Be productive no matter where you are

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.

7 Comments for “Be productive no matter where you are”

  1. posted by Dusty @ Wine Logic on

    Location is key for me. I work from home so it is easy to get distracted and not do anything. I have a mini office set up in our sun room and when I am at work, the only other rooms I will enter are the bathroom and kitchen. This keeps my mind in the right place.

  2. posted by Alison on

    Taking the time in a line, waiting room, shower, gym, etc to empty your mind and be fully present in the actual moment can be invaluable to ultimate productivity. I find that when I get to the point where I’m feeling I must be accomplishing something in every moment I can reach a point of frenetic counter productivity. Just feeling the water in the shower or my body move when exercising, hearing the child giggle in the line at the store makes for better balance than trying to plan my week or brain storm ideas during those times. Great ideas in the article – just remember to leave a few minutes to breathe!

  3. posted by Damian on

    I like to keep a small pocket notebook with me at all times to jot down notes, ideas, etc… works great for me.

  4. posted by Cluttered Mama on

    In graduate school, I discovered I worked most effectively in one of two places: the campus library and this little non-Starbucks coffee shop. I needed a little bit of noise and activity, but less distraction than at home. Right now I’m working on trying to get my home office in order so that I can work productively at home (and away from the kids). For me, clearing the visual clutter helps me really get focused, so I try to spend time at the start and end of the “work day” filing and putting things away.

  5. posted by Flat roof repairs on

    Great article. I’ll have to start following you for more great advice.

  6. posted by Mallory on

    I find that after a good workout at the gym I am much more creative. I usually do the web design concepts after a workout and other office duties before I go.

  7. posted by Pawel @ The Happy Bike on

    I totally agree with those tips Deb. in fact, what I have noticed recently is that certain places are better for me to work on certain tasks. What’s quite funny though is that I do my work related tasks best not in the office. I write best in my kitchen, work on the site from the living room and so on. In fact, I rarely do serious tasks in my home office anymore. Crazy but true.

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