Productivity Starts with the Right Pieces in Place

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on March 18, 2010 in: Project Management, Tools & Resources


There are a lot of opportunities to do a project really productively. If it’s a complex project, you can break it down into smaller parts. You can apply various project management techniques to get the project done. You can outsource or multitask or automate and get even more done in the same space of time. But so much productivity hinges on one key element: Everything starting in the right place.

Last night I opened the drawer of my filing cabinet and saw a few papers on top. I normally try to file stuff away as it comes in but a recent period of extreme busyness meant that these papers didn’t get filed away with the same determination that I normally have when filing. Instead of just filing them away last night, I asked myself why I didn’t file them away earlier. I had been very good about filing but I had apparently slacked a bit in the past couple of weeks. If things got as busy again as they were recently, how could I ensure that I would file these papers immediately instead of letting them build up?

The answer is in the set-up of the files themselves. They were set up to reflect the way I ran my business a few years ago when I set up my filing system. It’s no longer the way I do business today. We’re not talking about huge changes, but there have been some changes; enough to make filing slightly more time consuming than it needed to be.

That got me thinking about other things around my office that weren’t optimized for my business today. Were they set up for the way I do business now or were they set up for the way I did business when I first set everything up? I have the good fortune of having recently renovated my office, which was a natural way to “update” the placement of my “stuff” (and, subsequently, it helped to improve productivity).

How is your office laid out? Is your stuff – your files, your computer, your resources, even your pens and pencils – as efficiently placed as they could be? They may have been convenient for you when you first set up your office but if they haven’t moved in the years you have been operating your business, it’s possible that it needs to change. And, it’s possible that you might not even realize you need to change because you have unconsciously become accustomed to the inconvenience, as I did with my filing system. Are you reaching too far for your pens, for example?

Yes, even something as simple as moving your jar of pens to somewhere else on your desk can have a huge impact on you. It might sound silly but it could mean the difference between keeping your focus on your computer and reaching for a pen without looking, or, stopping what you are doing to reach across the table for a pen because that’s what you’ve been unconsciously doing for years (when you put those pens there back when you needed them there).

While moving a jar of pens might not seem like a lot, it adds up. A few seconds saved here, your attention remains focused there, and before you know it, you’re more productive and focused and you are saving tons of time.

Your workspace is your mission control and you need it to be the most efficient, focused, and comfortable place it can be. Think about how you run your business and consider how things have changed since you first set up your office.

BONUS: While thinking about this blog post, I came across this relevant article at Harvard Business Review, Organize Your Workspace for Maximum Productivity. Take a look and get productive!

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