Top 10 Tips for Creating a Productive Work or Study Environment
Most of your learning and studying takes place outside of the classroom, so creating the right environment is a MUST. If you have any bad study habits, the wrong workspace will magnify them.
Here are some tips to make sure you set up the right home-office; custom-designed for your needs and tendencies.
1. Eliminate Distractions
No matter where you are, if you have something you need to get done , the best place to begin is with identifying what distracts you the most. It sounds silly, but my poodle “Louie” is a very distracting little guy. When I have a big project, I make sure that he is comfortably closed up in my room with his food and water and that he stays there until I am done or ready for a break. I get so much more done when he is not hovering around, needing attention. Before you focus on the task at hand, figure out what little things distract you, and get them out of the picture. This could be anything from a pet to an electronic device (see #5).
2. Clean Up & Organize Your Space
What a great excuse to do a little cleaning! I mean, seriously, how much better does it feel to walk into a clean room; free of a coffee mug from yesterday and the dirty frying pan in the sink (My office is next to my kitchen at home)? Whether it be right when you wake up, or right before you go to bed each night, make time for keeping your space clean. It just feels SO much better to work in, and is accompanied by peace of mind.
Now, if you have a workspace with a great big pile of scattered paperwork, there is a trick I like to use for organizing papers and other items that are within arm’s length on my desk:
Start with papers and make ONE stack, then clear ALL clutter except for a pen, a notebook, post-its or index cards for quick tasks, and whatever I am drinking (probably coffee & a water bottle).
Then take the stack and divide it into 3 piles:
- Stack 1: Take Action (Pay, Call back, or Complete)
- Stack 2: File Away
- Stack 3: Trash
Attack the things you need to take action on within an hour, then file/mail the completed task paperwork. Throw away the trash asap, and File last. I like to file my “File Away” stack of papers ONCE a week. There is nothing more annoying than having bills everywhere that are from 2 months ago. If you don’t file your paperwork, then shred it and rid it from your space. It is amazing how much paper can catch your eye and distract you from what you are trying to accomplish.
3. Work Out When You Wake Up
Working out is great for the body, the spirit, and the MIND. Working out within a scheduled morning timeframe is such a great start to the day, and will actually provide energy for your mind to produce its greatest works. It was really difficult for me to make this a habit. But now that it is, I cannot explain the difference it has made. On the days that I take off, I fill in the morning space with laundry.
Music can be a great way to get into what you are doing! Some people need silence, but for others, there is great rhythmic potential out there that is perfectly aligned with your mind’s resonance frequency. Some playlists I like to listen to include: Philip Glass, Classical, Yoga tunes, Native American Music, & other instrumental soundtracks from epic movies like “Last of the Mohicans.” I believe there is inspiration in music, but there are times when earplugs work best for the moment, depending on the project.
5. Get Off your Phone, Skype, Twitter & Facebook!
If you are using these media tools as a key component to your business, then of course don’t eliminate them…but seriously, how many times do you need to check your Facebook or Lindsay Lohan’s Twitter updates? I am very wrapped up in social media, so I know how much of my time gets sucked into the black hole of my virtual social life! Once I set specific times for breaks, I found that I started getting things done quickly and efficiently in my business. I am talking a NOTICEABLE difference. I set rules for my computer use to only have the relevant tabs open and to only use my phone when it pertains to the project. I don’t turn my phone off or anything dramatic, I just text my friends that I will call them at a later time and make post it notes for actually doing it.
Social Media is great, but if you are working on getting something done so you can have more time for it, I really like to treat it as if I had a boss standing over my shoulder monitoring what I was doing. Would a boss think that updating your Facebook with baseball scores was a good use of company time? If you answered “No”, then do yourself the favor of acting accordingly.
6. Set Up Email Auto-Response
Unless you are using your email for what you are doing, I find that Timothy Feris’s book The 4 Hour Work Week had a great point. He wrote about the distraction of email. He was referring to his clients, but I picked up a great tip from this book (amongst many others) that I use specifically for eliminating the distraction of correspondence: Check Email Twice a Day, and set up an auto reply that explains and defines the times that you have chosen. Then ONLY check and reply to email during those designated times. That way you cannot be distracted 100 times throughout the day. If your job calls for constantly checking email, then this may not work for you. If you are constantly distracted and bothered by email, setting this up can be a great benefit to you.
7. Clear Your Day
Try to do all of your shopping and socializing during the weekends, or during windows that you have planned ahead of time. If you do your shopping for the week on Sundays, it will really support you in not having to leave the house to get food. I use Costco to stock up on breakfast lunch and dinner for at least a week for my husband and I. Not only does it save me an excuse of leaving the house, but it saves a ton of money. Get all of your “chores” and routine things, such as the gym and laundry, done during the early morning.
8. Organize Your Computer Files
My husband really used to get on my case about my messy desktop files. I cannot tell you how much better my life has been since I have cleaned up my files, deleted old crap from my computer, and labeled my photos & documents properly. This can be a very hefty project, taking up a couple days, maybe weeks. But if you have the time to do it, I highly suggest it. I also have been using Google Docs as well as DropBox for storing and sharing files with clients and co-workers. It allows me to access my files without being at my computer, which has been very helpful on multiple occasions.
9. Schedule Meal & Coffee Breaks
…and stick to them! Food can really be a burden, if you don’t have all of my groceries for the week purchased I definitely recommend determining a plan of action with a start and end time for meal breaks. It is very easy to go out to eat and end up getting distracted with other things while you are out of the house. Focus on the task and stick to your breaks like you would obey the bell in grade school.
Coffee & Tea are a great way to stimulate the mind and get the body moving. “Legal drugs for the mind” is what I like to refer to caffeine as. If you aren’t into it, there is always an apple to get you going! I’ve heard that an apple wakes you up more than a cup of coffee. That’s just what I’ve heard, I’m no doctor, but it seems like an experiment worth trying, no?
10. Good Attitude = Good to go!
You are strong, committed, and able! A good attitude can get you through a multitude of challenges in life. Setting up a productive environment may now seem like a near impossible task, but I promise that creating these good habits, are just as easy as creating bad ones- it is just a matter of a little self discipline.
I wrote this article as a testimony to the transformation a custom work environment can make. I committed to disciplining myself, in order to produce more business and get more done each day. Everything is possible with the right attitude.