When authors start on a new book, one of the most common struggles I hear from them is how difficult it is to make the time for writing. When they sit down to their computers, the impulse to check email or join in a hallway conversation can pull them down a rabbit hole and eat into their designated writing time.
But even if you aren't working on something as large as a book, there are times in everyone's professional lives when we need to buckle down and focus on a larger project. Doing so can be incredibly difficult given the typical distractions of an office, and one of the most effective means of combating this problem is switching up your work environment. In fact, the Harvard Business Review has shown that workers who are able to control their work environment perform better.
For authors, having a dedicated "writing space" can help train the brain to get back into the creative mindset. For others, simple changes to a current workspace can have the same effect and lead to a more productive work session. Here are six ideas to switch up your work environment.
1. Turn off WiFi
We'll start with the most obvious suggestion. Though turning off the wifi connection won't create a visible change in your workspace, it will lead to a huge mental shift. Without the most accessible source of distraction, you'll be able to focus in on the task at hand. If you're worried about being unavailable for a long period of time, allow yourself to check email every half-hour or hour to ensure that no emergencies have come up. If not, switch back over to an internet-free environment.
2. Physically Move
When most people think of switching up their workspace, they likely think of heading to a local coffee shop, but the change doesn't even need to be that big. If you normally work at your desk, try sitting in a different chair within your office. Normally sit to work? Try standing by creating a makeshift standing desk. Most offices also have some couches or casual meeting spaces. Take advantage of those other working spaces to free your mind of its usual patterns.
3. Change the Lighting
Lighting can have a big impact on our productivity, and natural lighting can be the biggest factor by helping establish consistent sleep patterns. If you regularly sit in a darkened office, try moving near a window to work. Or if you have harsh fluorescents overhead, turn them off and opt instead for softer lamp lights.
4. Play Music
If you don't usually listen to music while working, give it a try. Pre-made playlists allow you to choose your music based on your mood, so choose something that you enjoy listening to but that won't be too engaging. Think instrumental or acoustic music without lyrics. Having something to listen to not only blocks out those distracting conversations happening around you but also boosts your mood, which in turn increases productivity. According to the New York Times, 15-30 minutes of listening to music is all you need to help regain concentration.
5. Reserve a Room
If you need to get some serious work done on a project, block off some equally serious time on your calendar to work on it. It will keep you from packing your day with too many meetings and calls while also providing a solid amount of time to focus, rather than trying to squeeze in work during quick bursts between meetings.
Is a conference room available to use? Even better. Reserving a work space and time that's visible to the company will increase the pressure to work. And for those that work best under a deadline, that added pressure may boost productivity.
6. The Hawthorn Effect: Invite someone to work with you
It may sound counterintuitive to invite a walking, talking distraction into the room with you when you're trying to get work done, but studies show being watched while working can lead to productivity boosts. The Hawthorne Effect says that people will change their behavior when they know they're being observed. This relates more to subjects of scientific experiments, but the same basic principle applies. Inviting a focused person to work with you may increase your own productivity in attempt to keep up.
The next time deep focus is required, whether you're sitting down to write a manuscript or work on a large project, keep these tips in mind to ensure you will use your time effectively and stay productive.