How to Create a Productivity Friendly Environment

In our efforts to increase productivity, we find the strangest places to get work done. A friend posted on Facebook yesterday that he was working from the back of his SUV in the parking lot of a big box store while others did the shopping. I’ve written a blog post while zipping across Scotland by rail. Another friend of mine works in an open office space where nothing separates her desk from her coworkers’. Yet, every environment isn’t suited for productivity.

High Flying Productivity

A fellow solopreneur once observed that there were two types of people at his local coffee shop. Those who sat downstairs, near the counter, were there to be seen, not to work. Those who sat upstairs, hidden away, were the ones accomplishing their dreams.

Sometimes we find ourselves attempting to be productive in less than optimal places. However, I can be quite productive in an odd place given the right conditions. For instance, I find that I am very productive with my laptop on a tray table for a few hours thousands of feet above the earth. Typically, there are fewer distractions up there.

5 Tips for a Productive Environment

When you really need to get things done, you can set the conditions for maximum productivity, even in unusual places. Here are 5 tips for creating a productivity friendly environment.

1. Turn Off the TV

Research confirms what your mother always told you – turn off the television. Just like your computer, our brains have a limited processing capacity. That means we can only truly pay attention to one thing at a time.

With the TV on, our actual work gets the short shrift. A task you could have finished in 20 minutes now takes an hour.

For those of you who swear by having the TV on, it is the white noise you benefit from, not the TV itself. For tasks that require thought, use a white noise app. For asks that don’t involve reading comprehension or other thought power, the TV will only negatively affect your efficiency. 

2. Match Your Music to the Task

Not surprisingly, all music isn’t suited for boosting productivity. In a 2010 study, participants who read in silence outscored both the classical music and hip-hop music groups. The music, regardless of type, interfered with concentration. Another study in 2011 found that background music interfered with reading and memory, but aided physical tasks like working out or athletic performance.

But what if your task doesn’t take a lot of brain power? Here is what I’ve learned:
  • Cognitive heavy tasks (e.g., reading, studying, memorizing, problem solving) – best with silence
  • Cognitive light tasks (e.g., writing, organizing, sorting, email, brainstorming) – best with classical or slow, non-lyric music
  • Physical tasks (e.g., running, exercise, playing sports, cleaning the house) – best with upbeat, positive-lyric music

3. Silence Your Phone 

Cell phone alerts, buzzes, beeps, dings, and rings interfere with concentration. One study found that they interfere with decision making more so than a baby crying.

While this may be subtle, every distraction slows you down and your brain’s transmission doesn’t always shift smoothly. Some research suggests that the lag time your brain takes to refocus on a task after a distraction can be as much as 18 minutes. Yikes!

4. Position Yourself  Wisely

We are visual creatures. Hence road signs, billboards, restaurant and store signs, and advertising abound. Where you position yourself in your office, area, subway, or coffee shop matters. Opening yourself up to interruption will sabotage your productivity.

Try to go undetected. Avoid high-traffic areas. Find yourself a back corner, tucked away. Does your office have a door? Use it.

If you’re in a busy area, try facing away from the door. I do this when working in public places so I don’t look up every time someone walks in.

5. Gather Necessities First

If you have kids, you know about this tip already. Go to the bathroom. Grab a beverage. Have a snack on hand. This also includes grabbing the items you need to do your work.

Now that you have everything accounted for and close at hand, there should be no more excuses. Get to work. Be productive.

Create Your Productivity Friendly Space

One of the most powerful things you can do to boost your productivity is create a conducive environment. While you may not have control over everything in your environment, you can control these five aspects. Apply these tips, wherever you are, to increase your productivity and accomplish what matters most today.

Question: What is another tip you use to create a productivity friendly environment? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


Please note: I encourage reader discussion, however, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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