Collaborative Guest Blog written by Productivity Guru, Ellie Pope and Business Strategist and Marliese Bartz, dynamic Management Consultant.
We’ve all been there — piles of things to do, yet you can’t seem to focus on your most critical tasks. You start to think, “Why am I so unproductive?” Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s around you. We rarely think of it this way, but the brain’s resources are finite — our worlds are so busy and full of details, we don’t have enough attention to give to everything. Having an organized workspace and solid organizational systems reduces the load on your brain, and makes more resources available for your important work.
The key is to create an environment that improves your productivity. To do this, let’s apply
LEAN thinking — minimizing tasks that don’t bring value to your clients — to free yourself up formore valuable activities such as brainstorming, writing, and problem-solving.
Here’s how to use the five basic LEAN principles to create a high-performance work
LEAN Step 1 — Sort
Odds are you have a bunch of ‘visual reminders’ (i.e. Sticky Notes) posted around your
workspace. What you may not realize is that, every time you look around your workspace,
those visual reminders keep you from concentrating on your real work. They cause your brain to wander, reducing your focus and productivity. Ditto for the project files, bills, and reading material piled on your desk. This is why Sorting starts with de-cluttering, to reduce the load that your environment adds to your brain.The goal of Sorting is to end up with only the necessary tools and materials to get through your workday.
Here are some basic ways to sort:
• Get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year.
• Remove the ‘visual reminders‘ from around your office — Sticky Notes, To Do Lists, project files, stacks of paper, and magazines. Either throw them away, consolidate them, or file them. For items that you must keep on a surface, concentrate them in just a few places away from your computer and review them once a day.
• Schedule tasks on a whiteboard or virtual calendar that is placed outside your typical line
LEAN Step 2– Shine
Every time you walk into a dirty office, you can feel a little dead inside, making it just a bit harder to be productive. So, while you’re de-cluttering, it’s a great opportunity to Shine — clean all surfaces with soap and water. While you’re cleaning, inspect and remedy things like loose screws, cables that are crisscrossed, etc. Once your office is clean and functioning well, the space will invite you to engage, be creative, and enjoy yourself.
LEAN Step 3 –Set In Order
Setting in Order helps you create an office space where things are in predictable, easy-to-reach places. This avoids interrupting your concentration by having to ‘think about’ where to find things, and frees up precious time and attention for use in your real work.
Here are some basic ways to set your workspace in order:
• Prioritize location of items by frequency of use — daily use items should be within arm’s
reach; items used less frequently could be within a few steps’ reach.
• Separate active items into bins or trays.
• Add time-saving visual cues — label bins, trays, and files.
• Schedule follow-up items on a calendar, so you won’t be constantly worried about
remembering to follow up.
LEAN Step 4 — Standardize
This step involves establishing a common way of doing things — performing the same tasks the same way every time uses less mental energy. Standardizing your workspace includes colorcoding, flow charts, checklists, and labeling. Some simple ideas include:
• In a virtual environment, use the same labeling conventions every single time. Folders
might follow ‘Client Name/Project Title/Details’; Files might follow
‘ClientName_ProjectName_RevDate’. To remove visual noise, include an Archive Folder
for completed projects.
• In a tangible environment, try using colored file folders — Green for items in process,
Yellow for projects on hold, and Red for archived projects.
• Create flow charts or checklists for any repeated tasks/processes that have numerous
LEAN Step 5 — Sustain
Sustaining is arguably the toughest step, because it involves creating a new habit. It will take some discipline, but by implementing a few simple processes, you’ll have a better chance of success:
• Maintain a 5-minute-a-day routine check — return all items to their designated spots, check to see if the printer is low on paper or ink, etc.
• Schedule one 30-minute slot per week for sorting and shining.
• Place a 4-hour slot on the calendar every 3 to 6 months to archive projects, receipts, and
By dedicating yourself to weekly sorting and shining, just as you do with your household chores, this maintenance will become easy and habitual. And once you experience the productivity increase from a well-organized workspace, you’ll want to maintain it! Just think LEAN, and make this your most productive year yet!
Ellie Pope trains overworked women entrepreneurs how to get more done by easing up,
tapping into their inner rhythms, and cultivating their desire. The result is they make more
money with less stress, more peace of mind, and more fun. She can be found at
www.ProductivityPoolside.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProductivityPoolside.
Marliese Bartz is a business improvement strategist dedicated to helping creative people
implement their ideas. She helps entrepreneurs operationalize their strategy so they can remain focused on what they do best — being creative! She can be found at www.linkedin.com/in/marliesebartz/.