Over the weekend, I read an article on 99U called “Setting the Scene for a Productive Day” that suggested that when you take advantage of “the fact that you have emotional and mental responses to specific places, you can dramatically increase your productivity.”
Where you sit (or stand) to work will have a big impact on how productive you can be on a consistent basis. Most times, everything has to be just right and you have to set the stage (not too cold or hot, comfortable seating, great lighting, aesthetically appealing) to get your productive juices flowing. But, there are many times when you just need to grab the opportunity to be productive no matter where you are. Ideal scenery or not, work must get done.
So how do you do it?
Change your background
There are some places where you can actually get stuff done that don’t look like your usual work space and can give you a change of scenery when you need it. For instance, if you want (almost) pin-drop silence, your local library might be the spot for you. Also, you’ll still get to be around people, but without having to interact them. Prefer working in an office-like environment with others? A coworking space or working alongside a group of colleagues in a conference room can be helpful. If being outdoors sparks your creativity, a park, campground, or botanical garden can give you the productive boost you need.
Take notice of places that help you to get more done
Using wait time (instead of just waiting) can help you cross a few things off your to-do list. As you stand in line at the bank or grocery store, you could take a few minutes to review your calendar for the upcoming week. Or, perhaps, those moments as you sit in the doctor’s office will give you an opportunity to check your voicemail or write a note in that card you’ve been meaning to mail. These are all great times in your day to take advantage of getting things done.
But, sometimes, you can accomplish a lot in places you’d least expect, like at the gym. You might be surprised that some of the most interesting ideas or thoughts on how to complete an important project could pop into your mind while you’re getting your heart rate up (and since you’re likely to have your smart phone with you, you can easily capture those thoughts using the voice recorder or on Evernote). In fact, studies show that exercise has a positive impact on how motivated you are, how well you concentrate, and your ability to meet deadlines.
Keep doing what works
Does this mean giving up your usual productivity spot in favor of someplace else? Not at all. Do plan and set up your workspace so that it helps you get your work done consistently well. For example, if you notice that some of your best ideas come to you in the shower, use that to your advantage and incorporate it as an important part of your productivity cycle. And, write down all those great ideas before they leave as quickly as they came. Aqua Notes waterproof note pads, Shower Notebook, or a diver’s slate will be a very useful tool for you.
The search for sustained productivity will likely never end. There will probably always be strategies and techniques to test out, including some tried and true ones, like a change of scenery. Every so often — no matter where you are — take a moment to check how much you are (or are not) accomplishing. Look around to see what is contributing to your ability to successfully tackle your tasks or what’s distracting you, and build a routine around what’s working. Don’t overlook that productivity can take many forms in a variety of places.