Hardly anyone has enough willpower to completely ignore what’s going on around them. That’s because paying attention to anything that might endanger or otherwise affect our lives in any way was vital to humans’ early survival. Even today our biology prevents us from completely focusing on a task when others are in view or earshot. Unpredictable noises or sights (even a random reflection from a shiny wind chime outside) decrease our concentration.
As an environmental psychologist, I help people understand how to make their spaces work to their advantage by tweaking their environments, even in minor ways. I recently wrote about a few ways you can make your office work better for you, which looked at ways to design a space to help you stay relaxed and focused. Here I’m going to discuss ways that sights and sounds (and the lack thereof) can help you think more creatively and more efficiently. After all, who wants to spend more time working than necessary?
Choose an isolated spot for your office. Put your home office as far away as you can from your home’s social areas — family room, kitchen etc. It may sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes we want to be in the center of the action and think we can still get work done. Sure, you may think you’re an expert at working, carrying a conversation and watching TV all at the same time, but the truth is you’re not working efficiently.
When you can’t hear or see conversations and activity, your mind won’t divert its active capacity to listening or looking — and you’ll work better.
Add walls and doors to cut distractions. This office may not have everything going for it — there’s no sunlight, for example — but being able to close doors and block sound is important for preserving creative energy. Closed doors also signal that work’s in progress and only important interruptions are acceptable.
If traditional walls don’t work, try something else. Not every environment can support new walls and a door. Maybe you want an open flow throughout an entire floor when you’re not working, or walls and a door would cost too much to install. If that’s true, add something like these sliding doors and wear headphones playing white noise.