How to Be Productive in a Cubicle

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Do you work in a cubicle or open office environment?How to Be Productive in a Cubicle

Are you looking to better focus on your work and get more work during the day?

While a cubicle work environment doesn’t offer much in the way of privacy, you can make a few adjustments to help you concentrate on and finish your work.

In this post, I offer several tips to help you get more work done in an open space or cubicle environment.

Block out distracting sounds.

It can be extremely hard to concentrate on your work when people are noisy, loud, and gabbing away incessantly in the cubicle next to yours.

Focus your attention by generating your own curated sounds…or silence!

You could listen to soft or energizing music through earbuds, use an app or device to play white noise to block nearby sound, or use good old-fashioned earplugs when things get a bit too overwhelming in the decibel department.

Clean up your workstation.

A productive work environment means organizing your work environment in such a way that it allows you to work quickly and efficiently. Place files in a file holder or filing cabinet, properly store office supplies, get rid of clutter, and create a resource binder for documents.

If you’re constantly sitting in front of the computer, but have other non-computer work to do, why not clear out a little area in your cubicle dedicated to non-computer work? It just has to be an open space, free of clutter. You can focus on your work, without being distracted or tied to the computer.

Use an inbox/outbox.

Make it easy for others to deliver and pick up documents and packages at your workspace. Dust off and empty out that hidden inbox/outbox sitting on your desk. Place the unit in a prominent and easy-to-access location in your cubicle, such as near the entrance.

The next time someone stops by for mail delivery or pickup, let them know you’ve installed a new inbox/outbox. They can pick up and drop off items without disturbing you as you work.

Adjust your workflow according to office routines.

While you can’t change the physical layout of your office, you can make use of the existing routines within your office, and put them to your advantage. How do you do this? Well, you just have to make some careful observations and adjustments to your work habits.

For example, let’s say it gets a bit rowdy in your area right before lunchtime, with people taking a break from their desks, having conversations, walking around, and the like. That probably wouldn’t be a good time to do work that requires your careful thought and concentration. But what about that first hour at work from 9 A.M. – 10 A.M.? Everyone is pretty quiet and sedate after their commutes, so that might be a good time to dig into a more difficult or advanced task.

Dutifully deal with drop-ins.

It’s a somewhat sad fact of cubicle life: colleagues and coworkers will stop by your desk and interrupt you as you work. Some of these interruptions may be warranted and related to actual work issues, while others will be social visits.

It’s up to you to handle these drop-ins quickly and efficiently, especially if you’re on a deadline or are trying to complete some work. If a coworker drops by unannounced with a non-urgent request, politely tell them you are on deadline and that you can’t speak right at that moment. You could ask them to send you a meeting request, or you could mutually schedule a time the next day or later in the day to meet.

Yes, the above does take practice, tact, and self-control, but you must learn how to appropriately handle interruptions in an interruption-based environment.

Make use of different office environments.

Does your office have a variety of enclosed private spaces, such as conference rooms, empty offices, libraries, or study rooms? If so, you may want to take advantage of these spaces every now and then. Working in a different location may help you do your more work more quickly, than if you were to do the same work at your desk or cubicle. For example, if you need to review an important document without distractions, you could make arrangements to use one of these spaces for an hour, and work in peace and quiet.

Get away from your desk at lunch time.

It’s lunch time! Don’t let today be a repeat of yesterday’s lunch spent blankly staring at your computer screen while eating sandwich. One of the best things you can do for your productivity levels is to take your full lunch break…away from your desk. Get up and eat your lunch in the cafeteria, grab a bite at a local cafe or restaurant, or sit and eat outdoors in a local park or public space. You’ll be more refreshed and alert for doing so, which translates into…you got it…a more productive afternoon.   

How about you? Have you ever worked in an open space or cubicle environment? What steps did you take to help yourself focus and get your work done? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.