How to Organize Your Office for Maximum Productivity

By Neil Patel, originally posted on
Where you work affects how you work. Working in a cluttered, messy, or distracting environment will affect your work, and probably in a negative way. Where you work affects how you work. Working in a cluttered, messy, or distracting environment will affect your work, and probably in a negative way. If you’re like the average knowledge worker, you spend most of your time sitting in front of a computer screen. Even though your work revolves around a computer, your office as a whole should help you to be as productive as possible.
A well-organized office has huge benefits. In the first place, it provides a feeling of control and competence, which leads to higher levels of productivity. Second, the very fact that it’s organized defends against distractions. Your organized office can absorb the incoming work, and position you for success.

Start with a purge

You can’t create a productive workspace without The Purge. Depending on the condition of your office, the purge could take anywhere from a few hours to a whole day. The final goal of the purge is to have an office that is completely free of clutter.

Create a catch-it space

Every office needs a place to catch incoming junk. There are three main types of junk that flow into an office:
1) important documents,
2) stuff you need to keep (jacket, umbrella, travel mug), and
3) trash.
A catch-it space should be set up in the most obvious area of your office. If you have a door, create your catch-it space to the right of the door. If you’re in a cubicle, create a catch it space somewhere near the entrance. A catch-it space should have:
1) a credenza or tray for documents;
2) a shelf, hooks, or a box in which to place important items; and
3) a trashcan.
Your catch-it space helps you keep your office clean with little effort.

Keep your desktop clear of clutter 

The most important physical space in an office is the desktop. Most people find that they are most productive when working at a desktop that is free of clutter. Other people, mostly creative types, thrive in a setting that is disorderly. If you have a penchant for the creative and a secret love for the disorder, then do what suits you. Some entrepreneurs, famously including Tony Hsieh, love a messy desk.
For the less inspired among us, a clean and pristine desktop is the best option. Our work styles are reflected by our work surroundings; a clean workspace creates a productive workflow.

Place two document trays on your desk

A two-tray system is the simplest and most effective for handling incoming paper. The system works like this:
1) new tray, new documents;
2) old tray, documents you’ve opened or looked at, and need to deal with.
All new, unread, or unopened documents go in the new tray. This tray is for the benefit of people who wander into your office to toss stuff on your desk. Point to the tray. The new tray is for things that you still have to deal with. Unopened envelopes, folders, documents–it’s all waiting for you, neatly stacked, when you’re ready for it. The old tray is for things that you’ve opened but still need to deal with–scan, file, forward, etc. It’s like a to-do list, but at least it’s not scattered all over your office. This is a very simple approach, but it works wonders for eliminating paper clutter from a desk, freeing you to be more productive.

Create two zones

Not all work is created equal. You should approach office organization with this two-zone perspective.
Zone 1: Computer work. This is your traditional desktop. You spend most of your time here, knocking stuff out and getting things done.
Zone 2: Non-computer work. This is where you go to do non-computer stuff. It could be the same desk, but simply another area that is cleared of monitors, cords, and chargers. This is where you go when you thumb through documents, use your iPad, sign papers, scan documents, or stamp envelopes–whatever it is that doesn’t require a hands-on-the-keyboard approach to work.
The two-zone approach to an office helps you both organize your work and your approach to getting the types of things done that you deal with on a daily basis.

Place physical objects into drawers or organizing trays

Most offices need a few supplies. Even Andrew Hyde, the extreme minimalist who stripped his possessions down to 15 things, needs a place to put his iPhone, chargers, earphones, camera, sunglasses, and wallet. Whether you have 15 items or 500, you need a place to put it all–a place that is out of sight. A desk drawer is the logical place. Avoid the temptation to keep your cute stapler, fashionable tape dispenser, and adorable paper clip holder on top of your desk. For the most part, these supplies need to be stored in an organized and accessible place like a drawer.

Get a bigger trashcan

A bigger trashcan sounds a bit silly, but it’s actually a strategic hack. Here’s why. Most of the paper that comes into an office can be discarded or digitized rather than filed. Filing papers is one of the tasks that takes the most time, and is thus the most procrastinated. Because a large trashcan is more visible, you tend to think of it more often. When unnecessary paper comes into your workspace, you’re more likely to place it in the trashcan than to stack it in a disheveled paper tower of “No Clue What to Do With It.”
A bigger trashcan also prevents trashcan overflow. One of the worst forms of office clutter is a trashcan that reached its capacity three days ago. Get a bigger can, and you’ll be able to absorb more waste. Make sure to recycle!


Be sure to combine your personal productivity system with your office organization method. Some productivity methods recommend a certain approach to organizing your office. Whatever your preferred organizational method or productivity system, don’t wait to create your organized office. The longer you wait, the more time you waste. What methods do you use to create an organized office space?

Getting the Most Out of Networking


By Kayla Bayens

Networking can be a scary and stressful thing no matter how many times you do it. Especially if you happen to be in those fields that cater to those of us with social anxiety such as the technology fields. But there is no need to worry, even with your heart racing at one of these events as you try to schmooze you can still come out on top. Here are just a few of my pearls of wisdom on how to get the most out of a networking opportunity even if you might have social anxiety.

Nurture Existing Contacts

You never know what they future may hold. That truth carries over to the people around you as well. Your best friend in college may find themselves as upper management in your dream company. You and your former coworker may end up starting a business together because you kept in touch. Or an idea you held onto for a long time might finally be brought to life because you reached out to an old friend. Relationships are the biggest thing you need to focus on when networking. Not just creating and cultivating new ones, but maintaining old ones. Don’t neglect people because you feel like they can’t do anything for you. Networking isn’t about that, its about creating a web of connections that you can always fall back on. Whether that be for support, connections, collaboration, or advice.

Set Goals

You can’t achieve something if you don’t know what you are going for, so set clear goals for yourself. Take 20 business cards and don’t leave the event until all of them are gone. Decide you won’t leave without having made 5 meaningful new connections and setting up at least 1 meeting. Its really not a hard thing to do. However you first need to know what it is you are looking to get out of networking. Are you looking for a job? Or a business partner on a new venture? To increase your current business? Maybe you are on the other side trying to find a good person to hire. Whatever your situation, they need to come with goals. So sit down and spend 10 minutes deciding what those are and which ones are the most important.

Business Communication Duplicate modelKnow your story, make it stand out

You are you’re own best salesperson. Literally no one on the planet knows who you are and what you can do more then you do. So be confident in what you are selling. You are awesome, you are amazing, and you are going place! Before the event spend 10 to 15 minutes standing with your legs shoulder length apart, your back straight, and your hands on your hips. This is called a power pose and is proven to boost yourself confidence. Use this pose as you practice how to introduce yourself. Keep you’re introduction short so that its easier for both you, and the person you are meeting, to remember. Think of it like an elevator pitch for yourself. Something you can say in 30 seconds that explains who you are. Wither that be what you do, what you are looking for, why you are at the event, or just even who you want to be.

Customize every conversation

Now I know I just told you to have a pitch memorized but now I’m telling you to customize it. You should know your elevator pitch so well that you can tweak it as needed. Make the conversation personable from the beginning. If you don’t you’ll start to unconsciously sound robotic in your introductions and that will have an effect on the tone of the rest of your discussion. Have different little tidbits prepared for those their in suits, those their in casual clothing, artists, engineers, etc. Try and create something that will engage the person from the very beginning. I know it sounds like a lot of work, because it is. But the people you are meeting will take notice of the extra effort and you’ll be highly rewarded for it later on.

Smile & Mingle
Lets say say you come to the event by yourself. Who do you approach? Well the easiest people to approach and start a conversation with would be the people standing by themselves, much like you. If everyone is in groups already then pay attention to body language. Groups that all already know each other and just want to catch up with form closed shapes and be turned inward to each other. Groups open for people to join will be an open ended shape and make eye contact with people approaching. If you have some very social butterflies at the networking event they tend to make their groups more welcoming by making eye contact and smiling before moving to open the group to you.

Once you have selected your target then comes the introductions. Remember to smile as you firmly shake their hands, and repeat their names as they are given. The repetition will help you remember their names when you are talking to them. Make sure to stay focused on the conversation happening through active listening (something I can go over in a later post if needed). Ask questions for more information or details, or just to engage those in the group with the conversation happening. List more then you talk. I know that seems counter intuitive but alot of people when they get nervous just talk about whatever pops into their heads. Instead take in the conversation and be thoughtful with your responses and questions. Contribute to the discussion going on but make sure its in a meaningful way even if that means bringing in another perspective to something being talked about.

business-networking-meetingLastly, take notes. Its weird I know but you will need it. Maybe the conversation gives you a great idea, or something is mentioned you want to look more into. Heck you can even use it to take a few quick notes on what is being talked about or who said what to use later in your follow up emails. Remember you can never have too much information, but don’t let the note taking take over and keep you from the discussion.

Follow-up within 24hrs

Its best to work fast while you have someone’s attention. For this I suggest that the people you are meeting that seem like the most promising contacts, set up a meeting somewhere outside of the event right there and then. Arrange to get coffee the next morning, to get lunch, or to meet up after work for drinks. You need to strike while the iron is hot to make sure you can get the most out of the experience while you are still fresh in their minds. Now this won’t always be possible especially if they are like me and have so many things going on that they need to sit down to look at their schedule. In that case you should send a follow up email the next morning suggesting you all meet up at one of the activities I mentioned above to talk more. Make the message personable and reference specific things for the networking events conversation that you want to follow up on. This will trigger the memory of the person you are emailing and make it more likely that you will get a positive response. Plus its a gentle, nice way of reminding them who you are from a sea of faces they probably met at the event.


Evolve Your Beliefs and Evolve Your Career

Sometimes it’s necessary to see where we are in order to be able to move forward.  Have you thought about what holds you back from reaching your career goals?  All we really have to offer the world is our attitude (this is my belief).  I believe it’s useful to examine my attitude and adjust it as needed on a daily basis.  As I do this, my belief structure naturally evolves as I learn what’s important to me, what I can do to contribute to the health and well fair of my community and how my contribution might be translated into an income.

Geoffrey James has described some beliefs he has identified as henderances to successful careers.  He has written this under the title: 5 Toxic Beliefs That Ruin Careers.  As you read his post perhaps you will see where your beliefs are holding you back from living and working they way you would like….

5 Toxic Beliefs That Ruin Careers

The Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is, in my opinion, one of the best business books ever published.  One passage, in particular, contains a world of business wisdom: “As a man believes so is he.” (23:7)

In the past, I’ve written in this blog about the beliefs that make people more successful.  However, I’ve observed that there are five other beliefs that consistently make people less successful. Make sure you don’t subscribe to any of these

1. My self-worth is based on what others think of me.

Some people define themselves based upon how they guess their boss, co-workers, relatives and friends see them. When they are convinced that others think poorly of them, such people lack the self-confidence necessary to consistently take action.

2. My past equals my future.

When some people experience a series of setbacks, they assume that their goals are not achievable. Over time, they become dispirited and discouraged, and avoid situations where failure is a risk.  Because any significant effort entails risk, such people are then unable to make significant achievements.

3. My destiny is controlled by the supernatural.

Some people believe that their status in life–or even their potential as a human being–is determined by luck, fate, or divine intervention.  This all-too-common (and ultimately silly) belief robs such people of initiative, making them passive as they wait for their “luck” to change.

4. My emotions accurately reflect objective reality.

Some people believe that their emotions are caused by external events. In truth, though emotions are determined by the perception of those events, combined with preconceptions about what those events mean. Such people find it difficult or impossible to “get out of their own heads” and see situations from another person’s viewpoint.

5. My goal is to be perfect or do something perfectly. 

Because perfection is unattainable, the people who seek it are simply setting themselves up for disappointment. Perfectionists blame the world (and everything in it) rather than doing what’s necessary to accomplish extraordinary results.  That’s why “successful perfectionist” is an oxymoron.

If you’re suffering from any of these five beliefs, I strongly recommend expunging them in favor of better beliefs. I explain how to do this in this post “How to Be Happy at Work” (in the post, I call them “rules”, but that’s the same thing as “beliefs.”)

 Geoffrey James writes the “Sales Source” column on, the world’s most-visited sales-oriented blog. His newly published book is Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies From the World’s Top Sales Experts. @Sales_Source

Community Spotlight: An Artist for the Ages

By Kayla Bayens

All of us here at Monroe have always been great fans of the arts. Our fearless leader, Debra, is a singer in several groups including the Supper Club Six! Our always hardworking bookkeeper, Michael, was and still is a musician. I was in a choir for 10 years, played the alto saxophone, and have been working in photography for many years. Heck even some of the robots I’ve created made art as their function.rich_close-up

So when I say that we know true artistic talent when we see it, you should believe me. Or don’t and look at the gallery below for yourself. Either way you should be well informed about Richard Sigberman. He is an amazingly talented artist that has graced San Francisco with his presence for many many years. I’ve had the immense pleasure of getting to meet him through my membership with the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Alliance group (check out the Friday group, its the best!).

Now you might be asking why is an employment agency doing a post about an artist? Well I would think it boils down to this. No matter your business you need a way to reach more customers, to maintain your current customer relationships, and to expand your network. Something that Richard has proven extremely gifted at doing through his illustrations. So, a not so shameless plug, you should really check out his website and talk to him if you are thinking about doing anything from an image for above your front desk to holiday cards or graphics for presentations.

But we understand that getting to know an artist and their process is very important when making the decisions of, not only if to use them, but what would be the best way to use them. Since for most of us the art we use for our business needs to be functional and pass a message across. To help with that some I’ve recently spent some time with Richard Sigberman and tried to help peel back a few layers of the veil of mystery, I hope it helps lead you to the right decision.

Tell me a little bit about when you decided to go “pro” in the sense of when did you decide to dedicate yourself to your art. Give us a little example of what that meant to you. (What pushed your artwork from amateur level to professional?)

I had wanted to “go pro” since I left college at age 20 , but was shackled by a lack of courage. Still, I kept making art while I had other types of jobs. At age 31, in 1983 , I got a break: a sort of position as a newspaper illustrator at the Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto. There I happily worked for 3.5 years illustrating articles for all five editors in any style I wanted, as long as it was in black and white. The Business section in particular appreciated my art. This is when I knew I wasn’t going to look back, and art would be my full time career.

Was there an artist you admired when you were young that inspired you to be an artist yourself?

The artists I admired were mostly illustrators and comic strip artists of the early twentieth century: Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Windsor McCay as well as Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso of the late 1960’s San Francisco “underground ” cartoonists.  I sort of combined those influences.  

Do you remember the first painting you did that you were really proud of? That painting that made you say, ‘Yes, this is my calling; I am an artist’

The first picture I did that made me realize I was serious was created at the end of my freshman year of college in Albany, NY.  I had mononucleosis and had to rest, so I had a lot of time and few distractions.  I created a pen and ink psychedelic mandala, putting much more time into it than I had any previous piece.  I knew i had stepped it up a few notches.  I am, incidentally, self taught. 

Was there a moment or a decision you made in your career that you feel was a personal success?

The moment when I felt personal validation if not great success was getting that job at the newspaper. This was the type of work I felt I was born to do.  

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Early on, when I was 22, I showed two acquaintances a goofy, highly cartoony piece. They looked at it and then broke out into hysterical laughter. I remember thinking , “wow, my art affected them this way. My art has power “. I was astonished at this revelation. I’ve also done some very personal art that has moved the recipients to tears (in a good way).

What are you working on right now, or what are you currently obsessed with?

A lovely children’s book by a woman that is all about LOVE. Naturally, I have to put all my love into the illustrations. Also, abstract pieces are never too far from my thoughts.

Can you describe a single habit that you strongly believe contributes to your success?

A single habit that contributes to my success is simply taking good care of my body to maintain the energy necessary to create my best work.

What role does the artist have in society?

There are a lot of ways to answer that. Mine is to say that artists of all kinds strive to access the ephemeral divine, and share it.

What has been a seminal experience of yours?

When I was 7, my aunt opened a drawer in the basement and said, “take them “. The contents of the drawer were comic books.  The colors of the covers blew my mind….and I have never recovered.

How has your practice changed over time

I have a daily practice, “Integral Transformative Practice (ITP), that involves movement, meditation, affirmation. It helps keep me focused and of a positive spirit. I warm up often by painting beautiful hearts on scarp pieces of watercolor paper, and then personalize them eventually.


*AP classes are classes in high school you can take for college credit that are based off of college criteria and testing

Dress for Success

p1When Job-Hunting: Dress for Success

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

It’s probably one of the most overused phrases in job-hunting, but also one of the most underutilized by job-seekers: dress for success. In job-hunting, first impressions are critical. Remember, you are marketing a product — yourself — to a potential employer, and the first thing the employer sees when greeting you is your attire; thus, you must make every effort to have the proper dress for the type of job you are seeking. Will dressing properly get you the job? Of course not, but it will give you a competitive edge and a positive first impression.

Should you be judged by what you wear? Perhaps not, but the reality is, of course, that you are judged. Throughout the entire job-seeking process employers use short-cuts — heuristics or rules of thumb — to save time. With cover letters, it’s the opening paragraph and a quick scan of your qualifications. With resumes, it is a quick scan of your accomplishments. With the job interview, it’s how you’re dressed that sets the tone of the interview.

How should you dress? Dressing conservatively is always the safest route, but you should also try and do a little investigating of your prospective employer so that what you wear to the interview makes you look as though you fit in with the organization. If you overdress (which is rare but can happen) or underdress (the more likely scenario), the potential employer may feel that you don’t care enough about the job.

How do you find out what is the proper dress for a given job/company/industry? You can call the Human Resources office where you are interviewing and simply ask. Or, you could visit the company’s office to retrieve an application or other company information and observe the attire current employees are wearing — though make sure you are not there on a “casual day” and misinterpret the dress code.

Finally, do you need to run out and spend a lot of money on clothes for interviewing? No, but you should make sure you have at least two professional sets of attire. You’ll need more than that, but depending on your current financial condition, two is enough to get started and you can buy more once you have the job or have more financial resources.

Expert Hints for Dress for Success for Men and Women

Attention to details is crucial, so here are some tips for both men and women. Make sure you have:

  • clean and polished conservative dress shoes
  • well-groomed hairstyle
  • cleaned and trimmed fingernails
  • minimal cologne or perfume
  • no visible body piercing beyond conservative ear piercings for women
  • well-brushed teeth and fresh breath
  • no gum, candy, or other objects in your mouth
  • minimal jewelry
  • no body odor

Finally, check your attire in the rest room just before your interview for a final check of your appearance — to make sure your tie is straight, your hair is combed, etc.

3 Interview Questions That Reveal Everything

Employee fit is crucial. Here’s a simple way to know if a job candidate is right for your business.


Interviewing job candidates is tough, especially because some candidates are a lot better at interviewing than they are at working.

To get the core info you need about the candidates you interview, here’s a simple but incredibly effective interview technique I learned from John Younger, the CEO of Accolo, a cloud recruiting solutions provider. (If you think you’ve conducted a lot of interviews, think again: Younger has interviewed thousands of people.)

Here’s how it works. Just start from the beginning of the candidate’s work history and work your way through each subsequent job. Move quickly, and don’t ask for detail. And don’t ask follow-up questions, at least not yet.

Go through each job and ask the same three questions:

1. How did you find out about the job?

2. What did you like about the job before you started?

3. Why did you leave?

“What’s amazing,” Younger says, “is that after a few minutes, you will always have learned something about the candidate–whether positive or negative–that you would never have learned otherwise.”


Here’s why:

How did you find out about the job?

Job boards, general postings, online listings, job fairs–most people find their first few jobs that way, so that’s certainly not a red flag.

But a candidate who continues to find each successive job from general postings probably hasn’t figured out what he or she wants to do–and where he or she would like to do it.

He or she is just looking for a job; often, any job.

And that probably means he or she isn’t particularly eager to work for you. He or she just wants a job. Yours will do–until something else comes along.

“Plus, by the time you get to Job Three, Four, or Five in your career, and you haven’t been pulled into a job by someone you previously worked for, that’s a red flag,” Younger says. “That shows you didn’t build relationships, develop trust, and show a level of competence that made someone go out of their way to bring you into their organization.”

On the flip side, being pulled in is like a great reference–without the letter.


What did you like about the job before you started?

In time, interviewees should describe the reason they took a particular job for more specific reasons than “great opportunity,” “chance to learn about the industry,” or “next step in my career.”

Great employees don’t work hard because of lofty titles or huge salaries. They work hard because they appreciate their work environment and enjoy what they do. (Titles and salary are just icing on the fulfillment cake.)

That means they know the kind of environment they will thrive in, and they know the type of work that motivates and challenges them–and not only can they describe it, they actively seek it.


Why did you leave?

Sometimes people leave for a better opportunity. Sometimes they leave for more money.

Often, though, they leave because an employer is too demanding. Or the employee doesn’t get along with his or her boss. Or the employee doesn’t get along with co-workers.

When that is the case, don’t be judgmental. Resist the temptation to ask for detail. Hang on to follow-ups. Stick to the rhythm of the three questions. That makes it natural for candidates to be more open and candid.

In the process, many candidates will describe issues with management or disagreements with other employees or with taking responsibility–issues they otherwise would not have shared.

Then follow up on patterns that concern you.

“It’s a quick way to get to get to the heart of a candidate’s sense of teamwork and responsibility,” Younger says. “Some people never take ownership and always see problems as someone else’s problem. And some candidates have consistently had problems with their bosses–which means they’ll also have issues with you.”


And a bonus question:

How many people have you hired, and where did you find them?

Say you’re interviewing candidates for a leadership position. Want to know how their direct reports feel about them?

Don’t look only for candidates who were brought into an organization by someone else; look for candidates who brought employees into their organization.

“Great employees go out of their way to work with great leaders,” Younger says. “If you’re tough but fair, and you treat people well, they will go out of their way to work with you. The fact that employees changed jobs just so they could work for you speaks volumes to your leadership and people skills.”

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden

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Tips for Doing Well in a Phone Interview

ImageMonroe Personnel Service, LLC & Temptime often sets up candidates for interviews as a way to introduce them to San Francisco Bay Area companies.  We have an interview package which can be found under our candidate resources on our website.  This article offers our suggestions for doing well on a phone interview.

Do your homework on the position/company/industry prior to the interview. Interviewers are bothered by candidates who know little about the company and don’t ask enough or any questions (or asking the wrong questions) during the interview.

Be prepared to adequately justify past job/career moves and the quality of your accomplishments (colligate and professional level).

Keep your materials in front of you so you can reach them quickly- a pen, a hardcopy of your resume, cover letter and job description. To sell yourself clearly, refrain from using the phrase “as it says on my resume…” Web access may also be an advantage during a phone interview in case you want more information.

Make the call from home or from a place where the environment has little noise and where you can speak at a reasonable volume without distraction.

Treat the phone interview just as you would a face-to-face interview. Be enthusiastic, responsive and display a good attitude. If you are non-attentive, withdrawn, passive or arrogant during the interview, an interviewer will assume that you would bring similar negative qualities to the job if hired. Even though it is a phone interview, be sure to smile and use positive body language- it will make your voice expressive and energetic.

On the phone, it is more difficult to understand what people are saying because you can’t see their face and mouth. Speak slowly and clearly and don’t talk too much. If you can’t hear the interviewer, drop hints that he isn’t speaking clearly or loud enough by politely asking him to repeat himself.

Respond to questions with integrity and honesty. Your answers should be based on the truth, not on what you feel the person wants to hear.

Be focused and direct in what you want; especially in how the position fits into your career path and personal goals. Ask questions about the job. Interviewers discount candidates who don’t show serious interest in the position’s duties and responsibilities or the company.

Show interest in what you can do for the company. Questions about salary and fringe benefits indicate that you are more interested in what the company can do for you. There will be adequate time to address this once the interest is established on technical and career goals.

Use common sense in your answers and demeanor.

Keep a glass of water close by in case you get thirsty.