Office Space

Where is that paper?

Friends I've worked with know how I like the clean desk standard. How clean? I don't even have a favorite coffee cup or pictures from home. There is nothing on my desk but space.

That clean.

What's On Your Mind?

To each their own, but research supports the clean desk clean/creative mind link. Turns out multi-tasking is actually myth. We really just pay attention to different things in succession for about 5-7 seconds a piece.

That's not a lot of quality time.

So how to manage our labor to create the time we need to focus? Three steps can help you change this picture.

Declutter – Whether its physical desk space or the space between your ears, you've got to declutter. The uber clean desk policy might seem like overkill, yet think of this as a zen exercise. When you walk into your work space are you greeted by calm and order, a la a Japanese rock garden, or is your cube more like a volcano of erupted papers, books, files, flash drives and coffee cups? Which would you rather call home for the day? And what about your own mind? How many random thoughts are you juggling in there rather than use any simple reminder tool on your smart phone to keep them organized, handy – and out of your consciouness. You can't get clarity in a mind full of muck

Choose – By definiton a priority is something you put above others. Its true: if everything is a priority nothing is. Early in my career I struggled with demadning clients who wanted multiple priorities and would suggest their people were incompetent if they couldn't keep up. Now I know what that is: mental immaturity. Winners choose a select few priorities and just don't do anything else. They choose what matters and stay after it relentlessly. This is why Ritz-Carlton, Honda and Amedei have the best hotels, cars and chocolate year in and year out. Once a priority is chosen the focus is relentless. Yours must be too

Concentrate – We love stimuli. Except when we need to think. Creative people have extraordinary concentration often skipping meals and bio breaks not because they want to but because they're focused on something else. Yet, in order to reach this heightened state of energy, your normal seven-second day has to give way. Phones, music, walk-ins, you name it – they've got to go. Office space not conducive? Use a conference room or work from home: anything that will disrupt the stream of interference preventing you from getting into the higher consciousness you need to do your best work. There is no work around here: extraordinary thinking requires extraordinary concentration

Simple changes to your work space and approach can yield significant results. The steps noted here can be implemented today – how I love instant gratification – for your immediate benefit.

Higher level thinking requires a higher level approach, and make no mistake, higher level thinking is what is required for success. Average will not suffice.

So clean your desk and your mind to make things work for you instead of against.

If you'll excuse me now I have to concentrate.



8 thoughts on “Office Space

  1. It’s an interesting one, Christoper, about the nature of creativity.

    I accept what you describe in your post, and offer this alternative.

    I used to work for a marketing and technology company, who, by the very nature of the work they do, were a creative bunch. The mix of people, and the mix of knowledge in that place meant that the ‘rules’ for being creative were thrown out of the window. Some did need tidiness, and peace and space. Others needed a blank canvsas and would go from there. Others fed off the buzz and the energy by being around others and listening to them. Others needed a lot of stimuli in order to get their thoughts into a creative space.

    Our Chief Creative Officer would facilitate a session on how to unlock your creativity. One of the things he would advocate is that there is no right answer for being creative. Each of us has a different thing which will stimulate us into being creative. For some it will be the space and peace you describe. For others it will be chaos.

    I think the thing to be mindful of is not placing a judgement on either. Your post seems to favour the ‘Japanese rock garden’ over the ‘volcano of erupted papers’.

    For me, I believe that people can be creative given the right circumstances. They need to have the right stimuli, the right context, and the right guidance. Being creative, then, is easy.

    • So thankful for your thoughtful comments Sukh. I see your points and encourage people to find the medium that works for them…

  2. Your post talks about many things that I’ve come to learn over time – that to focus on a task, I need space and minimal distractions, but to brainstorm, i need inspiration.

    I’ve tried to balance this in my workspace, but as I am not chained to my desk, I often opt to change my location rather than my workspace.


  3. Christopher, It’s like you wrote this post for me. I’m a neatnik although not over the top. But the truth is that I can’t write or think in a mess. Dust bunnies don’t get in my creative way but clutter, disarray, and discombobulation sure do.

    I once worked with a regulatory attorney who had a neat office, nary a personal item in sight. No family photos, paperweights, or logo-bearing coffee mugs. When I asked him about that he said, “When I walk about of here or get usher out, I don’t want to have to do any packing.” I thought that was funny…but was pretty sure he was serious.

    Another great post, ~Dawn

    • You know Dawn, I have the same philosophy: I don’t want to celebrate my space.

      Not long ago in one of my jobs my bosses’ boss came looking for me: I was somewhere else at the time. A coworker said the manager asked where I sat since she was going to leave me something: my coworker said – right here: this is his cube.

      The boss said, Its empty. My friend said, yup, that’s the way he likes it.

  4. Pingback: Best of the HR blogs October 2013: 19 great HR blog posts from October 2013 | XpertHR - Employment Intelligence

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