A lot of productivity has to do with being in the right “space”, both physically and mentally. For me, a clean, organized workstation is a must – I can't work if mine is messy.
But being neat and tidy is also not for everyone (some people like it, some people don't). What is truly important to increasing your productivity is to create the right environment and atmosphere to accomplish the tasks at hand.
You should consider these four elements:
1. Work area
Ideally, you should have a different location for each of your activities. For instance, you could choose to answer emails while having breakfast, to take care of your main responsibilities while sitting down at your desk, and to do strategic planning when stopping by the nearest coffee shop.
Even if you have to complete all of your daily tasks within a few square feet of space, you can still train your mind to make connections with physical cues, such as sliding your chair over to a different part of your desk.
Preferably, you should always have access to all the tools you need to do your job – all within arm's reach. Doing this makes you more efficient and reduces your resistance to doing a certain tasks because they require getting up to go look for something.
For example, you could keep a note pad for capturing ideas or a “to do” list on the fly, or a few spare file folders and labels for quickly creating new project folders.
Some people are more productive in silence while others prefer working to the beat of their favourite music. Neither is right or wrong. The important thing is that you're aware of what types of distractions (or lack thereof) work best for you.
Try to take notice of how you respond to various environmental factors:
- How do I function when I'm connected or disconnected to the Internet?
- Does having certain mobile devices turned on affect my productivity?
- How does my mind respond when I'm completely alone?
- Can background music help me focus?
- Does working some days from home lead to higher or lower productivity?
For your most important work, having an environment that you like spending time in is definitely a plus. If you have the ability to design your workspace, consider the type of lighting, colors and materials that make you feel good and inspire you.
If a custom workspace isn't feasible, you can still make small improvements to your existing area, such as:
- Bringing in a small lamp with a soft white light bulb for a warmer glow
- Keeping fresh flowers or plants around you
- Putting up some favourite pieces of art or inspiring quotes
- Requesting additional storage drawers so that your surface is less cluttered
By setting the backdrop for your day, you can reduce friction in the flow of your life and create better, more creative work in less time.
What are some of your tricks to get the most of out of your workspace?