Crime novelist Dame Agatha Christie once wrote, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” But for most of us, getting started is the hardest thing. It is not uncommon for some people to observe a “ritual” before commencing the day’s activities. Perhaps a quick workout, an hour of meditation or just a cup of coffee; the idea is to set the day right before we take on the challenges ahead. And then it becomes a matter of generating efficiency to maximizing productivity.
Often times, the drive for efficiency is stifled at the work desk. In a study conducted by the British Psychological Society in 2012, it found that on average people at work spend 5 hours and 41 minutes of their day at their desks. While the numbers may vary from one country to another, the more important question is “How much of those hours account for productivity?”
According to Personal Development coach Steve Pavlina, Americans spend only 90 minutes per day on productive time. The rest of the day is spent surfing the Internet, chatting at the water cooler and reading newspapers. Yet, the United States remains the most productive country in the world. It is very clear that distractions at the work place present serious obstacles to achieving maximum productivity.
If you want to sustain productivity throughout the day, you must begin with the place where you spend most of your time: Your work desk. Here are a few ideas on how to set up your desk or work place for maximum productivity:
Keep it Free of Clutter
We can’t all be like Zappo’s Tony Hsieh who likes a messy workspace. It would be safe to assume that the general population would prefer an organized work place that is clean and free of clutter. Work itself can be very stressful so the last thing we need is a stressful environment. A clean and orderly workplace increases productivity because we spend less time navigating through clutter to look for what we need. A few ideas in tidying up the work space include:
a. Organize the computer cables and cords.
b. Use organizers for office supplies.
c. Use Two-Document Trays to distinguish outgoing and incoming files.
Invest in Ergonomic Furniture
If you will be spending most of your day sitting behind a desk, it would be a worthwhile investment to purchase furniture that will make work comfortable. “Ergonomic” refers to furniture design that reduces fatigue. These types of furniture and equipment are typically more expensive but can greatly contribute to productivity. These include:
a. Swivel chairs with lumbar support
b. Angled keyboard to prevent Metacarpal Tunnel Syndrome
c. Desks which allow the forearm to be parallel to the floor
Establish two zones
While most of our work is done on a computer, a significant part of a typical day’s agenda includes reviewing hard copies of documents and signing papers. You may be surprised to know that a good number of people still prefer to write notes on paper than on a Word or Notebook file. It would be best to buy a desk that is large enough to accommodate a desktop computer and still designate an area for free-hand writing. There are the L-shape tables which are popular for corner offices which you may wish to consider. The L-shape table is highly recommended because its design makes one side difficult to view and allows you to focus better on the task at hand.
Have a Whiteboard Located Nearby
Computers allow work to run efficiently. However, the system of transposing human thought from a keypad stroke to a software program unto a monitor filters out the creativity process. This is one reason why a good number of people still prefer to write freehand because the only filter between human thought and paper is the human hand. In the same context, even with the availability of pen and paper there are times people need to open up the creativity process by having a blown up visual rendition of their thoughts and ideas. A whiteboard is the perfect canvass to depict ideas on a wider scale. Some desks have the whiteboard set up at eye level on a wall that is an arm’s length from where they are seated.
The best spaces to work are those which can stimulate inspiration. Sometimes all the area needs is adequate lighting. A space that is too bright or too dark can cause eye strain. What your space needs is enough indoor lighting to balance the glare from the monitor and allow sufficient visibility within the area. Natural lighting is always a good choice. If possible, have your desk located near a window which allows enough natural lighting to illuminate your work space.
Use of Color
If lighting can stimulate inspiration, the use of color may stimulate motivation. Psychologists and neuroscientists have conducted several studies on the effects of color on human behavior. There are certain colors that elicit a greater response to stimuli than others. For example, the color Orange has been determined to stimulate appetite and is ideal for restaurants. Depending on the nature of your business, you may wish to have the correct color accent available on your work place. Green is supposed to stimulate creativity. Yellow has been associated with sales and marketing.
Incorporate “Productive Distraction”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg has a game room in their headquarters to allow employees to de-stress and restart the creativity process. Not many people in the world have the billions to spend on a self-contained facility like Zuckerburg did for Facebook but you can set up an area in your office for distractions that can lead to greater productivity. A dartboard, a comfortable couch with a coffee table or a trashcan in the corner with a basketball hoop set on top of it. The purpose is to allow you to relax and unwind for a few minutes without need of leaving your work area.
Setting up the work place for maximum productivity does not have to be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. For the most part, all it takes is common sense. While an area that is conducive for work inspires productivity, in truth, the root of productivity is embedded within us and our motivation to lead a better life.
Felix is an entrepreneur that works with OutsouceWorkers, an Australian company that helps business owners find affordable virtual assistants.
Netflix enthusiast, horrible speller, jiujitsu hobbyist, weekend drinker, and occasional poker player. Favorite quote is “[o]ut of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”