Taking Space

Seems to be a trend that companies are realizing people need space – both mental and physical – in order to put forth the creative work required for the 21st century American innovation economy.  The business section of the New York Times explored this concept in two articles on Sunday.  The first “When Technology Overwhelms, It’s Time to Get Organized” explored the effectives of productivity gains on today’s worker, who is expected to use technology to complete in one day what took three people to do the last century.  The article suggests that the sense of overwhelm felt by most can be combatted by gaining more space in a day through organization skills.  Four steps were recommended:

  1. Capture everything that has your attention in writing
  2. Clarify the importance and action needed of each item (aka prioritize)
  3. Use technology to set up reminders for these required actions
  4. Deploy you attention and resources appropriately (aka focus)

The worst-case scenario, which is all too common, is to let recency guide your attention.  “I have found that most professionals take action based on whatever is the latest and loudest in their universe, as opposed to making a conscious, intelligent choice,” commented David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done” and this article.  Instead, David recommends saying ‘not now’ to that which is not important.  The idea is that if you get organized and prioritize, you will have more space in your day to deal with the important things.

On the Mayo Clinic website, tips for coping with stress at work include identifying triggers, managing your time, and curbing burnout.  The first part, identifying triggers, is similar to David’s recommendation to capture everything that has your attention, only this time you capture everything that is perceived to cause stress.  Then you get organized and prioritize and find solutions to your stress-creating dilemmas. The stress management article goes on to recommend that you protect your time, “For an especially important or difficult project, block time on your schedule when you can work on it without interruptions.”  And, take breaks because “Even 10 minutes of personal time can be refreshing.” In other words, take space.

Taking space can be literal as well.  The second article in the NY Times on Sunday, “In New Office Designs, Room to Roam, and to Think” discussed physical space.  While the trend is open offices and shared space, companies are having offices designed with inspiring spots for employees to spend time alone or in small groups.  Taking physical space seems to help with creativity and achieving what David Allen recommended for combatting overwhelm.

Along side these two articles on taking space were examples of innovative companies, like Google and Dream Works, where employees are pushed to take risks and push boundaries.  And for that, they need space.