How to Turn Your Workspace Into a Den of Productivity

When it comes to improving productivity in the workplace, much of the advice we hear centers around the mindset or motivation of the individual in question — advice like “You need to set goals for yourself,” or “You need to focus on your passion,” or “You need to meticulously plan every portion of your day down to the millisecond.”

And while such advice can potentially be helpful, there’s one aspect of improving productivity that we often overlook: our environments. As Dr. B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford’s Persuasive Tech Lab once noted:

“There’s just one way to radically change your behavior: radically change your environment.”

In the list below, we’ve highlighted some of the best tips and tricks you can use to create a space that’s not only pleasant to work in, but that actually helps to improve your productivity. True, not every suggestion will be applicable to everyone’s unique work situation, but hopefully you’ll be able to come away with some useful ideas.

7 Tips for Making Your Workspace a Den of Productivity

1) Let the sun shine.

Assuming you’re not a vampire, letting plenty of daylight shine into your workspace is a proven way to increase your productivity, not to mention your overall mood and well-being.

While there are many studies that have linked sunlight to productivity in the workplace, one study in particular — “Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life” — is especially compelling. To quote the study’s abstract:

Compared to the group with no windows, workers with windows in the workplace had 173% more white light exposure during the workday and slept an average of 47 minutes more per night. There was also a trend for workers with windows to have more activity and higher sleep efficiency than those without windows.”

Unfortunately, not every workspace is going to have a ton of natural light shining in. One potential solution? Invest in smart LED lighting (e.g., Osram or Philips Hue) that mimics natural sunlight and can help maintain your body’s circadian rhythm.

2) Keep warm and carry on.

In a perfect scenario, you’ll be able to control the temperature of your workspace so that it’s aligned with your ideal comfort level.

If you work in an office, of course, this usually isn’t possible. But you still might get a say as to what temperature the almighty office thermostat is set to. If that’s the case, remember these words: Warmer. Is. Better.

As a study from Cornell University showed, temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit lead to more errors and lower productivity. Temperatures above 68 degrees, meanwhile, have the opposite effect. To quote the study:

When the office temperature in a month-long study increased from 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, typing errors fell by 44% and typing output jumped 150%.”

(Check out this post for 16 hacks that’ll help you deal with unruly office temperatures.)

3) Pick the right music (or opt for no music at all).

For many of us, there’s no better way to get into “work mode” than to slap on some noise-canceling headphones and blast our favorite tunes. And there are a ton of productivity studies out there to back the effectiveness of this approach. 

Trouble is, it can be hard to nail down just the right tunes to get the wheels turning. So if you’re struggling to find the perfect playlist, check out this post. It contains a bunch of interesting research around different types of music that can be used to boost your productivity — from classical to video game soundtracks.

Music doesn’t do the trick for you? That’s okay. In fact, there’s also some contrasting research out there that argues that music can actually be too distracting. If you find it’s too hard to concentrate with music playing, try embracing silence. Or, try listening to music before you get to work, which can help you get pumped up for the task at hand.

4) Go green.

Have an empty spot on your desk and can’t decide what to stick there? My suggestion: Don’t go with another tchotchke, or another framed photo of your cat (seven is enough, Tyler, I’m starting to worry about you). Instead, go with a fern, a cactus, a Venus flytrap, or some other plant.

According to a 2014 study, incorporating plants into a workspace can increase productivity by 15%. As the study’s co-author, Alex Haslam, told Entrepreneur:

The findings suggest that investing in landscaping an office will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity … Modern offices and desks have been stripped back to create sparse spaces — our findings question this widespread theory that less is more. Sometimes less is just less.”

5) Add some yellow accents.

Most offices are awash with grays and other neutral tones. And while such a color scheme can help create an environment that isn’t too distracting, it simultaneously fails to provide much in the way of stimulation.

In the world of color theory, red is often hailed as the most stimulating color. However, red also carries with it some strong negative connotations, particularly aggression. A superior color for making your workspace more energizing is yellow, which packs the same productive punch as red without the negativity.

As the President of the International Association of Color Consultants/Designers, Frank Mahnke, wrote in his book Color, Environment, & Human Response:

… [yellow] is cheerful, high-spirited, and suggestive of the life-giving sun. It represents a bright future, hope, wisdom, and it is expansive — not earthbound.”

So if you’re looking for some new artwork for your workspace, or perhaps a new pot for your Venus flytrap, going with something with lots of yellow is probably your best bet from a productivity standpoint.

6) Feng shui your desk.

Feng shui is the ancient Chinese art of arranging objects to create a more harmonious, positive environment. While often applied to the realm of interior design, especially in regards to furniture placement, there’s no reason why you can’t apply those same feng shui principles to your desk.

One of the main tools used in feng shui is feng shui bagua, which is essentially an “energy map” that shows how different spaces are connected to particular parts of your life. In order to apply feng shui bagua to your desk, you can follow the diagram below:

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(Source: Feng Shui & Beyond)

Note: While it’s unclear whether feng shui actually works, research does show that de-cluttering your desk can help improve focus as well as your ability to process information.

7) Use (at least) two monitors.

Did you know that the simple act of giving every employee an extra monitor once helped a customer service department reduce their average time per call by 12%?

Ultimately, using two monitors gives you a larger digital space to work in, which makes moving between different browser tabs and applications much easier. And while having two monitors on your desk will add some clutter and could take away from the zen setup you might be going for, the utility of having two monitors in your workspace will likely outweigh any aesthetic displeasure.

Have any other suggestions for how you can turn a workspace into a den of productivity? Leave a comment below.

 

The Top 3 Ways to Use User-Generated Content in Ecommerce

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Social proof is essential to any marketing strategy. User-generated content (UGC) in the form of customer reviews and pictures addresses the ecommerce pain point of uncertainty that affects shoppers and store owners alike, while providing social proof.

Shoppers sometimes hesitate to buy online because it can be difficult to gauge information about the fit and quality of items without seeing them in person. Conversely, ecommerce store owners are challenged to build trust with site visitors and communicate the sense and feeling of tangible products through the barrier of a digital screen.

Customer opinions and experiences give shoppers the information they want and the confidence they need to convert into buyers, while providing online brands with a gateway to build relationships with their audience.

This is where UGC comes in. Here are three of the top ways that you can leverage UGC to grow your business:

1) Build Relationships With Your Customers

Customer reviews and pictures build a shopper’s confidence in a brand by providing relatable information and authentic answers to questions that may otherwise keep someone from buying.

Including user-generated content throughout ecommerce stores—such as on the homepage, checkout page and product pages—makes the online shopping experience more dynamic by addressing specific pain points with genuine customer experiences.

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Enabling a conversation between interested shoppers and past buyers builds a community around a brand, providing social proof for the products and for the brand as a whole. Such communities break down barriers between individual online shoppers, which in turn creates an emotional connection with the brand and leads to conversions.

Asking customers for reviews is an effective way to engage with your audience and increase retention by making them feel appreciated and valued.

2) Increase Effectiveness of Social Ads

User-generated content is a powerful tool for building social proof and one of the most effective ways to build trust on social media.

Social ads are a way to broaden your reach and influence shoppers while they are not actively shopping. To people scrolling through social media, a often times a brand-sponsored ad sticks out like a sore thumb and is easily ignored.

Reviews increase social commerce by providing immediately visible social proof by including authentic customer reviews and photos in social ads allows you establish a relatable brand image and brings more shoppers to your site.

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Yotpo data shows user-generated content increases click-through rates for Facebook ads by 300% and leads to a 50% drop in both cost-per-click and cost-per-acquisition.

3) Boost Visibility in Search Engine Marketing

Customer reviews differentiate your company and products from all of the other search results that come up.

They not only attract shoppers’ attention, reviews lead to more sales and in turn to more reviews.

Using UGC in your paid and organic search engine marketing activities such as product listing ads and rich snippets enhances your search listing and makes it more enticing for shoppers to click through.

When shoppers see customer reviews in the research phase of the buyer journey, it gives your product an edge over other search results and encourages them to go to your site.

Takeaways

Happy customers are one of your most valuable marketing resources. Encourage them to provide user-generated content, which you can repurpose throughout the buyer journey, by making them feel valued, engaged and appreciated.

What Facebook’s Latest Changes Mean for Publishers!!

David Falor

The digital ecosystem is undergoing a lot of changes. From Twitter, to Google, LinkedIn, and even Bing, how do you keep track of it all?

Fortunately, we have you covered with an extra set of eyes and ears. The work that we do here depends upon the success of the entire digital universe: we’re always up to speed on the biggest changes and opportunities in marketing as a result.

Recently, Facebook has been undergoing some changes that will be of particular relevance to publishers. Here’s what the following two updates will mean for your audience-building strategies moving forward:

Audience Optimization

In January of this year, Facebook introduced Audience Optimization, an organic targeting tool that helps publishers reach and engage their target audiences. The tool allows Facebook page admins to improve the relevancy of their posts by indicating who’s most likely to engage with them.

The tool gives publishers the following features:

  • The ability to add interest tags to content, to help Facebook connect audiences with topics that are likely to capture their attention
  • The ability to restrict or limit the visibility of certain posts by allowing for targeting based on location, language, or, or gender
  • Visibility into performance of content, down to the post-level, by interest

So what does all of this mean?

In a world where audience attention spans are becoming increasingly fragmented, Facebook is giving publishers the tools that they need to build in-depth, substantive relationships with target audiences.

You can bettertarget your content to your readers based on what they’re interested in reading and learning about. You’ll also have additional insight that you can use to optimize each of your posts and extend your publication’s reach. Early users of Facebook’s Audience Optimization tool have recognized considerable lifts in engagement, sparked discussions within unique groups, and provided stronger alignment between content and target audiences.

Messenger for Publishers

Publishers will soon have the ability to distribute content through Facebook Messenger.

This capability is big news. Why?

Similar to email, Facebook Messenger represents a channel for 1:1 communication. Instead of requiring audiences to come to your website or bombarding them with email newsletters, you can ping them with relevant information, in the moment.

While this news is still speculative, meaning that Facebook neither confirms nor denies this upcoming feature release, the social media leader is suspected to be testing new features behind the public eye. For instance, TechCrunch reported that Facebook had begun testing a tool for developers that allowed people to do things like request an Uber, directly within conversation threads.

Given that Facebook Messenger reaches over 800M people, the distribution potential for publishers would be massive. Rather than competing for attention spans over email and in search, media companies can more actively reach out to and engage with their target readers.

And who knows what the future holds? In the future, publishers may be able to integrate Facebook Messenger into their sponsored content offerings. Facebook has yet to announce what’s planned.

Looking into the Future

Facebook’s changes reflect a larger industry trend around personalization and the importance of building 1:1, personalized relationships.

It’s more critical than ever for media companies to create more lovable content. From email to social media, readers have more control than ever over the content that they see and the content with which they engage. Using audience optimization, publishers can better target their audiences on the aggregate level, learning about their needs and preferences along the way. Social media teams at media companies can then reinvest this information into 1:1 touchpoints over Facebook Messenger.

While it’s important to be vigilant and ahead of the curve in this ecosystem, it’s not necessarily the companies that are first to market that will come out ahead. It’s the ones who take the time and conduct their due diligence to understand their audiences in depth. And thanks to Facebook’s new updates, publishers can better engage with and learn about their target audiences across platforms.

How to Get Started

The best way to get started is with the segmentation framework and marketing database that you already have in place. Who are your highest value readers? How is Facebook currently operating as a referral traffic source for your company? Most likely, you already have the answers to these questions in your marketing database.

What Facebook introduces is a mechanism to answer the question “why.”

Why do certain audiences engage with your articles? Why are they gaining value from the resources that you’re publishing? Facebook is a treasure trove of psychographic data that can help you answer these questions.

 

The 9 Habits of Highly Productive Agency Leaders

On average, people receive 304 business emails per week, attend 62 meetings per month, and deal with 56 interruptions to their work each day.

That’s a lot of time wasted considering that so much of email causes additional confusion and follow-up questions, it takes 16 minutes to refocus after dealing with an email, and most meetings are considered unproductive and a waste of time.

These problems become even more complex and problematic when it is the leader of a company who is spending her days attending useless meetings and responding to never-ending email threads. This isn’t an effective use of a leader’s time, and it rarely results in decisions and practices that have a wide-sweeping and positive impact on your agency and your team members.

You need to find focus, prioritize the activities of value, and control your schedule and output. And part of this is learning to be more productive — to remove distractions and focus on what really matters. This is what your company truly needs from you.

Learn how to be a more productive and impactful agency leader with these best practices and tips from agency leaders.

9 Habits That Will Increase Your Productivity

1) Focus on the “Big Rocks”

Letting client fires and email control your task list is easy to fall victim to. Before you know it, it’s Friday afternoon and you’ve yet to address that employee retention issue or new business plan. MOSH.’s Elizabeth Aris starts her week by determining her priorities so that she can maximize her productivity.

“As I start my week, I put together a work plan, which I then update and adjust at the start of each new day,” Aris said. “Through this process, I prioritize the tasks that must get done versus those that I can delegate to my team or postpone, if need be. I call this focusing on the ‘Big Rocks’ — a lesson I learned as a child while trying to fill a vase with rocks. I treat each week like that vase so if I try to put the little rocks first, the big ones will never fit. However, if I take care of the Big Rocks first, the smaller ones will find their way into the ‘nooks and crannies’ of my days, and they will get done regardless. The key thing to remember is that time is finite, so having a work plan or strategy that suits you and helps you maximizes time each and every day, is the best way to maintain a healthy, happy and productive work-life balance.”

One way to accomplish at least one “big rock” each day is to defer checking your email until you’ve worked on the top priority item of the day for an hour or 90 minutes. This way you start the day feeling productive, and prevent your inbox from completely making a mess of your schedule and output.

2) Say “No” A Lot

You can’t be the only one who can solve problems in your business. It might feel like that some days, but to build a stable and profitable operation, you need to step out of working in the business and refocus on working on the business. This is what your clients and staff really need, and it should take priority over all else.

Saying “no” is essential for keeping your focus on the business and what it needs. This might require you to list out the things you get pulled into on a regular basis that you need to say “no” to, or you could determine which top-level managers should be contacted for different categories of issues.

3) Use the Right Tools

Work is becoming increasingly complex as the number of communication channels grow, employee needs change, and how people work evolves. This — coupled with a culture of “always busy” and “always connected” — has led people to spend more and more time outside of typical office hours working, thinking about work, checking email, etc. Without downtime and breaks, people actually become less productive. One study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who worked 55 hours per week had poorer vocabulary and reasoning that those who worked 40 hours.

To get done what you need to get done, consider using productivity-boosting tools and techniques that can help you to focus on what really matters and reduce the anxiety and confusion that comes with overwhelming workloads.

Peter Sena of Digital Surgeons recommends using tools such as Sane Box to control email overload, x.ai to make scheduling meetings more efficient, and Omvana for harnessing the power of meditation to increase your mental energy and stability. He also uses a productivity system for prioritizing the right things each week.

Sena said: “I use Kanban techniques and tools like Trello to think in terms of outcomes and not outputs. Trello fosters agile workflows that create autonomy. This allows team members to collaborate and share responsibilities.”

This type of clarity in projects and priorities is also an accountability measure. By outlining the desired outcomes from a week’s worth of work, you can gain a better understanding of your true capacity and how to optimize your time and efforts.

4) Eliminate Distractions

Richard Gallagher, founder and chief creative officer of Engine Digital, recommends controlling the small distractions that can destroy your focus.

“To increase mental clarity and tackle those wicked problems, you’ll need to rid yourself of any micro-distractions: smartphone notifications,” Gallagher said. “Achieving brain focus and flow, much like REM sleep, requires our brain to be free of interruptions for a certain period of time. Turning off all but essential notifications — and I urge you to really think about what’s critical, here — is the best way to ensure that you’re taking a break on your own time.”

Use the Do Not Disturb function on your iPhone or Android device to temporarily pause notifications or schedule a interruption-free period of time.

5) Have a Morning Routine

It’s a shared approach by some of the most successful executives: Get up early and focus on yourself. Many get their workouts in before 8 a.m. Others meditate, eat a healthy breakfast, plan their day out, write, list the things they are grateful for, or check the news.

Whatever the activity, your morning routine should be built around creating a positive start to the day, focusing on yourself for at least a few minutes, and preparing to be a fully present leader that day.

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6) Be Lazy

At some point, leaders need to step back and let the people they’ve hired take ownership over projects and client success. Being productive is about focusing on different types of issues and problems, and being involved in the day-to-day is not where they could have the largest impact.

Jeff White, co-founder of Kula Partners, calls this being “lazy.”

“As an agency CEO or owner, you owe it to yourself, your employees and your clients to see just how lazy you can be,” White said. “Your job is to help set the vision, empower your team, and get the hell out of the way. It’s not to design or code or write on behalf of your clients. That’s why you hired people who are far smarter than you. Built properly, your agency will continue to grow and improve as your team iterates upon the processes you helped create. So, crack open a cold one, and start planning how you’re going to use all those extra hours in your day. Just as soon as you build an agency that can run without you.”

7) Batch Your Work

It is easy to become distracted by the latest incoming email, a whisper of a client issue, or the slightest possibility of a pitch. And when you choose to focus on one big problem, it can feel like you are falling behind. During that time, you could have answered 10 emails and dealt with three client issues. That might be true, but more often than not, jumping from task to task means you are simply putting a band-aid on non-emergent issues and activities that have little return.

In addition, switching from task to task greatly reduces productivity — by up to 40%. Instead, batch your work and block off chunks of time on your calendar to accomplish a project or move a big initiative forward. Spend an hour answering emails twice a day. Hold an open office hour where anyone can bring up issues that need to be solved that day. This helps you to control and manage your schedule, not the other way around.

Andre’ Savoie of WSI follows this advice to deliver the best work to his clients.

“Digital agency owners are constantly being pulled in different directions from clients, employees and vendors,” Savoie said. “During the day it’s critical that you block out 30 minutes to several hours to work on specific projects or tasks to focus on them without interruption. I’ve found that by managing my day in this way, I’m able to do better quality work in less time.”

8) Create a Dashboard

You can’t measure or track your productivity if you don’t set the right priorities in the first place. To easily be able to determine where you should direct your attention and what needs leadership-level involvement, consider creating a dashboard where you measure and track against your monthly, quarterly, and yearly targets. It should also contain key metrics, such as your employee NPS score, client happiness, target revenue versus actual, proposal win rate, etc.

Mike Lieberman, co-founder and president of Square 2 Marketing, uses HubSpot to monitor the success of his clients’ inbound marketing programs — his No. 1 priority.

“For me, productivity includes helping my teams generate results for our clients, so I stay connected to our client programs by reviewing all of them once a week in our HubSpot portal,” he said. “I can quickly see from the account dashboard who’s not green for visitors and green for leads. Then I request a quick email update on those few clients who might need a little extra attention. This is a big payoff activity that only takes a few minutes each week.”

9) Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of your body and mind through healthy eating options and regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do to maintain high energy and cognitive function. Yet, you often see leaders skipping lunches and grabbing unhealthy snacks due to convenience.

“Running an ad agency is an endurance sport,” said Daniel Stein, the founder and CEO of EVB. “Travel, late nights and stress are part of the business. Exercising and eating right every day lets you go harder, longer, and bounce back quicker. It also keeps you sharp and prevents you from getting sick and taking yourself out of the game.”

How do you stay productive and efficient? Share your tips in the comments below!