by Michelle Nickolaisen | Featured Contributor
Now that we’re past January and getting into a rhythm with 2013, we want to make sure that we take that wonderful momentum we got from our business planning and put it to good use. But we’re going to approach it a little sideways – this post isn’t about productivity techniques, per se, but rather, setting yourself up for success by changing things about your workspace. Surprised?
Does my workspace really matter?
A lot of people don’t think much about the physical space they’re doing their work in, past making sure that it’s not terrifically cluttered. We all love looking at office decor inspiration on Pinterest, but is that really the most practical space to put your attention? After all, things like design and aesthetics are often regarded as fairly shallow in regards to the big picture.
Actually, the design of the place you’re working in can have a huge effect on you & your work!
In A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink talks about how aesthetics can affect us on a physical and mental level – including citing a study that showed that students in better designed classrooms, people actually retained more information & learned faster, even if everything else was exactly the same. And in How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, the author writes about a private study that showed a 90% increase in learning effectiveness over the course of the year, after specific improvements (mostly in regards to making the workplace more aesthetically appealing) were made.
So with that in mind, here’s a few different things you can add to your workspace to help you stay more focused, on track, & productive.
Three ways to do this:
Have a calendar.
I actually don’t use my wall calendar to keep track of client appointments, because they’d actually clutter up the calendar & make it less than useful. Instead, I use it to mark off things like:
● When guest posts are going live
● When I’m getting payments from clients
● All-day events like my workshops, implementation parties, or open office hours
● Days I’m taking off
I use Google Calendar (synced with iCal for my phone) to deal with the minutiae like specific appointments, but using a wall calendar in this way lets me get a bird’s eye overview of my month – including things like weeks where I’m overbooking myself, weeks where revenue is looking a little slow, or weeks where I’ll have a lot of promotion going on. This way, before I commit to anything, I can take a quick look at my wall calendar & make sure that my “yes” shouldn’t be a “hmm, maybe next month”.
Keep track of your priorities.
I talked about priorities in my last post – so you already know how important they are! During my monthly planning, I lay out three priorities for each week, based on my monthly and yearly goals & priorities. These are colored coded (of course!) and go right above my workspace so that they’re easily visible.
Much like the calendar situation, I use Teambox for project and task management, but having a physical reminder in my workspace of what my priorities are is hugely effective in keeping me focused on what’s important. It prevents the dreaded “I’ve worked all day and got things done but they aren’t things that actually matter” conundrum.
Make breakthroughs on your “big three”.
The “Big Three” is a concept borrowed from the Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. (An excellent book that I highly recommend, by the way!) The idea is that your “big three” is not necessarily the same as your current priorities, but are three projects or ideas that you could use a breakthrough on – something that you’re currently stuck on. By keeping track of what these projects are and having a visual reminder of them in your workspace (or even in your wallet or purse, or on your phone), you’re keeping them in your subconscious and your brain is working on them in the background, which makes you more likely to actually have that breakthrough that you so desperately need.
Bonus: Keep track of your wins.
This can sound a little silly, but it can be incredibly motivating to keep track of your “wins” each month – the things that you’ve accomplished. What I did is frame a piece of white paper in a pretty picture frame, which essentially creates a dry-erase board (I’m particularly picky about aesthetics – you could just buy a dry-erase board if you’re not). When I’m having a bad day, it makes me feel so much better to be able to look just up from my computer and see a list of the things that have gone right for me so far this month. People who are entrepreneurs tend to have a very forward-focused view of things, which is great when it comes to taking action, but can keep us from taking time to pause and congratulate ourselves on what we’ve accomplished – this helps to offset that.
How do you design your workspace to maximize your productivity? I’d love to hear below or on Twitter!
Get it Together Guru for Creative Entrepreneurs – Michelle Nickolaisen of Bombchelle Austin, TX
Michelle is a project + operations wrangler for creative businesses, who also writes & teaches about productivity, organization, & systems (that don’t suck) for creatives. She lives in Austin, TX with her Shiba Inu & loves Buffy, dark chocolate, and tacos. Find her on the web at Bombchelle, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
From Michelle’s site: “My name is Michelle, and I’m an expert at finding out how + why something works (and then putting that knowledge to usually-good use), being grade-A curious, & getting things Done with a capital-D. I work with with creatives who have an established business, who are ready to launch something new or who want to go in a new path, who tend to get stuck going from innovation into action. If you’re working with me, you can expect sass + laughter, fun surprises, and lots of action.”