Create a ‘Brain-Powers Boosting’
Workspace Even If You Don’t Have an Office
Where do you usually work or study? Do
you have your own study or workspace? Is it a desk or a table? Do you have your
own study room/office? Or do you share it with anyone? And if you are a student,
do you use communal study areas, like libraries or student quiet rooms?
Whatever it is, you need to make sure
your workspace is geared to support your ability to concentrate on the job at
If you tend to work/study while lying in
bed, or sitting on a sofa, or somewhere else, consider shifting to a proper work
or study space, preferably a desk, or a table and a comfortable chair. Beds are
for sleeping, sofas are for relaxing and slouching—if you have been trying to
learn/work in bed or on the sofa and wondering why you can’t focus properly—here
is your answer.
Your study area or workstation, and your
desk in particular, are critical to your overall performance. You’ll know what
I’m talking about if you ever tried working on a coffee table or really hard
chair with your computer screen too high and a window behind you flooding your
monitor with glare.
“Okay, okay,” I can hear you say, “But I
learn best when I’m sitting comfortably on the sofa,” “I’ve been working in the
library/garden/cafés and it’s fine,” or “I don’t have a dedicated study/office,
I need to manage with what I’ve got.”
Fair enough, not everyone can afford to
have a specific room dedicated to intellectual work. And of course, it’s always
down to whatever works for you individually. But work space does not have to be
big or fancy—it can be as simple as a dining table, which you can use at
specific times. Or an old school desk in a corner of your shed/garage. And for
those who use public space: libraries, study/quiet rooms, or even cafés and
public gardens—I’d urge you to try and use those tips, too. Or you may want to
try to set up a study/workspace in your own home.
For all of you, sceptical of what I’m
suggesting: you can always run an experiment, measuring your ability to focus as
expressed by your productivity (time spent on your task/job until completion or
other outcome) when working in your usual space and by working in an environment
set up as I suggest below.
How to build a focus-enhancing workspace,
even if you don’t have an office
If you have an office or a study room,
you may have the problem solved. Or not—as it is in my case. Even though we do
have an office in our house, I don’t like that space: it’s freezing cold on dull
days, always cluttered, and it’s full of my husband’s stuff. I only use the
office when I have something to record or a piece of work that needs doing
during the weekend. I much prefer the dining table. I have my own little cabinet
when I keep my work stuff so that I can quickly get it out and then put away
So what’s a good working
Some of you may like it warmer or
cooler, brighter or duller, with the window facing the garden or a blank garage
wall. There are factors that depend on your preferences, but this is what the
most productive people recommend:
Quiet space—it does not have to be in complete silence, but the level of
noise should not disturb you. Typical culprits include: street noise, animals or
people, house appliances, TV/Radio/other sources of music, and other noise.
As distraction-free as possible (this
is quite individual and I’d recommend you test if it works for you or
Where other people can’t disturb you; the
point here is to limit/eliminate any opportunity for others approaching you
‘just to ask you a question, since you’re sitting here…’ or wanting to chat,
or even saying ‘hello’ when passing by.
This is particularly difficult if
you’re working in a shared office, an open space office, or a communal/family
area. Ideally, try to find a space where you would not be disturbed. If you
can’t, check Chapter 9 for tips on dealing with distraction in your environment.
Some productivity fanatics like their
work space/offices to be completely deprived of anything that can potentially
distract them: pictures, family photographs, view from the window. I’ve
heard/read of people working while facing an empty, white wall.
This may be too extreme for you, but
look around your workspace and check if there is anything in the environment
that has ever distracted you. Maybe it’s that wobbling table leg, or a squeaky
chair. Or maybe that holiday photograph on your desk. Observe and eliminate or
minimise if possible.