A productive environment is defined as an intentional setting where everything around you supports who you are and who you want to be. That environment can be anything from your desk space, to your kitchen counter, to your e-mail inbox. However, if your environment is filled with items that don’t belong in the space, your efficiency and success can be severely impacted.

One of the most important steps to creating a productive environment is to organize the space, use your time efficiently when you are in the space, and ensure the information or tools you need to operate in the space can be located easily. With that in mind, the following are some suggestions to help you create a productive environment in some of the common areas where you work and live.

Office or Desk Space
To make your work space as efficient as possible, I suggest you have and know how to use the following items:

  • Desktop Trays – An inbox, an outbox, and “To File” bin. Just be sure to schedule regular times to go through these containers and act on the items inside, in order to keep your piles from mounting.
  • Trash and Recycle Bin, Shredder – When you go through the paper in your office you have 3 choices: act on it, file it, or get rid of it. If you don’t need the paper then drop it in your recycle bin, or if it contains confidential information, then shred it.
  • Calendar & To-Do List(s) – It’s helpful to always know where you need to be and what you need to get done in order to be your most productive self. Maintain a well organized to-do list that you use in conjunction with your calendar in order to schedule the time to get things done.
  • Contact Management System – Searching for contact information on random scraps of paper, within e-mails that are cluttering your inbox, or on business cards strewn about your desk is very inefficient. Develop a well organized contact management system, and for maximum efficiency ensure that it portable and backed-up.
  • Project Files – Create project files for each current project you’re working on. Keep them within easy reach so you can access them often.
  • Reference Files – Are used to store information you want to keep but don’t need ready access to all the time.

I’m not suggesting you multi-task while driving so that you can be productive, however, you can make the most of your travel time with a few simple tips:

  • A Portable Office – When you’re out and about, you never know when you might have a few minutes of available time (standing in line or waiting for a meeting or appointment). Store a portable bag in your car with articles to read, pens/pencils, stationary, sticky notes, a notepad, or anything else that can help you accomplish a few things when you have idle time.
  • Navigation System or Maps – Getting lost or taking a wrong turn can throw off your whole schedule when your day is already very busy. If you’re car does not have a built in navigation system or you don’t have a portable GPS, than spend a few minutes (on Google Maps or other navigation site) before heading out the door to determine where you need to be and how you are going to get there.
  • Emergency Kit – Keep a well stocked emergency kit so that you’re prepared for minor or major mishaps. You can make your own or purchase a pre-packed kit.
  • Your Trunk – Using cardboard boxes or plastic bins to hold the items you store in your trunk (portable files, emergency kit, ball for your weekly tennis game, etc.) will prevent them from rolling around and allow you to find what you need when you need it.

Your Mind
If your mind is constantly filled with negative thoughts such as, “I need to do this…”, “I should have done that…”, “I could never do that.” then you are not being your most productive self. Don’t clutter your mind with these negative thoughts, instead create an action to do something about the problem. Make a list of the steps you need to take to get something done and schedule a time to do them. When you’ve messed up on something, write-down what you would do differently next time to make the situation better. Or if fear is holding you back on a challenging task, quiet that fear, and charge forward with “What’s the worst that could happen if I do this?”

Sharing a meal with those you care about can be a very enjoyable experience. However, if preparing a meal in your kitchen involves first clearing the counters of the daily mail and your kids’ school work or opening every cupboard to find the one ingredient you need, you’re not being very efficient. The suggestions below will make cooking a lot easier and allow you to reap the benefits of time well spent with family and friends.

  • Counters – Learn to love clean counters. Clean up dishes after each meal and find alternate spots for your family to drop mail, homework, and other papers.
  • Pots, Pans, Spices and Oils – Locate them near your cook top to make meal preparation easy and efficient.
  • Tools – If your cooking tools are stored in a drawer, make sure it does not become a junk drawer by limiting the amount of tools you store in one drawer or using drawer dividers to keep items separate. Another option is to store your tools in a utensil holder on top of your counter within reach of where you do meal preparation.
  • Pantry – Create zones for similar items: baking, kids snacks, canned goods, pasta, etc. so you can easily find what you are looking for when you need it. If you have deep shelves, use labeled rectangular bins to store like items so that you can pull out the entire bin rather than having to move 5 things out of the way to get to the one item you need in the back of the shelf.
  • Clean Up – Try to clean up when the meal is over. The longer the mess sits the less motivated you will be to get the job done. Make clean up a family activity or create a rotating chore chart to ensure everyone is helping out.

Where do you spend a majority of your time? Is it a productive environment? Share your comments and suggestions regarding your most productive space at facebook.com/moretimeforyou.