making the most of your day.

by - Thursday, October 25, 2012

I am an administrative assistant for a very creative-type boss. I’m sure you can understand, then, that balance is a very important part of my job. I am constantly accessing the left side of my brain to organize and implement systems, analyze situations, make decisions on the fly, and keep appointments – but I’m naturally inclined to live from the right side of my brain. I maintain calendars and correspondences, but I help write song lyrics and build brands. I make phone calls and create spreadsheets, but I read literature on my lunch breaks and play piano on my coffee breaks. I coordinate, but I also create. It’s a very delicate balance, one I’m still learning. My “admin” qualities are gifts and abilities, but my intuitive side is the essence of who I am.
Because I’m naturally a creative, fun, and spontaneous person, environment is important to me. I spent quite a few months trying to be productive and building systems, schedules, and bulletin boards with millions of “to-do” post-its. I found that while the job was getting done, I was getting less and less content with the state of my mind and my emotions. I came to find that because I spend 40+ hours a week in this office, the environment of my workspace was a very important one: one that had to be filled with positivity and inspiration.
I learned a valuable lesson through my experience: making the most out of your day isn’t a productivity issue, it’s a perspective issue. I can get a million things done for the sake of productivity, but there are probably a lot of details I’ve overlooked because my mind and my heart weren’t in it; I was just working for the sake of speeding through the project. But I find that when I make sure that I have the correct perspective, it makes a difference on my productivity levels, encourages a more exact schedule, and brings the very balance I strive to achieve.
I know that there are a lot of twenty-something young women who are career-minded, very driven, and probably a little frustrated. We turn to Pinterest and Twitter, other blogs, and friendships to keep us entertained and we rush through our work, the very tasks that our career requires, the career we work so hard to build upon and maintain.
Here are some things to consider when looking at your life as a “creative perfectionist”, to be sure that your perspective is encouraging maximum productivity:
1.       Check your atmosphere. If you can’t sit back in your chair, look around, and feel relaxed, there’s probably something about your workspace that is slowing you down.

I find that putting a desktop background with encouraging quotes or pictures of beautiful places around the world really inspires me – I’ll close the window I’m working in and see something motivational, colorful, and fun, and it will jump start me into the next task.

I’ve started keeping fresh flowers in my office, and try to embrace as much natural/low light as possible. If fluorescent lighting is your only hope, try having dark colored things on your desk to mute the brightness of it. I also have a wickless candle – the vanilla scent makes me feel warm and increases my comfort with my surroundings.

Music really helps me keep going – if I’m feeling distracted, I’ll listen to music in another language, or I’ll listen to movie soundtrack music. It’s enough to keep me focused, but it also lifts my spirits and keep me comfortable.

2.       Schedule your day. Somehow, and I’m still not sure how it happens, I’ll spend so much time on catching up with my emails, or answering phone calls, and I’ll get swamped immediately. But, like my dad always said when I begged him to let me clean my room another time – “Jessica, it’s your choice: you can break up the cleaning for 10 minutes a day, or you can spend 3 hours cleaning it. You’ll be doing the same tasks either way, but one teaches you the importance of maintenance.” It’s almost spooky how often this applies to my everyday life. I can let the phone calls and emails pile up for a couple of days and spend an hour or so getting everything done, or I can check them every morning and spend 5 minutes on it. I use Microsoft Outlook and break my day down into tasks. Each task requires a specific amount of time (I overestimate, for the sake of staying close to schedule), and I get a notification 5 minutes before it’s time to move on. This helps me stay on task, and if I have extra time, I’m just running ahead. It really gives me a perspective on how much more efficient maintaining my tasks can be.

3.       Take advantage of your free time. Most people are hourly pay, with 8 hour shifts. The law requires that if you are a full time, hourly employee, you get a 10 minute coffee break in the morning, a one hour lunch, and a 15 minute coffee break in the afternoon. Use these times to sit back and think, go outside to soak up some vitamin E, or appreciate your favorite hot drink. Try keeping a gratitude journal (writing 5 things you’re thankful for each day) or keep a book at work to chisel away at on your break times. While it may seem that working through your day keeps you focused, it’s a proven fact that taking small breaks throughout your day will increase productivity and decrease that sleepy feeling you get around 11:00am and 3:00pm.

At the end of the day, the goal is not to have pretty flowers or a stack of journals, the goal is to look around at your workspace, look forward to your future, and look inward at your life and career, and smile. This is a way to make yourself feel content so that you can work harder and run faster. Perspective is so much more important than productivity, but if you have the correct perspective, you’ll be able to do so much more than you imagined.

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