As more and more people continue to work from home and some go back into the office for the first time in a couple years, it is important to evaluate your workspace for maximal productivity. The way you design the environment you work in can affect your mood, motivation, focus, and creativity. Everyone has different tricks and preferences on how to stay focused throughout the work or school day, but there are some things that can help everyone. We’ll dive into a few easy tips for you to elevate your workspace and hopefully increase your focus throughout the day.
Sitting or Standing?
As chiropractors, a question we get a lot is whether a sitting or standing desk is better. The answer to that is both! Our bodies definitely weren’t meant to sit all day, but they probably were not meant to stand all day either. So being able to move your desk from sitting to standing periodically throughout the day can be an awesome and simple way to keep your body moving. These adjustable desks can be expensive though, so there are some ways to get around it (if you do most of your work on a mobile device or laptop, and not a desktop). You can stand at your counter and work, or find boxes, bins, books, and other things that you can stack so that you can bring your device higher in the air. We will touch on the importance of the positioning of the screen later in the blog.
Along with sitting vs standing desks, more and more people are adding treadmills or bicycles to their workspace. This can be a smart way to keep yourself moving and also burn some extra calories, but it can also hinder your focus on certain things. It can be great on a phone call or maybe a meeting but can have detrimental effects on tasks that need your full attention.
Lighting may be one of the more important factors to keep in mind when organizing your workspace. The best way to keep your focus up is to have a good source of natural light in the room. This can be done by putting your desk next to a window, but make sure you can’t look out the window and watch all of the dogs walk by. If this is not possible in your situation, bright overhead lights will work as well. Though, it is important to remember that this bright light can affect your sleep, so if you plan on working into the evening, you may want to dim the lights or close the blinds to help you wind down before your next bout of sleep.
It feels like common sense to say do not try and get quality work done on the couch or in bed. It is much to your benefit to be sitting or standing to have optimal focus and ability to do quality work. To add to this, it is important to do what you can to keep your monitor or screen at eye level or even higher. There can be decreases in focus and energy if your monitor is too low so that you are looking down at it. It has also been shown that you can become less distracted with a smaller visual field. So that guy in the corner with a hat and a hoodie is the most focused person in the room.
Unless you are doing work on your phone, which isn’t a great idea in the first place from a focus perspective, it can be a major distraction. Every time you get distracted, it will take more time to get refocused. So put your phone away, whether that be in a drawer, in another room, or in one of those timed lock boxes.
Although many of us can feel that breaks between work bouts can be a waste of time, they can be more important than everything else we have discussed. People tend to have differing lengths of quality focus, so it is important to listen to your body and brain and find what works best for you. For some people, 45 minutes of quality focus is enough and they will need a short break. For others, this can stretch to about 90 minutes. Again, this depends on the person. What does not differ between individuals is the need for breaks in between these bouts of focus. These breaks can be fairly short, ranging from 5-15 minutes. During this time, it is important to decrease the stimulation to your brain. That means stay off your phone, social media, email, etc. Instead, take a walk, do some stretches, get outside, or watch birds do whatever birds do. After this break, get right back to focusing on the tasks at hand. Similar to our sleep cycle, our focus and motivation is going to cycle throughout the day.
Noise and attention level can depend on the person and their mood that day. Some days you may want to be in an environment with lots of noise, while other times you may want complete silence. White noise can be beneficial for a short amount of time but not for long bouts of focus of an hour or more. If you prefer to listen to music, there are plenty of lo-fi beats on YouTube, Spotify, or Apple Music that are perfect to listen to and will not distract you from what you are working on.
All in all, it is important to find what works best for you. Whether that be the environment, lighting, sound, or anything else. If you enjoy your set-up now and are happy with your level of focus, don’t change a thing! But if you have noticed yourself losing focus, creativity, or motivation, maybe it is time to try something new and change up your workspace.
If you’re looking to dive deeper into this topic, there is quality information all over the internet if you look in the right places. Once again, Dr. Andrew Huberman on Huberman Lab podcast posts an incredible amount of quality information and was the driver for bringing this blog topic to attention. Go check out his work—you will not regret it.