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A few weeks ago I wrote about Whole Brain Creativity, and how each of us have different learning and thinking styles.
And, as Cynthia Ulrich Tobias writes about in her book, The Way They Learn, we each have our own preferences for an ideal and productive work/learning environment.
The ideal elements of our best work space go far beyond the gear on our desk. It also includes the temperature of the room, the way it is lighted, how comfortable or not the chairs are, if we are hungry or not, if there is background noise/music or not, and more.
For me, even if I have 4 hours of interruption-free time and all the right tools are at my disposal, if the room I’m working in has an uncomfortable chair and is too cold, then it will be nearly impossible for me to concentrate.
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I am a staunch proponent for making it a routine to do our best creative work every day. Quantity leads to quality, and showing up everyday helps us overcome procrastination and build a “creative habit”.
Why not show up every day to a work environment that is conducive to doing our best creative work? A space that serves us, inspires us, helps us, and gets out of our way and allows us to concentrate.
It seems obvious in hindsight, but oftentimes it’s the low-hanging fruit of things just like this that we take for granted.
My Ideal Workspace
Several weeks ago as I was thinking about this, I decided to write out what my ideal workspace would actually look like.
I didn’t let myself get caught up in the practical limitations of how all the elements would go together in reality. I just wrote down individual components that I wanted — things I knew would be awesome and helpful.
Here’s my list:
- A huge, huge tabletop. Like 150-square-feet big. 5 feet deep and 30 feet wide. It has to be big because it has multiple “spaces” on it. One area for a computer and keyboard. Another area for spreading out books and notebooks for research. And yet with still enough space left over so that there’s a clean space somewhere. In short, big enough to spread out without taking over everything.
- I could work either sitting or standing.
- Speakers and music.
- There is space for other people to work as well, but they don’t work there all the time. I need some hours every day to work alone and in concentration, but I also want to have hours every day where I am working with others and collaborating.
- Lots and lots of natural light, with bright-yet-warm lamps and ceiling lights.
- The view outside is of something spectacular — mountains, ideally — and there aren’t people walking by the windows to distract. But the office itself is just a short walk from a downtown area where there are coffee shops, restaurants, parks, and people.
- Tall ceilings to allow space for big ideas and wildly creative thinking.
- Fantastic coffee with non-generic coffee mugs.
- A conversation-starting brown leather couch that’s ideal for reading, sipping on a drink, and taking napping.
- Bookshelves, drawers, and plenty of other storage so that everything can have a place while also being easily accessible.
- Beautiful and inspirational artwork and photography.
- Lots of whiteboards so ideas are never in want of a space to get fleshed out.
- Super fast internet that never goes down.
As I read though that list I can get a vivid picture of what a space like this would look like. It has the vibe of a master woodworker’s shop, but with the amenities and tools of a pixel pusher. It’s a place for thinking, relaxing, collaborating, and crafting.
But for some people, a large, open, and bright space like the one I’ve described sounds terrible. They’d prefer a smaller, quieter, more cozy room with walls painted deep and warm colors, and just a lamp. For others, their ideal work environment is free from the distractions of the Internet. And I’m sure a good percentage of folks would be happy to never see another white board in their life.
Will I ever have a work environment like the one outlined above? Maybe. I hope so. But identifying the elements of my ideal workspace isn’t just about a pie in the sky dream. It also gives me clues about what changes I can make to my current workspace.
For example, in my small downstairs den, I don’t have a spot for even one giant whiteboard. So maybe I should consider getting one of those kraft paper wall mounted rollers as a stand in.
And while I don’t have a 150-square-foot tabletop, I do have both a desk and a coffee table and I bet I could find a larger coffee table.
What does your ideal work environment look like?
Just because your company issued you a 3×5 desk, a semi-adjustable chair, and a room full of florescent lights and distractions, it doesn’t mean that is the ideal work environment for you.
What does your ideal work environment look like?
Is it open and collaborative, or is it cozy and personal? Music or silence? Coffee, tea, water, nothing at all?
Think to the last time you were deeply focused and concentrating on something enjoyable…
Where were you? What was your posture like? Were you eating or drinking anything? Were you at a desk, on the couch, on the floor, outside? Was there any music or other sounds? Were you alone, or were other people around?
The way you default to concentrating when you are doing something enjoyable can give you some insight into how you may best be able to concentrate when doing all of your work.
Make changes so as to have an ideal-as-possible work environment. So that way, when you show up to do your best creative work, you’re giving yourself as many advantages as possible.