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How To Think Waaaaay Beyond Work Tasks

how-to-think-way-beyond-work-tasks

You would not believe how many work spaces I scoped out before finally deciding on one. I’m not an especially picky person, but I am very sensitive to my physical environment. Always have been. Too noisy? Forget it. Too cluttered? Stress! Too stark or sterile? Ew, how uninspiring. When it comes to my workspace, I’m like Goldilocks; it has to be juuuuust right.

I like my space to feel like a hug – warm and welcoming and calming, with a touch of nature. Gimme some exposed brick, some unfinished wood, lots of plants, and a big plush chair and I’m a happy camper. I’m a better coach, better writer, better businesswoman, better everything in that space.

Get me in the wrong space and I’m frustrated, brain fried, and distracted. But get me in the right space and it’s like MAGIC. Why? Because my physical environment happens to be one of the most important ingredients for creating my ideal work conditions. In choosing the right space, I’m creating the conditions for successful work.

Creating the right work conditions – that’s worth thinking about. The right conditions (and physical environment is just the tip of the iceberg) can raise the quality of your work and elevate your level of happiness and fulfillment.

Consider your work schedule. Even if you work a rigid nine-to-five schedule, you probably have some autonomy in how you split up your work tasks, how you group various work activities, and how you manage your time. I only recently discovered my ideal work schedule and it has made a huge difference. Your schedule is definitely one of the ways you can create ideal conditions for successful work.

What about your ideal level of interaction at work? How much do you like connecting with and working with others? A little or a lot? And how many people do you like working with at once? These questions largely depend on your level of extraversion.

I’m extremely introverted, so I manage my time with others very carefully. Large groups (hell, even small groups) are just not my jam. In fact, I find them exhausting. If I’m speaking at a conference I’ll take regular “recharge” breaks by finding a quiet place to walk or sit by myself before joining the crowd again.

I prefer interacting with people one-on-one, which is why I do individual coaching instead of group coaching. That intimacy is important to me. Even so, I schedule at least 30 minutes of quiet “me time” (checking email, writing….okay, often farting around on Facebook) in between each of my appointments with clients. It helps me recharge and refocus my energy so I can be fully present for my next client.

Something as simple as choosing to work using digital or analog tools might also play a part in creating your ideal conditions for successful work. Many of us are hunched over our computers and phones all day, but there are often opportunities to kick it old school with pen and paper. Sometimes switching from digital to analog makes your work drastically better, not to mention refreshing and more enjoyable.

Most of my writing (including this) is scribbled in a little notebook before it ever gets published. I do too much editing and self censorship when I write directly into my MacBook. Paper and pen feels more free. I can be messy. I think more creatively. I’ve heard similar remarks from graphic designers who prefer to sketch on paper before using software, and from business professionals working on everything from proposals to copywriting to events – people who say they think more creatively when they’re occasionally sitting with a writing instrument and a blank page. Haven’t stepped away from your screen in a while? Give it a whirl.

Other things to consider when you’re thinking about creating your ideal work conditions: Do you like to work with your hands? Do you want to make something? Be creative? Indoors or outdoors? Use your imagination? Use logic? Problem solve? Help others? How much structure do you like? How important is flexibility to you? What kind of people do you like to work with, if any? Do you like novelty or routine? How do you feel about commuting? Do you like mental work or physical work or a combination of both? What kind of office culture do you like? Do you want to work for a big company or a small one or a startup or your own business? How important is salary? Commission? Benefits? Security? Mentorship? Creative freedom? The list goes on and on and on.

Of course the notion of creating ideal conditions for success can extend beyond your work life and into your personal life, too. Take health, for example. A lot of people love going to the gym. Not me. Put me on a treadmill and I’m borderline suicidal, but a long walk in nature? Giddy up. I’m in. For me, nature is an important component of physical health. For you it might be adventure, or mindfulness, or team sports. To each his own.

And cooking! Some people are magicians in the kitchen. I am not one of those people. I’m impatient and easily frustrated. I have a terrible habit of trying to cook when I’m already starving and I have no ingredients to work with. When I realize I can’t MacGyver a meal together out of week-old asparagus and a tube of toothpaste I get all stabby. I’m like King Kong in the kitchen.

To create the right conditions for success in the kitchen I need a plan and the right ingredients on hand, which is why I recently started creating a weekly menu and matching grocery list (therefore creating my ideal conditions for success). Things are so much easier now. I’m not thrashing angrily when I try to cook anymore.

The takeaway? Getting clear on the right conditions for your career can mean the difference between a happy camper and, well, King Kong, whether it’s in the kitchen or at work.