Six Tactics to Increase Productivity by Organizing Your Workspace

Consider these tips in cultivating a happy, healthy and productive workspace.

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By Pamella de Leon


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Whether you work in an office or from home, it's easy to lose focus and feel out of sorts. Your space does affect your mental well-being and work output. Consider these tips in cultivating a happy, healthy and productive workspace.

1. Sound Instead of listening to high volume music, why not try ambient noise? A study by the University of Chicago concluded that ambient noise was ideal for creativity as it help you analyzing difficult data, compared to high noise levels that stifle information processing. A few places to sample for café ambience are Coffitivity, Soundrown, Focus@Will. If you prefer the calming ambience of nature, try Jazz and Rain or Thunderspace.

2. Clean vs. Cluttered Contrary to popular belief, there's actually benefits to having both a clean and a cluttered desk. A study from Psychological Science found that it's useful to have a messy desk at the beginning of a project and a clean one at the end. It was observed that in a disorganized environment, creativity is stimulated since people are free to come up with more ideas, while tidiness encouraged people to do what was expected of them– being charitable, eating healthier and making better choices.

When you switch from your normal work environment –i.e. your organized space- to a creative messy space, it sends a signal to your brain and if you do this enough, it will learn to recognize that it's time for a creative work marathon. Austin Kleon, best-selling author of Steal Like an Artist, thrives in having a creative messy desk and a minimalistic work desk. So if you can't afford or have a messy desk, at least have an area of your desk dedicated to your "messy" side.

3. Ergonomics It's beneficial to indulge in basic ergonomics. Adjust and make sure that everything you need is within reach to reduce muscle strain later on, and so you cut down on the time-wasting activities of trying to find that misplaced document.

4. Open vs. Isolated Open spaces are increasingly popular in office design. Feng shui principle suggests that rounded furniture tends to generate more creativity, and a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that sitting in circles or curved environments sparked more brain activity linked with reward, "aesthetic appreciation", and a collective mindset. But an open floor plan can be disadvantageous too, stating lack of privacy as the reason from a study by the University of Sydney.

At TED 2012, Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts, expressed the need for offices to support reflection and individual work. There really are just particular tasks that require individual contemplation, undisrupted by others. The solution to this conflicting need for collaboration and privacy can be to learn to differentiate which tasks can be done in the presence of a team and which require solitude, and work around those parameters.

5. Creative Triggers Triggers are actions that set off an automatic urge, which forms a habit. By identifying the actions that start the procrastination process or those that facilitate working intensely, we can see which trigger to alter to a new habit. To form a new habit, it has to be intentional at first but with time and consistency, the habit becomes automatic. Zen Habits suggests, "When you do the trigger, do the habit without fail." In terms of workspace creative triggers -they can also be a self-development credo- being surrounded by inspiring reads or a vision board helps.

It can be location based too, as one set of activity can be on collaborative open spaces, and core tasks at your desk. Behavioral patterns paired with scene changes will motivate you to complete specific tasks. My personal triggers are my to-do list, water or tea, and the kitchen table or an office for admin tasks and my desk or isolated outdoor spots with limited Wi-Fi (it frees me from browsing the internet) for creative work, prompting me to get in the zone. With minimal efforts, your brain can recognize that you are engaging in work mode.

6. Nature Increase natural light rather than fluorescents. Researchers in 2012 established that working with artificial light causes sleepiness at the end of the day. If your workplace has artificial light all day, take outdoor breaks as a natural refresher. And if you can't, a study executed in 2013 suggested that adding a potted plant to your desk increases productivity and cognitive attention. Why? Whenever you gaze at the plant it helps you reconnect with nature thereby increasing refreshment. A health benefit is that your plant filters the air to expel bacteria.

These are just few tips of enhancing your workspace- on your own, experiment through trial and error, and certainly do your research about space-productivity theories backed by actual science and statistics. One final tip? Note what productive colleagues are doing, and emulate the tactics they use in their workspace surroundings that foster great work.

Pamella de Leon

Startup Section Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.

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