Office, Productivity, Time Management

How do you deal with distractions in the workplace?

Udemy for Business surveyed US workers in 2018 about distractions at work. More than half (54%)  said that their performance is not as well as it should be because of workplace distractions. Half of them think that they are significantly less productive. The top two distractors mentioned were chatty coworkers and office noise. They also indicated that open office layout and digital distractions are affecting the ability to focus.

Even if you don’t work on an office setting distractions are affecting your productivity too. Here are some tips to avoid them.

  • Know when your focus and creativity levels are higher and plan to do your most difficult tasks during that period. Block that time in your calendar and notify everybody that you are not available unless it is an emergency. 
  • If you are a morning person, try to come earlier to the office and take advantage of the quiet space. If you are a night owl, you can stay later to tackle those tasks.
  • When you need to focus on an important task while everybody else is present, set some rules. Let everybody know in a polite way that you need some “Do not Disturb” time.
  • Create the perfect environment, avoiding distractions. Turn off all notifications, chats, and social media. 
  • Set specific periods to interact with business emails and social media.
  • Keep your work area clean and organize to avoid visual distractions.

Regardless of how hard you try, somebody or something will distract you. There are a few more things that you can do. For example, learn how to manage distractions like emails and office noise. Learn how to manage your emails, using blocks of time to work with them. Use headphones to cancel the noise or have a sign to tell people that you would like to not be disturbed during that time.

Also, remember that having a good night’s sleep and healthy eating habits will help you to have the energy to concentrate. Find your own trick, and keep the focus!


Do you need 5S in the office?

There is no doubt that sometimes offices are scary.  There are too many things to do and it feels that no time to do them.   It is easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if it is cluttered and neglected.  There are many benefits of get organized, offices are a great place to practice 5S.  The following are signs that you need to 5S in your office.  

  • Office workers spend too much time searching for information or missing documents. 
  • Folders and other documents piled on your desk
  • Documents on top of cabinets
  • The filing cabinets have documents that you keep just in case, or things that you know are duplicates.
  • Your desk drawers contain a mix of items, from snacks to old pens, to things borderline trash.
  • Your office or cubicle is a mini supplies room.

I want to share with you some tips for 5S in the office.  Let’s see them one step at a time.

Sort – When in doubt, move it out.  What do you need to do your job?  Needs are things that are necessary to perform the job tasks.  You only keep what you need to accomplish your job.

  • Information regarding how long documents are stored and the official storage location for them is contained in the company document retention policy.   
  • Empty all your desk drawers, file, and storage cabinets and go over all the items inside.  Relocate what does not belong to the appropriate place.
  • Remove documents that by policy, you don’t need to keep any more or another person or department should keep.  Check that they have a copy before trashing or destroying the documents.
  • Try to go digital for everything you don’t need to keep a hardcopy.
  • Move out of your office or cubicle all the extra office supplies you keep.

Set in Order – A place for everything and everything in its place!

  • Create electronic folders to file those documents that you need to have, but not necessarily need a hardcopy.
  • If it is possible, move furniture, filing documents and small equipment like desk printers in such a way that follows the information flow.  
  • Assign a drawer to one type of things only, for example office supplies or personal items.
  • Those files and other items that you use more frequently should go closer to you.  
  • Think about how you are going to organize the files in the cabinets, and how you will divide the documents in sections.  Use names that are pertinent and easy to understand.   
  • Remove safety hazards such as materials blocking aisles, doorways and exits.

Shine – Make inspect and clean part of your daily routine.

  • Clean all furniture and cabinets inside and out using appropriate tools and supplies.
  • Inspect while you clean.  
  • Repair or request repair for what is not quite in good condition, like missing screws for handles.
  • Clean your computer keyboard and desk printer.

Standardize – Follow the standards daily, success is a habit, not an act.

  • Set clear expectations with clear rules and polices that includes daily activities and frequency for non-daily activities.
  • Non-daily activities should include regular audits to ensure everybody follows the set rules.
  • Update or create the retention files policy and create an easy to follow job-aid to help the entire team to understand and follow it.
  • Make official all the temporary markings for your file cabinets and desk.
  • Establish minimum and maximum quantities for all items in the supply room.
  • Make 5S part of the on-boarding training for new employees.
  • Recognize and reward achievements in the 5S Program.
  • Have a bulletin board for all 5S activities, including recognition.

Sustain – Cleaning and organizing is a practice, not a project. Make 5S part of your daily routine.

  • Ensure everybody participates of the 5S Program
  • Do daily walks to ensure everybody is following the rules.
  • Make 5S part of your daily work, include 5S new and comments on daily performance meetings.
  • Conduct monthly audit and communicate the results.  Use them to recognize the best.

As always, 5S in the office is a team activity. Reclute your team to implement 5S and make it part of the daily routine. You will see results right away, the environment in the work area will be so much better!

Electronic / Virtual, Office

Is managing your email inbox driving you crazy?

Manage your emails effectively

Do you know that the average office worker spends 13 hours per week on emails alone? A typical business professional sends and receives 122 emails daily. With those numbers, there is no doubt why you feel like managing your inbox is all you do.

To avoid going crazy for your emails, apply housekeeping and organization to your inbox.

Like every time you want to use 5S, start sorting out the messages that you don’t need. Browse your email in the lookout for promotions and subscriptions. Sometimes you subscribe to a digital newsletter or give away your email address to obtain some information. You are not interested in keeping the subscription anymore but never unsubscribe from it. Go ahead and unsubscribe now, do not touch that email more than once! Do the same thing with promotions that you don’t want to receive anymore. Identify spam emails and put them on the spam folder immediately.

While you browse for emails, make a list of those that you receive periodically and need to keep. Think about customers, suppliers, invoices, and your team. To set in the order, you have to prioritize and categorize your messages. Create categories like my team, finances, insurance, customers, and suppliers. You do not have to go through all your emails, but make sure you include your most frequent contacts.

To shine or clean your inbox archive or delete emails as you go. Make a routine to read your emails during certain times of the day. Reading emails every five minutes is a productivity killer. I read emails first thing in the morning as part of my routine to create the agenda for the day. Check again before lunchtime, and then before going home. Make sure your key people know that if they need your attention, they should text or call you.

Now is time to standardize. Use the contact list you build to create and assign categories to your contacts. With Outlook and Gmail, you can create color-coded categories or filters based on certain criteria. Also, you can assign priorities. For example, invoices have high priority, but digital newspapers are a low priority. Change your email settings, so incoming emails go straight to the appropriate folder or have the right label.

To ensure your inbox is under control, create rules to sustain the tidy state. Daily, as you check your emails, decide what you need to do with the information received. Create tasks or events using the message and then archive or delete. Establish a frequency to revise your emails looking for contacts that need to be categorized or are not relevant anymore. 

Your inbox does not have to drive you crazy. Stop the insanity and 5S your inbox!


How do you organize your desk at work?

How to organize your desk at work and keep it organized

How organized is your desk at work? A messy desk is a common cause of poor time management. Piles of papers, magazines, and folders on your desk make you waste time searching for what you need. Take a look at these fun facts.

  • The average US executive wastes 6 weeks per year searching for missing information in messy desks and files.
  • A person who works on a cluttered desk spends, on average 2.5 hours looking for things.
  • The average desk worker spends 3 hours per week sorting piles trying to find the project to work on next.

Don’t be like them! A cluttered space makes you feel overwhelmed. Creativity and productivity are not good in that state of mind. Tidy up your desk and keep it that way.

Start by sorting what you have on the desk. Do you need to keep all those papers? Recycle or shred what you don’t need. If you need the information but not the physical paper, scan the document. Make sure you create virtual folders for them with logic names that represent the content. If you already used them and need to keep the hard copies, file them on the appropriate file cabinet. Control the papers around you at the source. The best practice is to think before you print. It is good for the environment but also for your time management and office supplies budget. 

As you move papers out of your way, you will uncover other items like mail and lost invoices. Get rid of what you don’t need and put those items that need further action in a dedicated bin. Make the habit to deal with incoming mail daily. Sometimes people pay bills late because they can’t find the bill or don’t remember if they receive it or paid already.

Dispose of everything that is trash. Why you have pens without ink or snack envelopes on your desk? Dispose of what you don’t need as soon as you don’t need it.

Check the drawers too! You will find more papers, snacks, and extra office supplies. It is convenient to dedicate one drawer for your things, like snacks. Create a share location for office supplies to reduce unnecessary inventory. Keep on your desk just what you need. How many pencils or black pens you need at a time?

Most people like to have things on their desks that make them feel at home. A picture frame with our kids, a pencil holder with the logo of our favorite team, you name it. That is ok but control the quantity, one or two items should be enough.

To sustain your progress take 5 minutes at the beginning and end of the day to manage your desk items. Start each morning planning your day. Retrieve and organize the documents you need for immediate work. At the end of the day sort your papers and mail and take immediate action. Recycle, scan, or file those documents, do not accumulate thinking that you will need them later. Many companies establish a clean desk policy to control sensitive information from lying around.

There are multiple benefits to keep your desk clean. It saves time and money. Uncluttered desks reduce overwhelming feelings and stress and increase productivity. A clean desk keeps sensitive items confidential and makes a good impression. Take back all that time and develop your system to ensure not falling back to the old ways.