • Cleaned up in a rush, shoved it all in a shopping bag and hidden it in a spare room
  • Procrastinated despite knowing very well they are procrastinating
  • Cleaned out their car and left the bag of ‘things to bring inside’ at the back door for weeks
  • Been scared to open a drawer for fear of what they might find in it
  • Raced around for 4 hours tidying up for the cleaner
  • Lost something then found it next winter in a coat pocket
  • Kept an unfinished project long after that hobby lost its appeal
  • Kept clothes for when they fit again. One day. Even though they’d go shopping if they got  back in that size anyway.
  • Stared in dismay at a room and thought “I have no idea where to start”

By the way, I have done a few of these things myself (most of them in my pre-organised life admittedly). With the exception of the last one. After all, it’s my job to know where to start ;).

Which ones have you done? Please leave a comment and ‘fess up!!!

And no born-organised Professional Organiser friends of mine are allowed to tell us they haven’t done any of them. We don’t want to know!

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