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A New Year’s reflection: Time, tools, space

A new year is an ideal time to reflect on your work, the environment and the tools you use to determine what worked well and what needs to be improved. Here are evaluation points and suggestions for enhancements to make 2012 a great year.

Your Work

1. Do you love what you do? Do Mondays excite you for the opportunities they present? If not, now is the time to examine what it would take to make you excited about your job. Schedule some time with your manager and explore ideas that excite you and add value to the company.

2. Is your career on a growth path? Are you able to explain how the work you are doing today will build skills to allow you to change or grow your role in a year or two? You need to decide what you want out of your career and ensure you are constantly working toward those objectives.

3. Do you have the knowledge, training and skills to move beyond your current responsibilities? This might entail going back to school or taking select course work. Consider trade school for specific skills. Volunteering also builds skills that contribute to leadership, planning and motivating teams. It is up to you to keep and grow your skills.

4. Do you know how your role, your team and your department fit within the organization? This requires a deeper engagement with the company. Knowing how your work contributes to the overall firm contributes to pride in ownership. If you don't know, make every effort to find out. Your position is more important than you realize.

The Environment

1. Is your workspace comfortable for the job you perform? Consider the lighting, location of the phone, and visual distractions. Make the necessary adjustments so you are most comfortable. Add a desk lamp for focused lighting, rearrange your desktop to maximize efficiency, adjust the furniture to avoid distractions and interruptions.

2. Is your desktop clear? Many companies have a clean desk policy. The only materials on the desk should be relevant to the work being performed. It's a great policy because it helps you stay focused on the project at hand, allowing you to work faster and more efficiently. It also provides a bit of security, removing sensitive materials from roaming eyes and sticky fingers.

3. Are you drowning in email? Over the course of the past year, it is likely you signed up for list services and newsletters to gather information on specific topics. Review all the services and unsubscribe from lists you no longer need. If you find you are not opening the emails or are archiving them without review, get off those lists.

4. Control disruptions. Psychology studies have shown that it takes 20 minutes to get back to the level of concentration on a project after an interruption. That's a lot of lost productivity! Develop a work rhythm that enables you to be most productive. Just because the phone rings or email pops up doesn't mean you have to respond immediately. Take control of disruptions by shutting down all applications not being used for the work at hand. Respond to voicemail and email in blocks, three or four times a day.

The Tools

1. Getting organized. Do you have two or three separate calendaring systems, a similar number of To-Do lists, and numerous electronic devices? Consider consolidating. That ephemeral notion of work-life balance can only be achieved when you can see all of your commitments and obligations in a holistic view. Have a master calendar, To-Do list and primary electronic device.

2. Build a plan. Do you have a plan for contributing to your firm's goals and objectives that also moves you along your career path? In project planning there is the critical path. These are the activities that absolutely must get accomplished for the project to be considered complete. Build a critical path for the coming year broken down by quarter and monthly milestones. Make sure the work you do consistently contributes to meeting the milestones.

3. Acquire and know how to use your tools. Take the time to do the tutorials for new applications and tools. In the long run you will save time and effort.

The business world is going through significant transitions. Change can be scary or it can be opportunistic. It is up to you to ensure you are focused and prepared for whatever comes your way.
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Martha Young

Martha Young is principal at NovaAmber, LLC, a business strategy company based in Golden. Young has held positions as industry analyst, director of market research, competitive intelligence analyst, and sales associate. She has written books, articles, and papers regarding the intersection of technology and business for over 15 years. She has co-authored four books on the topics of virtual business processes, virtual business implementations, and project management for IT. Young can be reached at myoung@novaamber.com or on Twitter @myoung_vbiz




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