Think About Your Work Environment and Optimize Your Productivity

Would you ever cook breakfast in the shower? Probably not. Making breakfast is an activity that typically takes place in a very specific environment – the kitchen. We plan our non-work activities to take place in particular spaces; so why not do the same for our tasks at work.

As an organizational psychologist, I focus on human behavior in the workplace. There are ample studies about the best time of day to perform certain tasks – the best time to send an email, hold a conference call, make a big decision, etc. To complement that school of thought, I believe there are also ways to be more productive by tackling the right tasks in the right environments.

Being thoughtful about your physical environment, and the tasks that you need to complete, will help you maximize your productivity for the day (click to tweet). Here are five things to try:

1. Use your commute to jump-start your day.
Research shows that the average commute time in the United States is 25.4 minutes. Rather than squandering that time away, use this time to your benefit. If you travel by rail or bus, try making a to-do list for the upcoming day, and if you drive or have the luxury of walking to the office, educate yourself on a topic by listening to an interesting podcast (insert shameless plug for our As Seen On Internet podcast by Ketchum’s Ben Foster and Amit Wadehra here). These are easy and highly productive things to do before you even walk in the door.

2. When you are in the office, use your smart colleagues to your advantage.
I work in an agency environment, surrounded by energetic people bristling with new ideas. The office environment is the best setting for a group brainstorm on a challenging topic, for sharing updates on a project or for holding a team meeting.

3. Create face-to-face opportunities when working outside of your office.
There are days where we are working offsite at another internal office or at a client location. If you have a meeting on the books at a certain time, show up a little bit early and use the good fortune of being physically present to meet with those who work in that location. Although we all love email and texting, there is no replacement for face time (no, not that face time). Use this time to forge relationships and introduce yourself to those you only know via email.

4. Utilize quiet plane time.
Although a long flight is not everyone’s favorite pastime, this is the perfect environment for deep thinking and thoughtful writing. With limited cell phone service and internet access (the WiFi never works well!), this might be the most solitude you find in a calendar year. This is the ideal moment for independently crafting a strategy document, a proposal, a blog post or something else that requires a quiet setting.

5. Step outside.
Use the great autumn weather as an opportunity to grab your laptop and work outside. A café, a park bench or some grass are all great environments for new idea generation. People often report that a change in your physical perspective leads to a change in your mental perspective. Working outside is also a great environment to return phone calls.

Next time you are planning your day, consider your physical environment and the type of work that you have to complete. What tips do you have for capitalizing on certain environments to boost productivity? Feel free to share in the comments below.