Today I’m spending my first "work day" outside!  Woo Hoo!!  Perched on the deck with laptop "atop my lap", I’m thinking this is how I’d like to spend all my work hours.  It also got me thinking about what a difference my surroundings make to my productivity.  Granted, it’s just one factor of many that can impact our ability to accomplish what we set out to do but consider these:

1.  Do you ENJOY being there?  Ever since we remodeled our kitchen last year, I’ve found myself consistently relocating my computer, planner, and any other docs or files I need to my new kitchen island instead of staying in my office.  I simply enjoy being there more.  I’ve heard similar things from clients when we discuss where they actually do their work or sit down to handle household paperwork.  Typically the choice is to work where they enjoy being – either due to sunlight, comfort, ability to "spread out" and work on a project, etc.  If I feel physically uncomfortable, I find myself needing to frequently move around or look for other distractions.  What can you do to change your environment to one you find more pleasing?  If you can’t literally move to a different spot, how can you alter your current space so you look forward to spending time there?  Here are some things to consider:

  • Color – studies have been done to look at the impact colors and patterns have on us.  Do you like to be somewhere that makes you feel energetic?  Calm and relaxed?  Do you like bold patterns or something more soothing?  Small changes like painting the room (or even one wall), adding decor you enjoy, or maybe even de-cluttering can change the feel of the space.
  • Light – Task lighting for your workspace is vital.  If you can’t see what you’re doing, you won’t want to work there.  General lighting can change the overall feel of a space as well.  I prefer table or floor lamps to ceiling lights any day.  Sunlight is important to me as well so if I am working in a space with little/no access to a window, adding several lights in the room makes me feel much more comfortable there.
  • Clutter – Most people work better with fewer visual "distractions".  I recommend clearing your workspace (or even the entire office if you’re feeling really motivated!) and build back in only those things which you need to have on hand or that you enjoy seeing in your space.  Too often items just remain on our desk until we don’t even see them anymore. 
  • Feng Shui – My knowledge on this is pretty elementary but what I DO know is that some spaces feel more inviting than others. There are lots of resources where you can learn more about the various approaches to laying out a space to create positive energy (Chi).  You may find some hints and tips helpful in order to create a space that feels right to you.  You can even hire specialists to evaluate your space and make recommendations.
  • What brings you joy?  I want my workspace to be about more than "work".  I want it to inspire me and remind me of what’s important. One of my clients brings her dogs to work.  I think it’s such a treat to have real flowers on my desk.  Memorabilia and pictures can work as a source of inspiration and reminders of achievements.  If your workspace doesn’t feel like "you", it won’t be a comfortable place to work.  What can you add to your space so that when you look up from your work, it brings a smile
  • Change it up.  Something else I consider is that some environments are good for different types of work.  As I mentioned, working outside today was a treat and it was perfect to inspire me to write.  It is not the best environment for getting done some of the other more "admin" tasks since I need different resources at hand.  Likewise, some clients have chosen to do their planning and goal-setting sessions outside their normal environment by packing up and taking a trip to another location so they can be totally "removed" from the typical day-to-day.   I like to think about the different "types" of work I do and think about where I can best position myself to do them most effectively.  Hey, a change of scenery can be motivating in itself!

2.  Distractions.  Remember – we’re thinking about our physical surroundings here.  Think about what catches your attention and gets you off-task. Playing background music helps some by providing "white noise" or blocking out other noises.  Another thing to consider is how often you need to stop what you are doing to go elsewhere to get or do something.  Also, what catches your eye visually – do you look up every time somebody walks by your office or drives past your window?  Position your workspace so you are less likely to get "interrupted" by goings on in your physical surroundings.  Other tips can be:  wearing headphones to block out noise, removing programs or apps you don’t need to be accessing during "work hours", turning off audible "notifiers" so that you don’t hear a ding every time there is a new email or update. or setting regular times to get up and leave your desk so you can take care of all those errands at the same time.

3.  Accessibility & Functionality – – Sometimes we get waylaid by the simplest of things.  Is your chair uncomfortable?  Can you reach frequently used items easily?  Do you have adequate storage or do items just pile up or overflow?  Are pathways accessible, do drawers pull out easily, are there cords you have to maneuver around?  Having a space in which you can easily move makes such a difference.  You won’t want to spend time in a space that is awkward or uncomfortable. 

4.  Organization – – I’ve seen some offices that have only a handful of papers on the desktop but which are totally unorganized in that the person doesn’t really know where to find anything.  Likewise, some of the messiest looking offices can produce the most randomly needed document within a minute.  If you think of your office more as a "storage unit" for work you’ve done, old things to file, or items to purge, you could benefit from getting your office ORGANIZED!  Having a workspace that is set up so that there is a known path for items as they come in, are "in process", as well as where they go when you are done will make it a workspace worth using!  Utilize your prime real estate (that space nearest at hand such as close drawers and desktop) for items you use most frequently.  Invest in quality tools so that it’s easy to view, access, and store items, and purge regularly so that outdated items and files aren’t stealing space from current projects.  Better yet, consult a Certified Professional Organizer so that you can have another set of eyes that can help you assess your space and aid you with building systems that will work for YOU!

So, while my own kitchen and sometimes even the porch make great alternatives, I’m going to look at making some of my own changes.  We all deserve to have a workspace that inspires us to do our best.  Now, to decide what type of flowers I’ll pick for the office…………

Cindy B Sullivan provides Time Management and Productivity consulting as well as Professional Organizing services to help you be as effective as you can be!  Free consultations are available.  Contact [email protected] for more information.