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Personal Development: Workspaces (5)



Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)


 Akindotun Merino

In order to be the most productive that you can be, you must create the appropriate environment. This module will give you some ideas for creating an effective, ergonomic workspace in any office

One key aspect of an effective workspace is the physical layout. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Make sure your chair provides sufficient support.
  • If possible, position the desk so that it receives maximum natural light. Make sure that light doesn’t point at the monitor or in your face.
  • Keep your desk as clear as possible. Store tools and papers where they belong. Make a habit of cleaning off your desk at the end of each day.
  • Do a complete clean and reorganization of your workspace once or twice a year.
  • Place the telephone within easy reach. Keep mugs and glasses away from electronics.
  • Try to have an area for your computer and an empty workspace. L-shaped desks are ideal for this.
  • Make your workspace a pleasant place to be. Plants, pictures, unlit candles, and small fishbowls are ideal for any work area. (If you’re bringing items into an office, check company policy first.)
  • Focus on the changes that you can make. Keep your eyes open for new ideas.

Ergonomics is the study of how workers relate to their environment. It has been proven that particular factors can increase or decrease the risk of certain injuries and conditions, such as repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s), back problems, and eye problems.

READ ALSO: Managing Workplace Anxiety: Coping Strategies (3)

Here are some things that you can adjust to make your workspace more ergonomic.

  • Keep your back straight.
  • Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest.
  • Chair arm rests, back pads, and keyboard wrist rests can help to decrease muscle strain.
  • Ensure your monitor is tilted at a comfortable viewing angle. (Some people prefer to place it directly on the desk, while others find that a monitor stand eases neck strain.)
  • Use natural light when possible.
  • Most importantly, pay attention to your body. If you develop aches and pains, it may be a sign that your workspace needs to be adjusted. You may also need to consult your doctor for specialized treatment.

To use your computer most efficiently, customize your working areas as much as you can. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Organize your Start menu so that you can easily find the applications you need.
  • Keep your virtual desktop like your real desk – organized and clutter-free.
  • Customize toolbars on your desktop and within applications to place frequently used commands at your fingertips.
  • Make use of applications that automate tasks for you, particularly computer maintenance tasks.

As with your physical workspace, your company may limit your customization capabilities. Stay positive and focus on the changes that you can make, and the positive effects that those have.

Being able to find a particular piece of information when you need it is essential to being productive. Some studies estimate that people spend up to an hour and a half each day looking for things! This module will give you some ways to keep your files organized.

READ ALSO: Managing Workplace Anxiety: Recognizing Symptoms (2)

To retrieve materials quickly, you’ll need an effective filing system that includes three basic kinds of files:

  1. Working files: Materials used frequently and needed close at hand.
  2. Reference files: Information needed only occasionally.
  3. Archival files: Materials seldom retrieved but that must be kept. For ease of retrieval, organize files in the simplest way possible. For example, you could label files with a one or two word tag and arrange the files alphabetically.

Even with advanced search tools, it is important to organize your computer files (including your e-mail) in a way that makes sense to you and enables you to retrieve information quickly. One of the most common ways of organizing electronic files is to create a folder for each project or task and then create sub-folders as appropriate. (For e-mail, you may want to create folders for correspondence with particular people.)

To take organization a step further, use operating system or search program features like keywords, tags, jump lists, and virtual folders.

In order to keep your files organized, you must clean up and archive your files regularly. Set a consistent date and put a reminder in your calendar. This could be at the end of each month, the end of each quarter, or at the beginning of each year – it depends on what works for you.

For paper files, go through your working and reference files and move any old items to archive files, being sure to label and store them consistently. Likewise, go through your archive files and see if you can throw anything out. (Be sure to shred sensitive documents.)

For electronic files, there are many applications to help you archive your data. Many e-mail applications offer an automatic archive feature. Likewise, you can move files to a CD, DVD, or external storage area. This is also a good time to perform a backup of your entire system.

E-mail can be a great time-saver, but it can also be a great time waster, too. This module will give you some tools to manage your e-mail time wisely. We’ll also look at how to take back your life from your handheld device.

Like other routine tasks (such as returning phone calls, handling paper mail, and checking voice mail), e-mail is best handled in batches at regularly scheduled times of the day. We suggest setting aside a period of time at the beginning of the day, right before or after lunch, and at the end of the day. During that period, focus on getting your inbox cleaned out. If you can’t get it all done during your designated time frame, decide whether to extend the time frame, let it wait until your next e-mail session, or use the five-minute rule and work on it throughout the day.

If your business requires you to be more responsive, try setting your e-mail program to download e-mail every 30 to 60 minutes, rather than every minute. This will prevent you from being distracted and help you maintain a more continuous workflow.

READ ALSO: Managing Workplace Anxiety: Understand The Situation (4)

When reviewing your e-mail, try to take action right away to keep your inbox as clear as possible. You can:

  • Read it, and then file or delete it
  • Reply to it and then file it
  • Delete it without taking any other action (appropriate for junk mail)
  • Forward it and file it
  • Mark it for follow-up (appropriate when you need to gather information before replying)

You might not know it, but your e-mail program can probably take over some of your daily tasks. Most e-mail programs include tools to save you time and reduce the time you spend dealing with e-mail.

Our favorite features include:

  • Custom folders (much like the folders on your hard drive)
  • Rules to move e-mails to folders, or perform other actions upon certain triggers
  • Colored flags, including follow-up flags with reminders
  • Categories or keywords
  • Search tools
  • Junk mail filtering
  • Auto-archive and e-mail cleanup
  • Integrated task, calendar, and contact management systems

Our challenge to you: take five minutes each day to see what your e-mail program can do for you!

Procrastination means delaying a task (or even several tasks) that should be a priority. The ability to overcome procrastination and tackle the important actions that have the biggest positive impact in your life is a hallmark of the most successful people out there.

There are many reasons why we tend to procrastinate, including:

  • No clear deadline
  • Inadequate resources available (time, money, information, etc.)
  • Don’t know where to begin
  • Task feels overwhelming
  • No passion for doing the work
  • Fear of failure or success

Taking Time Back from Handheld Devices

Disruptions are the biggest obstacle towards being more productive. We have already talked about handling e-mail and unannounced visitors. Another major source of disruptions, ironically, can come from handheld devices, cell phones, smart phones, and BlackBerries. Now you can be interrupted anywhere, anytime!

To ensure that your handheld device increases (rather than decreases) your productivity, try these tips.

  • Turn off as many notifications as possible.
  • Use your device for work or home – not both.
  • Give your number to essential people only.
  • If you’re at your desk, set the device aside.
  • Use voice mail and automatic reply to let people know when you’ll be away from your desk.
  • Set your device to vibrate in meetings, or turn it off if possible.

Why do you procrastinate? Understanding your personal reasons will help you create a solution that will work for you. Your ability to select your most important task at any given moment, and then to start on that task and get it done both quickly and well, will probably have greatest impact on your success than any other quality or skill you can develop! If you nurture the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks quickly finished, the majority of your time management issues will simply fade away.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof.  Akindotun Merino

Instagram: @drakinmerino:    Twitter: @drakindotun


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Mental Health

Building And Reinforcing Teams (3) (16)



Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

By Akindotun Merino
When you find yourself excessively self-oriented, this is a sign that you need to deepen your humility and refocus on serving others. Here are some ways to help you foster a greater sense of humility:

Allow others to be first and foremost. Insisting on being the first in line, the first to raise your hand in a class, the first to get the parking spot, and so on, has a tendency to inflate one’s sense of self-importance. However, when you allow others to have the spotlight or be first, it gives you a better vantage point to appreciate their gifts and what they are able to bring to the table. And when you can do this, you actually find yourself in a better position to lead others because you understand how they can best contribute.

Don’t insist on being right. Nobody likes to be wrong, including other people. When you are wrong it puts you in a vulnerable position, which can be scary. However, vulnerability is often what makes a person beautiful and appreciable. Allowing others the legitimacy of their beliefs without correction from you is a charitable act.

Listen to what other people think more than telling them what you think. Dale Carnegie once said that the sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own voice. Really paying attention to what other people have to say without having to correct or undermine them helps you to stay oriented outward rather than being self-absorbed.

READ ALSO: Building And Reinforcing Teams 2 (15)

Try not to judge others. An old saying goes like this, “When you point a finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you.” While it is tempting to judge another person, to assess what they are doing and how they are doing it, when you do so, you are presuming that you know better. Unfortunately, unless you have lived the experiences of another person, you cannot know what is best for them. Your grasp on another person’s situation will always be incomplete because you don’t have the complete picture.

Finally keep your balance. Throughout the whole process of becoming a more effective leader and a more effective human being, two tools can help smooth the way. The first is developing a greater sense of gratitude. When you wake up in the morning, or while you drink your coffee or eat breakfast, either write down in a notebook or type on your computer a list of five things for which you are grateful. If you keep this gratitude journal every day, it will have a cumulative effect on your keeping a positive outlook.

The second tool’s importance cannot be understated. No matter how much you have on your plate at any given time, it is important that you take the time to play. Whether this is a hobby such as painting or an activity such as playing video games, make a point of scheduling play time for yourself at least two to three times a week. This will help you to balance out all the stress you have in your life.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun


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Mental Health

Building And Reinforcing Teams 2 (15)



Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

By Akindotun Merino
Often you may want to give team members a break from working on their normal projects to meet as a team and improve team morale or functioning. Sometimes getting a team together for a meeting or a team building activity can actually be an exercise in futility. In order to use meetings and team building exercises effectively, it is helpful to have specific goals in mind, to identify those goals to your team members, and to follow up. For example, doing a trust building exercise after a time when team members were at each other’s throats is helpful, but if you only do the trust building exercise the one time, after a while team members may forget the point or lose the benefits they gained from engaging in the exercise the one time. When planning a meeting, for instance, identify why the meeting is necessary and plan an agenda to keep the meeting organized. Sometimes the necessity is quite simple. For example, scheduling time for team members to play together can help them to recharge after a particularly grueling project. It can also help them build more of a rapport with each other. Having specific goals for an activity does not preclude having an activity achieve multiple goals.

When planning team-building exercises, make sure that you don’t undermine your attempt to improve your team. Here are some suggestions of what to avoid in team building:

  • Make sure that your team-building goals are relevant to your team’s needs, so that they are worth taking regular time away from other work to improve.
  • Make sure that your team-building activities are not simply one-time affairs; but that they are consistently worked on to reinforce your goal for the exercise.
  • While athletics can be fun for many employees, they can also be destructive towards building team morale, especially if they are focused simply on competition and winning.
  • If you use team-building exercises, try to incorporate them more frequently than once or twice a year. Incorporating these exercises monthly or weekly helps to reinforce your goals.

If you cannot lead yourself effectively than you will never be able to get others to follow you. The most important habit that effective people can have, whether they lead others or not, is to be proactive. Think of proactive as the opposite of reactive. Instead of having the world act upon you, you take action to make yourself into the kind of leader anyone would follow.

If you have been working on your mission statement and identifying your core values, this question is probably not too difficult to answer. If you understand what you value in both yourself and in others, then you can work at shaping yourself into that kind of leader. Keep in mind that developing into the kind of leader that you would follow involves constantly re-assessing where you are at in terms of your values, your goals, and your overall mission. The further you go down the path of leadership, the more necessary it becomes to refine your skills and improve yourself. This requires both detachment and self-honesty. Being detached means that you are able to dispassionately observe where you are strong and where you are weak. Self-honesty is the capacity to identify personal strengths and weaknesses.

READ ALSO: Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

In order to be an effective employee, an effective leader, and an effective person, you must have the capacity to reflect and be aware of yourself. Being self-aware involves multiple dimensions of the self. Taking care of physical needs through exercise and maintaining a good diet are factors in being aware of your physical self. Disciplining your mind through meditation that allows you to manage your emotions effectively is an example of developing your emotional and psychological awareness. You also want to have a good idea of the big picture. Are you satisfied with where you are and where you are going? Imagine once again that you are at your funeral. How would you imagine the things people have to say about you would square with your life’s goals and your mission statement?

Self-improvement is a long term game, but as you work continuously on improving yourself, it is important to keep certain pitfalls in mind.

  • Navel gazing can occur when you become overly focused on yourself. This means that you become self-absorbed and self-centered.
  • Another pitfall of working to improve yourself constantly is that you can become overly convinced of your own self-importance.
  • Finally, if you are always working to improve yourself, you may find that you have gotten stuck in this sense that you are never good enough. A better way to frame this is to think that where you are is always good, but that there is also always room for improvement.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun


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Mental Health

Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)



Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

By Akindotun Merino
Teams don’t immediately come together and experience success overnight. In fact, it takes a good leader to work at turning a group of people into an effective team. This module explores the various aspects of building and improving your team.

One of the most important activities that you will need to engage in as a leader is constantly assessing the state of your team, each individual employee, and yourself. Before you can put employees in positions to succeed, you have to have a good idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are. Here are some guidelines for how to assess team and team member strengths and weaknesses:

Include other team-members in the assessment process. Allow each member of the team a chance to identify both his or her and other team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, this can be done privately so that no team-member develops resentment towards another for perceived unwarranted criticism. This also allows you to compare your assessment with others.

READ ALSO: Trusting Your Team 2 (12)

When an employee or the entire team experiences a failure or a success, try to identify why this came about, and who was most responsible. In the case of failure, identifying the responsible person is not about casting blame, but it is about identifying what went wrong, so you know where and how to improve. When you are analyzing a success, however, it is good to give credit when someone (other than yourself) was particularly instrumental in that success.

Determine how consistently an employee performs in a given role. If that employee is consistently unsuccessful, try to find another opportunity and role for that employee to be successful. Identify the skills necessary for success in certain roles, and when an employee is consistently successful in a role, note these skills as part of that employee’s skill set. If an employee fails to perform consistently, you may also identify these skills as weaknesses in that particular employee.

Observe employees when they act alone or outside of the team structure in order to determine how their strengths and weaknesses might change in different contexts. Perhaps it is not a lack of a particular skill that is the weakness, but an inability to apply that skill in a team setting, or vice versa.

Dr. Meredith Belbin identifies nine team roles that can help make up a balanced and effective team.

The Plant. The plant is the highly creative and unconventional member of a team. They tend to be strong in thinking outside the box but their primary weakness is a tendency to be forgetful.

The Monitor Evaluator (ME). This person is good at providing a logical and dispassionate view of the range of decisions before a team. They tend to have difficulties with being overly critical and slow-moving.

READ ALSO: Trusting Your Team 3 (13)

The Coordinator (CO). This employee (often it will be you) helps the team to focus on goals and to delegate work effectively. They tend to either over-delegate or under-delegate and end up micromanaging.

The Resource Investigator (RI). This employee will tend to understand how your team’s work can best translate to the rest of the world. They will be good at understanding the competition and developing connections with others outside and inside the team framework, but they can have difficulties with following up on or getting in-depth information.

The Implementer. This role involves someone who is good at taking theory and putting it into practice. They try to find strategies on how to make an idea work in the most efficient manner. Implementers have difficulty considering alternative approaches and may be slow to give up on a favored idea.

Completer-Finishers. These team members excel at the end of a task. They make sure everything is functioning ideally. These employees act as a kind of quality control. Their strength, having high standards, can also be their weakness, in that they tend to be perfectionists.

Team workers (TW). These employees are really good at smoothing over the tensions and difficulties that come up when people are working hard on creative endeavors. They excel at working and playing with others, but they can be indecisive when it comes time to make team decisions about the best course of action.

Shapers. These employees act as a kind of engine for the team. They can effectively get others going and create momentum. Typically shapers are highly driven and enthusiastic individuals. Their weakness tends to be being overly aggressive and temperamental in their desire to get the team’s work done.

The Specialist. The specialist of the group might only know how to do one thing, but she or he is an expert at it. Their focus is narrow and in-depth, which can be both their strength and their weakness.

An ideal team will be balanced with all nine roles being expressed. Since many teams are smaller than nine people, you may find that different team members excel at multiple roles. When you identify a key strength in one of your employees, for example, an employee who is highly energetic, then you can help them fulfill one or more roles on your team. The energetic employee for example might be good at being a shaper as well as being a resource investigator. Someone who is highly critical can be either a completer finisher or a monitor evaluator or both.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun


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