I’ve been thinking about physical spaces lately; the places in which we live, work, and relax. Specifically, about how to shape your environment in the ways that work best for you.
I’m not talking about putting a ball-pit in your living room or rock-climbing holds on your ceiling here. Although, I’m not not talking about them either. However, I want to start by asking you a clarifying question:
What is the highest level of work that you do?
When do you need to be at your most focused? This doesn’t have to be for your regular job, by the way. It might be when you create art or music. When you read and learn. When you relax and spend time with your family. When does the world need #1, AAA-certified, 5-Diamond Award-winning you?
Answering that question is important. The real work begins when you decide to make it happen.
A thought experiment
If you had Jeff Bezos yacht money to spend on designing your environment, what kind of focused workspace would you design?
- Small bungalow on a deserted island. Great surfing. Top-notch WiFi
- Indoor sauna with streak-proof whiteboard
- Tent and a notebook in the Patagonian forest. Premium coffee gear
- Superbly-positioned booth in a nightclub or Star Wars-style cantina.
- Secret underwater lair. Dome for sea life viewing. Pizza elevator
- Library with adjacent cross-country trails and hot tub
- Oprah’s kitchen table
Personal preferences for social and environmental dimensions aside, all of these examples are designed around optimizing your ability to concentrate for long periods of time. While focus is not guaranteed, you can certainly increase your chances by reducing distractions.
Trying to concentrate in a less-than-optimal environment can make any of us… grumpy. Or, in a direct translation from the Chinese word for anger, it can make our qi rise.
To keep that qi down—which is important for doing our best work—we need to think about exerting more control. Hence my question about designing your environment.
I like to run-blue sky exercises like the one above because:
- They are fun
- Many of our solutions (or some version of them) wind up being more practical than expected
So, if you don’t yet have an idea for an ideal work environment, give it a thought. Assuming that you are in a place where you can concentrate. Changing your environment would be an example of the one-time behaviours I mentioned last week.
I want to encourage you to think of things in terms of prompts. Imagine that instead of a motivational poster, you can place something bigger—and with real personal meaning. Something big. I mean… If you wanted to put a small Zen garden in your living room, is anything stopping you? Would it be more meaningful than whatever’s there right now? And would it more reliably prompt you to do the things you already want to do?
In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your perfect workspace.
Next week, we’ll be talking about the idea of attentional cadence and how it applies.