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Organization and Your Work Space

Saturday, November 26, 2016 @ 02:11 PM

Organization and Your Work Space


Is your office work space laid out in an efficient way?  If not, it could be costing you precious time as you hunt for the stapler or look for the file that was on your desk just yesterday. Additionally, a messy or inefficient space can distract you when you are working on a top priority project.


If it’s time to organize, look at your space with fresh eyes to create a more functional work space.  First consider what you do in your office space and make a list of the activities. Think about your space as work zones. For example: the desk area is for budget planning and meeting clients; the computer zone is for writing reports, email and research; the table is for ongoing project files. It’s a good idea to sketch your space and label the zones. Are there pieces of furniture that could increase the efficiency of your space? For example, if you have too many files in a desktop file unit then a small filing cabinet by the desk might be a useful addition.


Organize your main work space by answering the question, “What do I need so I can function effectively in this space?” Think about what supplies are required for each work zone. Things in daily use should be closest to hand; those items used weekly can be further away. If you have monthly or yearly items consider storing them behind or underneath more frequently needed items. They shouldn’t be using prime real estate space.


Ascribe to the “clean as you go” philosophy. The easier it is to get your common tools the easier it is to put them back when you are done. Consider containers to hold supplies and projects. Choose the right container size by the contents you have. Whenever possible pick clear containers so you can see what’s inside at a glance.


Why not take a few minutes to look at your space from this perspective. It’s amazing what a few small organizational changes can do to create efficiencies in your work flow.


Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc

Organizational Management and Tough Mental Tasks

Thursday, July 28, 2016 @ 04:07 PM

Organizational Management and Tough Mental Tasks


Some things we do can be pretty much done on auto pilot. Then there are the parts that require sustained, intense mental energy. How can you stay focused on challenging mental work and still avoid mental fatigue? One way is to reduce the brain’s perception of the effort needed. Whenever possible match your best mental self with the tough mental tasks and challenges in your day.


If you have to make multiple decisions before getting to a tough task you are more likely to procrastinate and then quit the tough task early. Do yourself a favour and routinize your low priority items and unimportant tasks. This eliminates the need for using precious mental energy on less important things. For example, pick out what you’ll wear to work the night before and on workday mornings plan to eat the same healthy breakfast every day. This saves your all-important mental energy for high priority decisions.


Aim to do your most important work early in the day when your willpower is strongest. Be consistent with work breaks. Some time away from the tough task can allow your unconscious to wrestle with the information. Often, after changing tasks for a few minutes or taking a break, the obvious answer magically appears.


How you view the amount of effort required to do a job seems to matter most. If you allow yourself to feel overwhelmed by a task you may be imagining it as harder than it actually is. Step back, take an objective look at the tough task and then break it down into smaller bites.


Bring your effectiveness A game to completing tough mental tasks. Save your brainpower for important decisions, do tough tasks early in the day, take breaks to recharge and break the big task down into smaller-sized chunks.


Fern Richardson MBA CED


Managing your networks

Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 06:05 PM

Organizational Management and Networks


Today’s workplace is a networked world. Networks can be about working face-to-face in a team environment or through our use of computer technology. Here are a few tips about developing a good network.


  • Be sure to invest in existing relationships so help will be there when you need it. We also need to expand our network and not rely on a single, tightly connected group of strong ties.
  • Use a variety of tools that allow you to function in larger networks.
  • Choose the tools that will help you access a wider audience that share your interests.
  • Develop meaningful new ties and be alert to new social groups that help serve your purpose. I have noticed that many social media connections stick to one age range or industry area. This limits your network, after all they know the same things you do.
  • Look for diversity in your connections. Weaker ties give you access to different ideas and perspectives and effectively enlarge your access to different ideas and even wider networks.
  • Be a contributor to your groups and offer useful comments, resources and information.
  • Cultivate your networks, reach out to others, share support and information, invite conversations, provide useful feedback and make reciprocal gestures.


Your network should be more than just hitting connect or accept. To be effective, a network has to work for you and that means you have to work for it as well.


Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc


Networked: the new social operating system

Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman

MIT Press 2012


Personal Brand

Saturday, July 25, 2015 @ 02:07 PM

Organizational Management and Personal Brand

The concept of personal brand has been a popular topic in the last few years. We feel like we need to be constantly on the lookout for our next contract, position or entrepreneurial opportunity. Couple that with the ubiquitous presence of technology and social media which can spread our doings far and wide. Ultimately, your personal brand is first and foremost your reputation. What can you do to protect and enhance your personal brand? Here are some ideas to consider.

• Do some soul searching. Know who you are and what your brand is. There should be a common core that is central to your brand whether it is your website, your use of social media, your phone message or the bricks and mortar business.
• Be flexible and learn to function effectively in different contexts. Be willing to show different aspects of your personal brand to different audiences.
• Act intelligently in the situation you find yourself in. Remember on the internet there could be intense scrutiny from an audience of one, one thousand or more. As Dan Pink says, imagine what your grandmother and her 80 thousand twitter followers would think.
• Build high levels of trust and social capital in every network segment you operate within. Social networking is about discovering and interacting with those who can provide us with the resources we need. Trust and reciprocity are the common currency for effectively networked individuals.
• Manage the boundaries. There is a blurring of our public and private lives. Don’t destroy an impeccable personal reputation with a blunder that can last forever.
• Be aware of invisible audiences or watchers who may be helpful or harmful, for example, your competitors.
• A challenge common to the internet is that content may be accessed at a different time than when it was produced. Think broadly about what you write and post as you are communicating without fully understanding the potential or actual audience for your message.
• It’s one thing to develop your personal brand via networks but they also need to be maintained. Your personal brand may not benefit from exposure to every opportunity available. Manage your time and attention well to maintain ties in your networks.

Make your networks work effectively for you and your personal brand.

Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc

Networked: The new social operating system
Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman
MIT Press 2012

Organizational Management and Decisions

Saturday, June 7, 2014 @ 04:06 PM

Organizational Management and Decision Making

How human beings make decisions is endlessly fascinating to me. The burgeoning world of neuroscience adds to the existing body of research knowledge to help us understand how to make good decisions. When faced with major life decisions it is helpful to understand that our intuitive or gut response first choices have biases and fallacies that impact our decision making. We shouldn’t ignore our intuition but consider it as part of a larger process. Remember your cognitive complexity; the ability to look at a situation from multiple perspectives.

To make a major decision first make mental notes about your initial intuition regarding the path you should take. Then put those thoughts on the shelf for a while. Secondly seek out the opinions and ideas of others regarding the decision to be made. Perhaps you have the skills to be an objective observer yourself. Look at the big picture and consider the situation from a broader perspective. Third, play the devil’s advocate with your intuitive response to the decision. Consider the opposite of whatever your gut instinct is telling you. Systematically work through the possible consequences in your mind. Finally when faced with multiple decisions, weigh your options at the same time rather than as separate decisions. Research shows joint decision making results in better choices and is less prone to bias than making each decisions separately.

Fern Richardson

Sonja Lyubomirski; The Myths of Happiness; Penguin Press, 2013


Organizational Management and Aha Moments

Monday, September 16, 2013 @ 04:09 AM

Organizational Management and Aha Moments


You’ve probably had one of those flashes of blinding insight after which the world never looks quite the same. Where do these mental insights or aha moments come from? Do they truly come out of the blue? Graham Wallas believes aha moments are built on four phases of information processing:

1.       Mental preparation- when we recognize there is a problem

2.       Incubation-  when we don’t give the problem any active thought

3.       Illumination- when insight hits

4.       Verification- when we confirm the insight


Researcher Colleen Seifert stresses the importance of incubation and suggests that effective mental preparation generates mental bookmarks. These mental bookmarks reactivate when random information appears that bears on the problem. This is called opportunistic assimilation and relates to the saying, “chance favours the prepared mind.”


Seifert’s experiments show this priming effect between incubation and illumination. Simple exposure to words outside an individual’s awareness is often enough to impact performance on a variety of recall tasks such as word completion tests. Priming may extend to abstract reasoning and problem solving which have clear workplace implications.


We often hang inspirational posters in the workplace to encourage employees. After a while these posters blend into the background. Are they still effective? The priming effect suggests yes- these posters play a positive, if unconscious, role in supporting employees’ success. Of course, it takes more than a few snazzy posters to create a successful and productive workplace but every little bit helps.


Fern Richardson


Gregory Berns: Satisfaction: Sensation Seeking, Novelty, and the Science of Finding True Fulfillment Henry Holt and Co. 2006

Organization and Minutes

Saturday, March 9, 2013 @ 04:03 PM

Organization and Minutes


If it is important enough to hold a meeting it is important enough to take minutes.  There isn’t one right way to take minutes. There are different kinds of minutes ranging from informal action lists to in-depth tracking of everything that was said. It’s about choosing the right style of minutes for what you need to accomplish. Here’s an example of how minutes offered valuable information to a team.


A volunteer organization I belong to was tasked with taking over an existing society.  Although we had a good idea what the group had been doing in its ten year history we didn’t know if there were policy and procedures, motions critical to the group’s functioning or even how the executive went about their day-to-day business.  Enter the minutes.


I took on the responsibility of reading the minutes to look for motions, policy and plans. I was fortunate the society’s minutes were more than just an action list. Perusing the minutes proved to be a fascinating journey, following the group’s progress from early days as the society planned and developed a significant project. Over time members came and went, plans were made and altered or abandoned as circumstances changed, some ideas quietly disappeared. The minutes revealed much more than I could have imagined.


Most of us consider minutes as just a tracking tool listing who needs to do what before the next meeting. Minutes have the potential to be more than that- ensuring progress and documenting success.  Minutes are also an effective tool to help orient new members.


The original society mentioned above kept anecdotal minutes which generally include motions and decisions coupled with a brief summary of the key discussion points. These minutes became a history of the organization’s progress. The next time you review minutes of a meeting remember there is a whole world of organizational information at your fingertips.


Fern Richardson

Organization and Our Digital Devices

Saturday, September 1, 2012 @ 10:09 PM

Organization and Our Digital Devices


Have you heard of email apnea? I recently came across the term in Nora young’s book, The Virtual Self. The expression was coined by writer, speaker and consultant Linda Stone. Stone, a former senior Apple executive, noticed as people interact with their devices there is a tendency to draw shallow breaths or almost stop breathing entirely.


It seems there is a certain disembodiment that goes along with our use of digital devices.  Stone coined the phrase continuous partial attention to describe how the digital self goes through the world. Our desire to be plugged into everything may mean we exist on the periphery of everything.  Now if the term multi-tasking comes to mind, don’t kid yourself. This word, co-opted from the computer world, doesn’t hold true for us. Humans are not computers and we aren’t capable of true multitasking.


A symptom of continuous partial attention is when you feel you should check your device “just in case”, even if you are involved in something else at the moment.  We seem ungrounded as we forsake the place or experience we are presently in and anxiously look for what’s next.


Stop right now and notice for a moment how you are breathing. I don’t know about you but I recognize I’m guilty of the shallow breath and some days I spend a lot of time in front of digital devices. Shallow breathing can result in a fight or flight body response. It is important to recognize and correct this breathing pattern and develop a relaxation response. Remember that long, slow breath is as important on the exhale as the inhale.


We are all engaged in important work and need to manage our time and work load effectively. Digital devices are tools that can help us manage our time. However it is important to ensure the right things get done and that includes attending both to our physical self and enjoying the world around us in the here and now.


Fern Richardson


Nora Young: The Virtual Self: How our digital lives are altering the world around us, McClelland & Stewart, 2012