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January 7, 2020

Take Up Your Space – #MTtalk Roundup

Yolande Conradie

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"When we throw out the physical clutter, we clear our minds. When we throw out the mental clutter, we clear our souls."

Gail Blanke, American Businesswoman

This morning I took stock of the "stuff" in my desk drawers. There was a lot of stuff – paperclips, staples, Post-it notes, rubber bands, old chargers, photocopies of articles from 1989, till slips, pens, lip balm, highlighters, a "Walkman" cassette player (I know, I know...)

Oh, and bookmarks: plenty of bookmarks! And that's not even the stuff I hang on to because I'm sentimental about it. It's only the stuff that I think I might use again one day. (Really? Use my Walkman again?)

Control Your Personal Space

I know it probably sounds unbelievable, but I dislike clutter. I'm just not very efficient at keeping my desk and study clutter free. There always seem to be more important things to do than sorting through things and getting rid of stuff.

But, while my desk is still inhabited by old things that no longer serve a purpose, that leaves no space for something new and fresh. Taking your physical space back is one thing. Making sure you have enough room to perform and be your best is quite another.

You, and only you, are in control of your personal space. I know you might share a house with a partner, two-and-a-half kids, three dogs, and a parrot, but your space is still your space. In my house, everybody else (one dog, one human) knows that certain things are off limits.

They're not allowed in my closet or my handbag (the human), and they're not allowed to chew my slippers or steal my socks (the dog – the human, as far as I know, hasn't tried yet). I've set the boundaries for my personal space and I let them know when they're over the line.

Make Your Space an Enjoyable Place

My desk is another part of my physical space, and it's my fault that it isn't 100 percent organized. Clutter makes me uncomfortable, so I need to take that space back – by getting rid of stuff I no longer need.

Another way of taking up your space is to decorate it in a way that makes you feel comfortable and productive. Apart from a tidy area providing calmness, you also have to enjoy the space you are in.

If your workplace restricts what you can and can't do with your deskspace, try to make it as nice as you can within those limitations.

And if you feel overlooked, that you are not working to your potential and not adding as much value to your team as you can, it might be time to take up your space in that arena, too.

Take Up New Space

As part of a large organization, your department might feel like a safe space – and probably a comfort zone as well. However, if you want to grow beyond your department and change how you're perceived in that space, maybe you should venture out of that comfort zone.

Show others what you're capable of by taking an opportunity to work on a project with another department. Put up your hand and volunteer to help organize a function, or work at a charity event. Make others aware of what you can do – and that you would like to do more.

Take up your space by actively contributing to meetings. Make sure that you don't fly under the radar, by making suggestions, voicing your opinions, and asking good questions.

Obviously, it's not wise to do that simply to be noticed. But don't keep quiet if you have valuable contributions to make. Also, it's better that people hear it from you first-hand. Far better than suggesting it to another person after the meeting, and just hoping that they'll give you credit for the idea!

Create Mental Space

If someone is crowding your space by micromanaging you, make them aware of how it makes you feel. Ask them to give you room to operate in, without being watched.

And as much as you would sometimes like to blame others for the mental and emotional clutter you are burdened with, it's most likely there by choice. It's not that you consciously choose to carry baggage, but you do choose to hold on to things. You allow thoughts to take up that space.

Maybe you're struggling to let go of how someone treated you. Thoughts of resentment or even revenge might occupy a part of your mind. Constantly worrying about situations you can't change might keep another part of your mind spinning.

All of our mental and emotional baggage takes up space that could be occupied by more creative and productive thoughts and ideas.

It's surprisingly easy to get in your own way and block your route to success. Taking back space from yourself requires focused effort, but it's a great gift to give yourself.

Take Up Your Space

During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last Friday, we discussed the necessity of taking up your space. Here are the questions we asked and some of your responses:

Q1. In what ways do you deny yourself your space?

@Jikster2009 Lots of distracting things that occupy my time that aren't necessarily important or conducive to my physical or mental health.

@hopegovind Sometimes by allowing your friends and colleagues too much into your personal life. You share everything with them and also speak up freely, realizing that you have lost your own space which you need to breathe, reflect.

Q2. When, in what situations, might you not take your space?

@MicheleDD_MT Sometimes when an opportunity is a huge stretch and with high scrutiny by senior people. If I "believe" it's too big, I get anxious & back off. Only became like this following working in a toxic org. Need to reprogram my beliefs.

@SizweMoyo No one is stepping up to claim the leadership position. Right behind your forced smile you're contemplating whether to take this job after missing so many in the past. You take too long and someone takes it. I know I'm not the only one who's experienced this pain.

Q3. Have you ever "hidden" from view by choice? What did you gain/lose by doing so?

@WonderPix Sometimes "hiding" can yield a more accurate perception of a situation without influencing it.

@J_Stephens_CPA Definitely! After a while of getting negative feedback for volunteering, I step back for a while. Then I get the feedback I'm not proactive in helping.

Q4. What has happened when you didn’t take your space?

@realDocHecht Times can get stressful and it's hard to collect thoughts.

@CaptRajeshwar My team lost confidence. Performance faltered, I got stressed and I felt guilty towards my team. The senior team missed me.

Q5. Is there ever a good reason not to take your space?

@YEPBusiness How do we know it's ours for the taking? The choice to take the space is our purpose versus their purpose.

@JoanaRSSousa Yes, sometimes you have to consider the benefit of a team or a project. It all depends on the context, it's not a black or white area – it has lots of grey zones.

Q6. Think of someone you know who has taken their space what's your reaction?

@jojacob_uk Actually I am in awe of their confidence and entitlement.

@harrisonia When someone has taken their space, I'm usually happy for them – especially if they did things ethically and it was their season.

Q7. Is it selfish or arrogant to take your space?

@FelixJAkande By not taking your space, you are putting others in your place at your own expense. Which is better: hurting yourself or voicing out that you need to be respected?

@ZalkaB It's OK to speak up for yourself and claim your space, yet not in the way of stomping on others to get your way and leaving a trail of business "bodies" and casualties, for the sake of obtaining a goal for yourself. This will come back to bite you.

Q8. How do you take your space without becoming distant?

@Midgie_MT By letting people know that you are taking the space and that you will be back. Communication is the key.

@MarkC_Avgi One can create their space without creating walls or barriers around it. Your home is your home, but you welcome others into it. The same is true for your space.

Q9. How has it helped you in the past to take your space?

@Ganesh_Sabari The result is achieving clarity in disposition, focused in efforts and concentrated in demands.

@JThiefels I get some of my best ideas when I take my space. Within just a few minutes, things that have been bubbling below the surface come to the forefront. This happened a lot for me in writing my book that will be out in 2020.

Q10. What do you need to do to take your space?

@realDocHecht Go off the grid, even if it's for just an hour. It'll help me relax.

@JKatzaman Don't underestimate yourself. If you want to take your space, go for it. What's the worst thing others will say? No? At least you gave it a shot.

To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat over here.

Coming Up

Whether you're making space, taking space, or planning your next career move, it's important to manage your expectations about the outcome. The topic of our next #MTtalk chat is, "Managing Your Expectations." In our Twitter poll this week we'd like to know in which area of your life you need to learn to manage your expectations. Please cast your vote here.


In the meantime, here are some resources relating to the topic we discussed:

Managing Your Boss

Creating an Energizing Work Environment

Reactive Decision Making

Building Self-Confidence

The Flow Model


Avoiding Micromanagement

How to Be Assertive

Getting Noticed

How to Get Your Voice Heard in Meetings

Get Ready for Promotion

How Do You Add Value at Work?

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