The space around you, the environment in which you work, can have a big impact on your productivity.
Whether you’re conscious of it or not, that clutter of papers on the corner of your desk can lead to clutter in your mind.
To be more productive, start with creating a productive workspace.
In our productivity research, featured in the new book Not Today: The 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity, we found that more than 50% of the most productive people (The XP) organize their work environment to maximize their productivity, while fewer than one in five of everyone else (The Rest) does.
Whether you work at home, in the office, or a combination of the two, there are many ways you can change your work environment. Control the factors that you can.
How do you create a productive workspace?
Here are 15 tips for a highly productive work environment:
- Declutter your desk: remove all the pens, paperclips, and random pieces of paper. Clutter on your desk creates clutter in your mind and can distract you from the task at hand.
- Move your bookshelf: bookshelves add life and color to a room, but too many items on them can be distracting. If that sounds like your bookshelf, move it out of your line of sight when you’re at your desk.
- Create a view: sit by a window, put up a calming piece of art to use as a concentration point, or use a privacy screen. In my home office, I have one window in the room. I previously had my desk facing with my back to it. I moved my desk to be facing the window so I can now see outside, and it has given me more energy throughout the workday.
- Wipe your whiteboard clear: erase those old notes and lists (be sure to take a picture first if you haven’t captured the ideas elsewhere). I have an entire wall painted as a whiteboard in my home office and I work hard to keep it clean.
- Shut the door: if your office has a door, close it.
- Get a room: if you don’t have a private office, reserve a meeting room, or set up your base somewhere free of distractions when you need to concentrate.
- Light the way: add overhead lights or a lamp to your workspace to improve your mental cognition and alertness.
- Make it bright: choose bright, cool lighting, rather than warm and dim, to maximize productivity in most tasks. If you’re working from home, paint your room a bright color.
- Keep quiet: if you’re in a loud workspace, wear noise-canceling headphones to reduce ambient sounds from conversations, printers, phones, the landscaping crew, and so on.
- Turn it off: if you’re working at home, turn off the TV, dishwasher, or washing machine. These are all distracting background noises. The only noise I allow while working is classical music. In fact, music can increase productivity.
- Add scents: run an aromatherapy diffuser with a scented essential oil you find appealing. Research has shown odors you respond to positively can boost your alertness and productivity. Try peppermint, lemon, or cinnamon—all have properties that contribute to a productive environment—but it’s most important to find one you like. For example, I have a Pecksniff’s Aromatherapy Fragranced Candle. I don’t even need to light the candle; I can simply uncover it for the scent (Stimulating Cinnamon and Invigorating Ginger).
- Green your space: having a plant in your workspace—and there’s one for every type of environment—can improve productivity and job satisfaction, according to psychologists.
- Maintain an even temperature: keeping the thermostat at a setting optimal for everyone is impossible yet being too hot or cold will harm productivity. If you can’t adjust the thermostat, dress in layers so you can adjust your comfort level. When working in the office, I always bring with me a mini-space heater for those cool days.
- Use multiple monitors: if you work on a computer, these can boost efficiency and productivity, according to multiple research studies.
- Make it ergonomic: interacting with your work setting and equipment in a way that is physically suitable and safe for the human body—ergonomic seating, height-adjustable work surfaces, and adjustable monitors—will increase your comfort and productivity.
Bonus: If these tips aren’t working, or aren’t working on a particular day, go someplace else. Sometimes your workspace is in a spot in your home or office where people interrupt you, regardless of what you try to do to stop them. If you don’t want people to find you, be someplace else.
You may also find that certain types of work lend themselves to different environments. For example, I prefer to write in the morning when it’s quiet and I’m home. I have a colleague who would go to the coffee shop to conduct cold calls so she could feed off other’s energy around her. Change your location and your productivity may improve.
Your Perfect Productive Workspace
Do you have to do all of these? No. Will all of these work for everyone? No. The idea is to try a few and see what works for you. Often all it takes is a few simple tweaks to create a more productive workspace.