Maybe you’ve just enrolled in some extra coursework toward an advanced certification at your job. Or maybe you just need a distraction-free place at home to get some serious spread sheeting done. Whatever your reason for designing one, building a workspace that harnesses your wandering mind and boosts your productivity is key.
The good news is there are plenty of aesthetic cues you can use in your work area to trick your brain into focusing. Designing your work area with intention can help you get the most out of your space. Here are four tips to help you do your most productive and inspired work.
Create a Physical Workspace
With looming deadlines, upcoming exams, and emails that just won’t stop coming, the barriers that separate work life and home life can become very blurred. So as obvious as it may seem, it’s useful to remember to keep work confined to your workspace. Whether that’s an office in a separate room or just a corner nook depends on your home and how you work best, of course. But try to pick a place that’s away from the most heavily trafficked areas of your home, like the kitchen and living rooms. And don’t be tempted to set up shop anywhere near the TV screen—no matter how strong you think your will power is, it’s still way too tempting a distraction.
Decide How You’ll Use the Space
Most of us don’t perform just one function at our desks. Sometimes we’re hunched over the computer, pushing out emails, and other times we’re busy brainstorming the best approach for a new initiative. In fact, if you’re running a client-based business out of your home, you may even need to use your office for face-to-face meetings as well. If you have the space to do it, partition your work area out by function. Maybe you’ll keep a tidy, organized desktop for the administrative parts of your work, with another workspace off to the side that’s used for sketching out wireframes or designs. Whatever you do, make sure you have one area that’s implicitly reserved for mental breaks. Research indicates that we’re most productive when we work in 52-minute increments with short periods of rest in between, so it’s nice to be able to have somewhere else to look besides your computer when you’re on one of your off times.
Turn on the Lights!
Lighting affects our productivity much more than we think. In fact, exposure to sunlight throughout the workday smooths out our circadian rhythm, so we’re alert when it’s time to work, instead of say, at two o’clock at night after a round of binge watching. If you can, position your workspace near a window—preferably one with a view of the yard, trees, or other natural elements. If that’s not doable, lamps outfitted with cool white bulbs are the next best thing. Cool white light limits melanin production, the hormone that makes you feel tired. So it helps cut back on those afternoon periods of drowsiness—and in real-life case studies, it also reduced workers’ eye strain. Win-win!
Kick the Clutter
In your home office, sealed away from the prying eyes of cubicle mates, it’s easy for junk to pile up. That’s particularly true if you don’t have a separate office for your workspace—your desk may quickly become the depositing spot for papers, bills, household items with no home, and more. And all that clutter inhibits productivity, making it more difficult to focus on the task at hand. Part of your productivity solution may be finding more storage space in the rest of your home. However, if you’re a compulsive clutterer (guilty!), keep a drawer or a bowl handy in your home workspace to stash away excess junk. And schedule regular desk cleaning sessions—you’d be amazed at how refreshed you feel in a newly tidied-up space.