The web is overflowing with advice for how to be more successful and productive at work these days. You’ve seen the headlines: Five Things Super Successful People Do Before 8:00 am, How to Be Productive Rather than Just Busy, Four Career Decisions That Successful People Make, Nine Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People, The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically Every Day, and so on.
Forget about unbridled success and hyper productivity, let alone before 8:00 am. At this time of year, between making revenue targets, dealing with frazzled shoppers, fulfilling orders by Christmas, and balancing work hours with holiday celebrations, a lot of business owners are just hoping to make it to the New Year without having a nervous breakdown.
Some good advice for how to do that comes from Jennifer Gauld of the Steelcase brand turnstone. As an interior designer, Gauld is no taskmaster or operational guru. Her ideas are all about creating a work environment enables you to stay focused, calm, and sane.
It’s a list that’s worth checking twice—to get yourself through the holidays and again to set yourself up for a peaceful New Year:
- Ignore emails for a while. Email alerts have their place and time. Some work cultures create expectations of an instant response, but that’s not always practical or productive. If you can’t resist opening and replying to each message as it arrives in your box, Gauld suggests setting an out-of-office reply for a few hours a day, or every afternoon. Especially during hard deadlines when you need to focus, acknowledge your email correspondents with a courteous automated message, such as, “I am currently working on a tight deadline and may be slow to respond to your message.”
- Walk while you work. Gauld calls it “giving yourself a palette of posture.” Don’t limit yourself to your primary desk chair. Spend portions of the work day standing or working at height-adjusted work surfaces. Or take that conference call on your mobile phone while walking around the block or through the office parking lot. Such flexibility can reduce mental stress, increase creativity, and relieve the physical stress of sitting in one place all day.
- Whistle while you work. Do holiday jingles get you into the seasonal spirit? Gauld says you shouldn’t be afraid to wear headphones while you work. “It doesn’t always mean you’re unsocial. Listening to your favorite tunes can help you get ‘into the zone’ and knock out your to-do list.” If you’re open to interacting with colleagues while you work, just let them know the headphones are not a “do not interrupt” sign.
- Streamline your space. There are varying opinions about what a cluttered desk indicates about your work habits. But Gauld says that when you need your brain to get in order, it’s helpful to get your space in order first. “Tidy up and remove unneeded papers, old meeting notes, and yesterday’s lunch. Having an organized work area fosters focus,” she says.
- Change the scenery. If you can swing it, try working one day a week from a different location, like a coffee shop or a co-working space. Gauld says interacting with different people and environments can give you a sense of renewed energy.
- Boost your drive with reminders of past successes. Decorating your workspace with meaningful career memorabilia, such as diplomas and awards, and other decorative items can make you feel successful, appreciated and driven, Gauld says.
- Take short breaks throughout the day. Whether it’s a walk around the building, a jaunt to the nearby food truck, reading a magazine, or visiting with a colleague, a 10-15 minute break every two hours helps improve circulation and productivity while reducing eyestrain and muscle tension, Gauld says. “Plus, stepping away from something you’re working on can lend itself to providing you with a new perspective when you return,” she adds.
- Liven up your space. Interior designers have long known that color can have a major effect on mood and productivity. “Blue creates feeling of calmness and focus while red is a great color for work that requires accuracy and attention to detail,” Gauld says. And living plants can also help people focus by reducing headaches and fatigue, she says. Gauld points to a Texas A&M University study that found that flowers and plants increase workplace productivity and creative performance. For an innovative December in your business, try putting a Poinsettia on every desk.