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Friday, 1 May 2015

Creating mental space in the workplace

OK, so this doesn’t have anything specific to do with libraries, information or health, but creating a space in which we can comfortably work and concentrate is important to all of us. The following are just a few tips I’ve picked up along the way - mostly from colleagues, the Internet, courses I’ve been on etc. Not everyone works in the same way, so more than anything I’d encourage you to take some time to think about your working environment and how you might be able to improve it to suit your needs. It will make you more effective in your job, but more importantly, it will increase your sense of wellbeing. Oh, and here's a picture of a cat having a snooze - because cats know how to relax!
Photo by Matthew via Flickr CC BY 2.0
Walk to work if you can
Or incorporate more walking into your daily routine. This helps to energise you for the day ahead and can help to clear out the mental cobwebs, especially if you’ve had a stressful morning or you anticipate a hectic day at work. You may even find yourself planning how to tackle your day, giving you a head start when you do arrive at the desk.

It just so happens that Walk to Work Week is coming up in May, so now is as good a time as any to get started: http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/walk-with-us/walking-and-work/walk-to-work-week

Structure your day/utilise your calendar
If you’re juggling a lot of different projects, make a plan and consider blocking out portions of time in your calendar. This can help you to prioritise and focus on one task at a time.

Tackle problematic jobs early on in the day
You know that really annoying/tricky/confusing job you keep putting off? Just do it! By starting the day with something difficult, you feel a real sense of achievement and your motivation for the rest of the day might even increase.

Clear your desk regularly
And get into the habit of only having paperwork which is relevant to what you’re working on right now on your desk.

Manage your email, rather than letting your email manage you...
Some people use their inbox as a kind of electronic to-do list, which is absolutely fine. Regardless of how you utilise your inbox, you will benefit from having a good clear out - unsubscribing from unwanted emails, sending certain items straight to the bin or to a specific folder. This was a single defining moment for me in my current job, where the emails come thick and fast! I still see anything which is addressed directly to me, but a large bulk of my emails are now organised in such a way that I can go to it at a time which suits me. If you want to take your inbox management a step further, you could consider installing the Gmail Pause button (http://inboxpause.com/) or just closing your email down when you need to concentrate on something.

Get out on your lunch break
For mental clarity, exercise, fresh air, stress relief… The benefits are endless and your desk will look a lot more appealing when you get back to the office!

Get some headphones
If you’re able to listen to music (or the radio) whilst you work, why not invest in some good quality headphones and see what a difference it can make to your mood and productivity? Many people can’t concentrate whilst listening to music, in which case you could consider listening to nature sounds or something else without lyrics/talking.

Find a space/room outside of your office…
...where you can read and do other work-related tasks which don’t require sitting in front of a computer. Getting away from your desk can really help to focus your mind and decrease the amount of mental clutter which comes from being in the same place for the entire working day.

Get away from your desk regularly throughout the day
Most of us do this anyway by necessity - tea making, visits to the toilet, nipping to see a colleague etc. But if you find yourself without any particular need to get up from your desk, just get up and have a walk around. Maybe nip out for a bit of fresh air if you can. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Do some gentle stretches/desk yoga
Sitting down for long portions of time will make your body and mind cease up. Just lifting your arms up over the back of your chair can help to ease any tension and help you to feel more comfortable. There are many gentle exercises you can do at your desk - just Google ‘desk yoga’ for some ideas - or see the link at the bottom of this blog post.

Have some non-caffeinated hot drinks to hand
For those moments when you need to feel soothed but don’t want another cup of tea/coffee.

Finally…
If you’re particularly prone to feeling stressed, remind yourself daily that you are only one person and that there is a limit to what you can achieve in a day. Stressing will never help - giving yourself a break will relax you and help you to focus on the things which are at the top of your to-do list.

Further reading/useful links:

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