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Engineering an Encouraging Environment

We’ve all been in this situation before: you come home from work, get comfortable on your sofa and before you know it you’re off to bed. The following morning you’re sour because instead of being productive, you’ve hung out all evening. Now, contrast this with the days you go directly from the office to the gym – notice that it’s never hard to do what you “want” to do when you’re in the right environment.

Elizabeth Saunders’ post from the blog, The 99%, talks about the emotional and mental response triggered with certain places, and how harnessing this response can dramatically increase productivity. She argues that the reason individuals behave in a specific manner is because their subconscious responds to certain behavioral patterns associated with being placed in those locations.

To help you harness these subconscious, emtotional responses I’ve highlited several of Saunders’ productivity tips:

1. Link Place and Behavior
Ideally, have different locations for each type of activity – for example, answering emails on the train, doing core responsibilities at your desk, strategic planning when you stop in the coffee shop etc… You’ll see that these patterns of behavior matched with location changes will prompt you to complete the activity with minimal mental effort.

If location change is not viable, you can still create a similar effect by using physical cues – standing up instead of sitting at your desk, switching the mouse from one side of the keyboard to the other, or sliding your chair to a different position of your workspace surface. The goal is to aim for a consistent link between place and behavior.

2. The Right Tools
Another excellent productivity suggestion is to make sure that you have all your tools laid out in an organized fashion within arm’s reach. Keeping all your tools neatly organized and close by helps you stay on track by eliminating the time it takes to find something. Saunders suggests that if you are unable to leave everything out on your workspace, then carry a bag stocked with all your essential tools. This allows you to quickly and efficiently transition to a new location without feeling frustrated that you forgot a critical item.

3. The Right Distractions
In order to be productive, some people require the quietest of places while others are most at home when listening to their favorite song or watching a move. Saunders states that neither pattern is wrong; the point is that you’re aware of what type of distraction – or lack of distraction – makes what you want to do easier. Once you’re aware of how you respond to the following environmental factors you can stage your day accordingly:

  • How do I function when I’m on connected or disconnected to the Internet?
  • Does having certain devices on or off affect my mental state?
  • What kind of activities do I do best when I’m around people?
  • How does my mind respond when I’m alone?Can background music or a movie help me focus?
  • Do days at home lead to higher or lower productivity?

4. Bringing it all Together
Having an environment that you enjoy spending time is makes completing difficult mental work much easier. If you have the ability to design your workspace consider: lighting, colors, and materials that make you feel good about moving forward on creative projects. If a custom workspace isn’t feasible, try making small adaptions to your workspace. For example:

  • Bringing in a desk lamp with a soft light bulb for a warmer glow
  • Keeping fresh flowers or plants in your area
  • Putting up some favorite pieces of art or inspiring quotes
  • Tacking fabric up on the wallRequesting additional drawers so that your surface looks less cluttered

By setting the backdrop for you day, you can reduce friction in the flow of your life and create better quality work in less time.

Your Thoughts
Have you found that you can make your work easier by positioning yourself in a certain location?

What changes to your environment have led to the greatest productivity breakthroughs?

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