Create systems for managing incoming information, whether paper-based or electronic. Stacks of paper scattered throughout your office, endless e-mail begging to be answered and an overflowing voice mailbox not only induce stress; they waste time. Start by setting up your office with places to store papers, supplies and equipment. Your desk should have at least one file drawer (ideally two) and additional drawers to hold supplies. The right desk, credenza, hutch and file cabinet can work wonders to keep you on track and enable you to access what you need when you need it.
The biggest problem with incoming information (aside from too much of it) is knowing what to toss and what to keep, and determining where everything goes. Magazines and newspapers don't belong on your desk. Temporarily store that information in a large wicker basket, or instead use stacking bins (they’re larger than stacking trays) labeled "to read" and "to file" to hold reading material. You could add another bin labeled "to do." Bins or baskets are temporary storage places for papers that need to move forward. Separating papers that need your attention is better than shuffling through stacks on your desk.
See the light. Are you suffering from eyestrain and increased fatigue, two factors that can contribute to stress? Working long hours without a break can take its toll on your eyes, and poor lighting can trigger fatigue. That beautiful lamp you bought at the antique shop may look perfect in your office, but how functional is it? Fortunately, you have several options for lighting your office. There is task lighting for your work surface, general or ambient light to provide more uniform illumination in your office, or accent lighting for artwork or anything else you may want to highlight. Keep in mind that you can use one or a combination of these lighting sources to achieve the right amount of light. While a new lamp is a small investment, the payoff is huge. If your desk has shelves above, make sure you install under counter lights or invest in a desk and hutch with built-in lighting.
Replace outdated technology with timesaving equipment. Your old computer may serve you well now, but how much time and energy are you wasting on an outdated machine and older versions of software? How much time do you waste on sluggish equipment vs. what your time is worth? If the amount of time is staggering, do the math and upgrade your equipment. Technology prices continue to plummet along with their size or footprint, which makes outdated equipment unnecessary. If you have switched from a desktop to a laptop computer, downsize your desk and consider using a writing desk in combination with a file cabinet.
Invest in ergonomically correct furniture. The typical office chair and desk often are overlooked as causes of stress. Depending on the number of hours you sit in front of your computer, a stiff chair (especially a wooden one from your kitchen or a dining room chair) and a desk at the wrong level can increase the wear and tear on your back, neck and shoulders. If you're using a dining room chair as your office chair, replace it with an ergonomically correct office chair that supports your back while absorbing and distributing your weight. Other factors to consider when buying a new chair are lumbar support to reduce lower back strain, seat and back height adjustments, tilt mechanisms and tilt lock to reduce leg muscle strain and fatigue.
Use a good planning system. Whether you choose a paper-based planner or a handheld (that you sync daily with your computer), make sure the system fits your needs and your comfort level. If you don't have control over your schedule, your stress level will spiral out of control and reduce your productivity. It’s easy to take control over your day if you refer often to a list.
Whether you replace your uncomfortable desk chair, bite the bullet and update your office equipment, or change your planning system, taking steps to de-stress your office will affect your energy level, productivity and ultimately your bottom line.
Want to try this in your business? Connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today!