Technological progress has allowed a lot of people to work from almost anywhere. A huge advantage, it provides immense flexibility, where you want to work from home or from far-flung places as a ‘digital nomad’.
However, it’s important to remember that work environments can have a major impact on a person’s productivity. Julia Roy, founder of WorkHacks, wrote an article for Fast Company about where and how you should work to create a productive work environment. We had a look at her proposals.
Designate Work-Only Zones
Although modern technologies enable location-independence, it’s a good idea to connect places to their purpose. Our subconscious mind, as the author writes, functions exactly the same now as it did in the pre-laptop-and-smartphone-times and connects certain environmental triggers to behaviours. If you work, eat, and watch movies in bed, your brain will connect being in bed with all these things. This causes a serious problem in that it’s more difficult for your brain to focus on just one thing in an environment that it connects to multiple activities. For example, working in bed might suddenly affect your ability to sleep in it. A sleep specialist once said: only sleep and sex should be allowed in bed – nothing else is should get in.
So, it makes sense then to assign specific areas for certain activities. Your desk could be kept for administrative tasks. In turn, you could designate a different place for creative ideation – this could be the office sofa, the kitchen, or the meeting room. Ultimately, you need to analyse which places work best for completing certain tasks, and stick to that pattern. Keep underlining those mental associations: this is the place for writing, this is the place for coming up with ideas, this is the place for sleep.
Julia Roy is not the first to draw our attention to the positive impact of music on our productivity. The inventor of Focus at Will, for example, bases its entire business model on music that can, they claim, increase our attention span by up to 400%.
Similarly to how places connect our brains to activities, sound or music can do that too. Get in the habit of always having a specific soundtrack or artist in your ears when you’re undertaking certain tasks. Personally, I’ve found that I can write particularly well when I listen to sounds from nature, or piano music. Even Spotify offers a variety of ‘Focus’ playlists to aid your concentration. Now, you just have to discover which music stimulates your personal creative powers.
Keep Facebook to your Phone!
If you check Facebook, watch TV shows, write articles and check your emails all on the same device, it confuses your brain – just like working in bed! For that reason, Roy advises that people separate how we use our electronic devices. An old laptop that can’t connect to the Internet could be used for writing, for example. Your current laptop could be used for project management and professional emails. If you have a tablet, use that for entertainment, and leave your phone to its original function: communication – including Facebook, Whatsapp etc.
For Roy, the key to creating a productive work environment is in drawing clear boundaries. Once you find a setting that works well for you, do your utmost to maintain it!