Taking Control of Your Workspace
Let's face it: it's HARD to always be "on" when you're at work. No matter how much you try, even the best-laid plans and schedules break down; sometimes it seems like all the forces are against you. You can get discouraged, weary, frustrated and unfocused. You can blame your boss, your spouse, interruptions, computer crashes, too much work, too little time...the list goes on and on.
When it comes right down to it, though, we each have to take responsibility for our work environments. It's up to us to create pride and excellence in our workplaces. We need to take responsibility for our own productivity, morale, creativity, motivation and a sense of humour that we bring to our work.
You say "but stuff just happens that I have no control over." That's true. "Stuff" will happen, so it's your job to come up with disaster prevention and back-up plans. Interruptions and snafus don't need to become setbacks. Lists and schedules make the world go round. Be sure to prioritize, and take note of a few things that could be realistically postponed, if need be. Speaking of realism...be realistic in estimating how long it will take you to do the tasks at hand.
Computer maintenance can make a big difference in minimizing downtime. Regular virus scans, firewalls, defragmentation, and file back-ups are crucial to maintaining computer health and well-being.
There are a few well-known organizational tips worth repeating. My personal favourite is not touching mail more than once. I sit down with the mail at my desk, wastebasket on one side, a file cabinet at the other, and sticky notes in front of me.
If it's junk, toss. If you can deal with it right now, do it, then toss it or add a sticky note with the details and file it. You aren't going to deal with it right away? Then sticky note and file it. Do NOT just add it to a pile on your desk. Can you tell piles of papers are my personal Waterloo?
My other favourite is standing up when someone comes into my workplace. It doesn't matter who it is or what's the reason. The message to myself is: this is my workplace and I am here to work. If I'm not seated, chances are my guest won't sit down either. It's a bit more polite than just continuing to work without looking up...and if you do that, chances are the guest will still sit down.
Here is where a back-up plan is important. Have it already in your head what you will say if you are interrupted. "I'm busy at the moment, can you come back in____ minutes...hours"...whatever works. "Would you like to make an appointment?" "I'm taking a break at_____, would you like to join me?" And so on.
This even works when I'm working at my computer at home and the cat comes in. She loves to sit on my hands on the keyboard! or my lap, or right in front of the monitor. I stand up (no lap) and I even make an appointment with her (in my own mind of course!)...to play, feed her, watch tv for a few minutes so she can sit on my lap; sometimes we play Catch the Cursor for a couple minutes...something. She quickly leaves or curls up somewhere else if I'm not sitting down.
You may be thinking that productivity and organization are a lot easier to take responsibility for than motivation, morale, creativity and humour. Maybe your boss is stubbornly refusing to give you a raise, no matter how well you do your work. Maybe the job is "straight and narrow" with no room for creativity, and humour is ok in small doses, but not really appreciated. Maybe its your own work ethic nagging at you to work, work, work, no time for play. Maybe it's your spouse nagging you with money worries, or feeling neglected.
You need to realize that in order for you to be a healthy, balanced, satisfied, and fulfilled human being, you need these things in your life. Rather than just going to your boss and complaining, you need to creatively bring your own suggestions and solutions to the table. You need your sense of humour to maintain a healthy perspective. The ability to express yourself creatively is as important as the ability to support yourself; so brainstorm with others, research, its up to you to find the innovative solutions. You need the breaks: 5 minutes; 15 minutes every hour or two; weekends; or a REAL vacation, so take them. And if your spouse misses you, take the vacation together.
If no matter how hard you try, you can't get a grip on your lifestyle, then its time for YOU to change it. Consider a new workplace, or possibly being your own boss. Pride and excellence are up to YOU. It's YOUR life.