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Not everyone has the luxury of working from home, even if it appears the trend is on the rise. The vast majority of Americans are still hitting the carpool lanes and walking past the anything but pleasant receptionist each morning. They’re also still dealing with the frustrations, the weird IT gal on the third floor and the pesky intern who’s favorite line is, “hey…got a sec?” even when he knows you don’t. Ah…rest easy, though. You can improve your surroundings at the office that will make those eight hours a bit brighter. A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and founder, offers these tips.

  • Find a really cool mouse for your computer or splurge on some new art for your office walls. Bring in a few plants (be sure they’re easy to maintain, though…you don’t need the distraction of a dying plant – we recommend an African violet – they thrive on ultraviolet lighting). Anything to make your space more “your space” will go a long way in concentration and your efforts of zoning the coworkers out.
  • Resist the urge to plunder the goings-on with Facebook and new emails. It’s easy – too easy since penning this article has now gone into the second hour (it’s that pesky Facebook addiction)- to click a link, then another and then another. Next thing you know, you’re checking out the latest fashion trends in Liechtenstein, you’ve missed your deadline and the boss is considering sending out the National Guard to search for the MIA employee. The distraction, while great, does nothing in your efforts of improving your work day.
  • If you have to skip lunch, don’t skip the whole hour. None of us are exempt from the occasional lunch hour lost to a last minute meeting, says A. Harrison Barnes. Still, you will always feel a bit more energized if you step outside the confines of your office – even if it’s just a walk outside around the parameter of the building – and catch your breath.
  • Retrain your boss when possible. This, says the founder, can be a little tricky. If you’ve spoiled your boss to the point that he hits “send” on an email then waits a few second for your reply to come right back (give thanks to the BlackBerry and the iPhone), this means you’re directing at least part of your attention to the yellow envelope that pops up in your desk tray or on your smartphone. Instead of replying right back (unless that’s not feasible, of course), wait ten minutes. Then stretch it to twenty and before you know it, you’re only checking email twice before and twice after lunch. This frees you up so that you can focus at the tasks on hand with no guilt about not responding to the email from the head honcho that announces next week’s staff meeting has been changed to the other conference room.
  • Give in to your restlessness. How many times have you been so restless that it’s all you can do to stay in your ergonomically correct chair? Too many to count, right? Instead of telling yourself that you’ll move around “as soon as I finish the paragraph” or “as soon as I run these numbers”, deal with the distracting restlessness you’re feeing. “Distracting” is the operative word here. A few minutes away and you return more focused and less distracted – which is always important when crunching numbers.

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