When Work Noise Murdered my Concentration…

stockvault-blood-rose-macro133785Some time ago I wrote a post about work efficiency. Aniela, one of the readers, pointed out then how hard it is to focus while working in an open space office as it is noisy and full of distractions. People talking loudly to each other, phone conversations, constant buzz of office equipment can be a real productivity killer not only for people working in cubicles. Nowadays, growing trend to promote open-door office manner of work produces not as much friendlier working environment as increasing number of frustrated workers who cannot focus properly in such conditions.

Long exposure to noise, even if it’s not very loud, can have many unpleasant consequences like elevated blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, increased stress level or even vertigo. Its primary cause is adrenaline which when elevated triggers narrowing of blood vessels that affects all cardiovascular system. With time the effects of constant noise can lower our threshold for noise producing sleep disturbance, which results in sleeping problems, as every noise is interpreted by our body as too loud. I am sure that everybody at least once in their life experienced such situation that suddenly in the middle of the night our fridge seemed to work as loud as a lawn mower not allowing us to relax and fall asleep.

Although people have a natural biologically conditioned tendency – known as the cocktail party effect – to tune in and out unwanted noise, aggravated noise level and long exposure to it can effectively disable this natural barrier.

There are, however, possible measures to be taken in order to reduce unpleasant effects of work noise.

The Office layout

If possible, you can rearrange the office space, and move office equipment further from the working area. The distance will make your co-workers and you think twice before printing out something unnecessary. It will also decrease the level of noise in your immediate vicinity.

Another solution is a noise absorber that you can suggest your boss to install on the ceiling or on the walls. Obviously it depends on the budget of the company, but pros are in this case prevailing: lower level of stress, decreased level of doctor’s leaves, increased overall productivity, and better working conditions resulting in increased loyalty to the company.

Individual measures

You yourself can also take some preventive measures to cut yourself off the work noise.

The most common way to do it is to invest in noise cancelling headphones or even real ear silencers if you are not fond of music while working. They look like headphones but muffle sound more effectively taking you to the refreshing world of silence.

Many people find a sound barrier extremely useful. They play music which distracts brain from other more distant sounds, making them more focused on their work. Personally, when I am working, music with lyrics distracts me a lot, especially when the song is sang in a different language that I am working in. But smooth jazz, piano or classical music relaxes me a lot and allows me to write even in a crowded park or in a busy coffee shop. Research shows that classical music not only increases your brain performance but also reduces anxiety and decreases blood pressure level.

In case you are not fond of classical music, but you would still like to use a noise bubble to your advantage, you can always turn to white noise generating applications available for free on the Internet, like Simply Noise that generates different sounds assigned to different colours. Those sounds resemble real nature sounds like wind or ocean and separate you from the office buzz quite effectively not distracting you at the same time.

However, if nothing proves useful for you, you can always try to change your schedule. Why not trying to come a bit earlier before everybody else, and do tasks that require from you the highest level of concentration, leaving less strenuous ones for later. This way you are killing two birds with one stone, since you approach your tasks with your morning well-rested brain that is well-prepared for handling problems.

My last advice that I find worth trying out is prioritizing your work in order to naturally separate yourself from the office noise. I am sure that you have noticed that when you are really into something you tend to zone out totally from the world of living. Your concentration level is higher when you work on something that you find passionate. Taking advantage of this natural biological conditioning, try to work on your schedule organizing tasks that you find fascinating and boring in turns in order to keep your concentration level elevated.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution, and we have to get used to the fact that we live in the society and we will never get rid of noise produced by others, unless we move into a forest to become a hermit. Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind that work noise is a natural product of a busy working environment, and actually many people find it energizing and motivating. Maybe it’s time to try to change the perspective … Is it possible to get used to work noise and find it useful for our level of creativity?

How To Be Professional in the World of Business

stockvault-businessman-and-crystal-globe113846Entering the realm of business, as exciting as it is, brings about many changes in your life. Being responsible for your business means being responsible for how you look, what you say, and how you say it. The same goes for people that are in charge of representing their company or their company product/service to the outside world.

Leaving the image grooming for stylists, I would like to focus on the image that you create by communicating with your customers, potential customers, competitors or business partners. Effective communication is not easy, and you have to take into consideration many different factors before you can take your idea to the general public.

Here are some clues how to convey a successful and professional message that will enhance the probability of your product/service success.

 

KNOW YOUR ENEMY

It is vital that before any business meeting or product/service presentation you get to know your target audience. I am not encouraging any industrial espionage, but rather suggesting that you make an attempt to adapt yourself to the kind of people you are going to deal with in order to create the most appropriate atmosphere for your message to be positively viewed.

Adequate dress code and manners are highly required while talking to people on high positions. They perceive it respectful, and yes, they will notice if your tie has stains. Such a small neglect can drastically decrease your image, and significantly influence future decisions of your audience.

Your concepts have to be understandable from the very beginning so your target audience does not get lost. This would require from you some linguistic preparation. Learn proper vocabulary, especially while talking to people of a particular specialty, like IT, mathematics, physics, etc., who are used to technical terms. You do not have to rearrange your entire personal dictionary, but make sure you know what you are talking about, and eliminate such rookie mistakes as confusing terms or using them incorrectly.

 

EKHM…, UM…, EEEE…

While presenting a product or idea, make sure you are prepared, and know exactly what you want to say. Anticipate possible questions beforehand to omit hesitation particles which make you look less competent in the eyes of your audience. Never read from the paper! You are competent and an expert in your own field and that is the image that you want to sell out. Write down all the main points which you want to mention, but do not put your whole presentation on paper; bullet points which you can expand further with your own words are extremely helpful, since they facilitate the flow of your speech, and keep you from being stressed about forgetting something.

 

OOPSIE DAISY…

In spite of our constant fight for perfection, we are all fallible. Do not be afraid to admit making an error. There is no point in hiding it, if at some point you get painfully aware of the fact that you confused some terms or presented the wrong product or service. Upon spotting a mistake our primal instinct tells us to make up an excuse or deny it. However, admitting to a mistake makes us more human in the eyes of our audience.

Getting it off your chest also lowers your own level of stress, and increases your credibility. Making an excuse is more energy consuming than acknowledging an error. It also leaves us with a risk of being incoherent during the rest of the presentation. You have to remember that mistakes are unavoidable, and what makes all the difference is how we handle them in public.

 

SIZE MATTERS

One of many rules of the world of business is respect to your fellow businessmen, which refers to the size of a message you want to convey. You cannot be too descriptive nor too stingy with details. You have to be exact in both writing and speaking. This is why you should skip formal style and stick to semi-formal business style which aims at exactness and presentation of bare facts. No phatic communication is allowed – it is meaningless, thus redundant. Do not mistake a fact-based style with being impolite – you should always start with a greeting and finish with a farewell, but put aside weather conditions, health issues or latest office gossip.

Establishing certain image of your business is as difficult as it is important for its further development. Every little detail counts, and every little detail can decide upon your overall success. The art of presenting a product or idea is one of the most crucial business activities you will have to face in your professional career. Nowadays, the inspiration is not everything. You have to be able to promote it, and wrap it in an encouraging and interesting package to attract your target customer base or simply to convince your future investors of its lucrativeness. Bearing that in mind, make sure that you yourself are as presentable and perfect as your product.

5 Secrets of Improving Your Work Flow

stockvault-pen-on-diagram103903Being an effective person usually means being able to do many different chores simultaneously in very little time. However, many people, including researchers, believe that multitasking is a myth.

Adam Gazzaley a professor of neurology form the University of California claims that human brain is extremely sensitive to external stimuli, and is able to cope with such interruptions only to a limited extent. Every little distraction (phone call, sudden loud noise, etc.) overloads and resets our brain which has to work hard to recover rapidly all the data necessary for the completion of the task we were working on.

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‘Just one more wall post…’

At the same time, people are not able to resist “friendly nudges,” as Professor Gazzaley calls them. Most of us do not switch our phones off when working on something important. Not only that; we tend to answer it every time it calls, diminishing our mental capability to finish what we started. However, nowadays it is not phone calls as much as social media that is most threatening to our brain proper functioning. According to Nucleus Research, 77% of employees use Facebook during work hours which decreases work productivity by 1.5%.

Interrupting your own work flow is like shooting into your own team’s goalpost. You use more energy upon finishing any task which makes you tired quicker than normally. You are more easily distracted which again leads to loads of errors, frustration and general hatred directed at your work, work mates and quite possibly your boss – the usual reason for all world’s evilness.

So, is there any way that you can keep your work flow going smoothly without having to resign from every pleasurable parts of your working time?

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Perfect Timing – the Key to Success

The secret of smooth, efficient performance is strict time management and self-control. The very first step is to organise your duties according to their relevance. Here, with help and advice comes Stephen Covey with his 4 Quadrants of Time Management, starting with the explanation that the real “challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.” The key to success is strong will power to proceed according to what we planned.

To make a perfect plan, we should divide our tasks into urgent and important. Very often if something is urgent it is not important, like a phone call or a colleague who wants our opinion or help. In certain situations, when our work flow is in danger we have to learn to say ‘not right now.’

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Change Your Aim

Obviously never answering the phone or being too assertive towards your work mates is not a good plan for business development nor for working relationships, but we have to be conscious that these actions are only a reaction to a present pressing matter. Being efficient is by all means not living in a moment; it is all about Prevention and Preparation, which combined eliminate Urgent. Too often we tend to procrastinate if we come across a matter that is important but has extended deadline, instead of including it into our schedule and work on it step by step.

Thinking in perspective enables to see probable obstacles and to create an emergency plan for them. In the long run, it avoids us to make unnecessary mistakes, which disrupts our work flow and even sometimes forces us to take a step back.

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A Proper System of Reward

A schedule is another important efficiency enhancer. If we prioritise our goals into short and long-term, organise our work day, we feel more secure, our intentions are more flesh-and-blood, and we can tackle them one by one. Crossing out accomplished tasks gives us warm feeling of reward, and motivates us to do more.

But why not take the reward further? I say, do a task and take five to charge your batteries. In this short period of time you can visit Facebook, have a chat with a colleague or just eat some snack. It is important that the break is long enough to get you relaxed but short enough not to make you disconnected from your working mode.

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Order Outside, Order Inside

To be organized means to have everything under control. Everything includes your working environment which should reflect your inner order. Clean desk, neatly organized files, both in your filing cabinet and in your computer, not only make you work faster, but also create an aura of being in control which increases your self-assurance, making you eager to achieve as much as you can in order to prove yourself.

To be effective, you have to learn how. It is more time-consuming at first, but it brings many incentives. You have to learn how to organise your schedule in a way that is helpful to you, hence you need to experiment a bit. Remember that your planning kit should be your servant and it is not you who should adapt to it. A schedule tailored to your needs, self-control and harnessed time management with time will make you feel balanced with your workload, help making value-based decisions, and enhance opportunity-minded rather than problem-minded way of thinking.

Dear Reader, I am sure that you already have many other ways of coping with time management and work efficiency. Would you like to share your secrets of your perfect working day? Or maybe your system of reward is worth mentioning … 🙂