How I shift between spaces to maximize Productivity
Your brain is compartmentalized to address different areas of your life. So should your operating environment.
As I power through the hours, charged up by morning coffee, I wear multiple hats- and undertake various actions that define and shape my day.
Between listening to the birds chirping, flipping through the pages of several novels, listening to podcasts, taking notes, and reading tens of Medium articles, I am feeding my brain with tons of stimulus — and tons of computing power is expended in achieving holistic productivity.
Some of these are planned, and others are not. But there is always a conversation that happens with myself, about being present in the moment, and making the most of the activity at hand that drip by drip helps me build toward the future. I am trying to find the right balance between the two. In the buffet of scenarios in my day-to-day, I am focused- and I am at my best.
But as energy wanes and the once luminescent day ticks towards dusk, it gets tricky to keep flying high.
The Stupid-Simple Hack to get back in the game
While playing on their strengths, leaves, and vacations are supercharged options to refresh and reset. Overspending, taking unstructured trips, etc. can instead become frustrating and mentally draining.
Not to mention, taking vacations to mentally refresh is an infrequent activity. A quick, viable hack to not fall in the rut is to shift the operating environment.
I can immerse myself in a task at an office desk, at the breakfast counter, in a cafe — even on the bed/bean bag.
2 considerations to factor in
Plopping into seats does not do wonders. The ebb and flow of individual components of the environment hold unaccounted importance to get anything done.
I factor in the sensory inputs such as decibels, visually distracting cues, and visually inspiring cues.
Here are 2 other, more critical considerations:
⟶ Activity at hand: All activities are not equal. Some are high-effort, others are low-effort. Some require deep focus, others require creativity. Some need seclusion, others demand collaboration.
Matching the right environment with the right activity is about having an acute sense of self-awareness. What works for me may not work for you.
My efforts flourish when deep work is paired with a low vibrancy environment- the least distractions, the least amount of pings, and the least amount of noise. And when creative work is paired with the aromatic notes of coffee, the high vibrancy of a cafe, and shifting components outside and inside the coffee shop — it tends to spark my creativity.
Spillovers are an equally baffling, yet fascinating concept.
Deep work, although very difficult to execute and accomplish in bed, seems to come naturally to me when it rains outside. Or when visiting a cafe an hour or so before closing — there aren’t too many distractions and the coffee aroma re-energizes me.
⟶ Energy cycle: The other component to thoroughly understand is your energy cycle.
Upon waking, I am my mentally sharpest self. I sit outside and use this opportunity to learn.
But if you are not a morning person, waking up may feel like being burnt toast.
As the morning progresses, you gain more energy — making it possible for you to take on energy-intensive tasks. Starting your day on a bean bag can keep you attached to your comfort space yet detached enough for you to do a few things.
Understanding Attentional Space
In his book Hyperfocus, Chris Bailey describes ‘Attentional Space’ as the amount of mental capacity we have available to focus on and process things in the moment. The space holds everything you are aware of.
If we can use more of our attentional space to focus on what’s going on in the moment, with deliberate attention, we can take a more intentional approach to execute what requires your attention.
This is a critical factor in deciding on the cafe or library as my operating environment.
A cafe at the corner of busy streets should be reserved for hanging out and catching up with friends. This location will fill your attention space with too many distracting elements and higher-than-average decibels.
Walk a block or two for less crowded cafes and fill your attention space with elements that need to fill up that space.
The same thought process goes behind picking a library or a co-working space.
Shifting operating environments introduce new stimuli in my day-to-day and stave off boredom.
Tip: Don’t shift between activities. Complete activities before moving and start new activities when you reach your destination. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing too much time traveling and warming up to the varied elements of the environment.
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