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Working Your Workspace

Posted On - 29/04/2016 08:16:44

What's your workspace like to work in? Why does this matter? Great time management hinges on your feelings and mood. And your environment plays a key part in that…What's your office like… your workshop… shop… garage – what are they like to work in?

What's the colour? Where do you sit? What's the lighting like? How much space have you got? Do you have windows?

What the chuff's this got to do with time management?

Great time management isn't just about how good you are, it's about how good you are. How you feel and your mood matter. And your environment plays a key part in that…

Surround sound

In the last blog we talked about how food, drink and exercise affect you. How they can change your mood. Make you more – or less – alert. The effects are real and the impact on productivity can be huge.

A lost afternoon after too much lunch? A jittery morning after a too much coffee and a sweet breakfast?

Well, so it is with your environment. Your surroundings have a big effect on productivity - possibly far bigger than you think.

Now where‘s the screwdriver?

We've seen workshops that look like landfill sites and others like clinics. We've seen desks buried under paper and computers – others with just a pad, phone and pen. But don't confuse cleanliness with tidiness when what matters is organisation – knowing where things are.

A clean desk doesn't necessarily mean a productive person, though the underlying behaviour would say they are. And neither does a cluttered desk mean necessarily mean the opposite, though again the underlying behaviour would suggest so. Let's face it, if you're in the habit of keeping things spic-and-span, you'll know where your stuff is when you need it.

A cluttered desk is certainly time saving, convenient and maybe how you work ‘best'. But if you don't know what's under it all, you're disorganised, period. And likely less productive than you could be.

Don't do as I do

But before you console yourself with "it's alright, my clutter's OK", think about this. You're sending a message to everyone around you – that disorganisation is OK. And while you might cope and work best like it, most people don't.

Things get far worse in shared workspaces. One person's clutter breeds into everyone's. Things start going missing. Components get lost. Tools go walkabout. Papers disappear. Getting work done becomes harder than it need be.

The easiest way to keep productivity up is to keep things uncluttered. Old words but true: a place for everything and everything in its place. Perhaps your screwdriver should be on a shadow board?


This isn't about others dropping by for a chat – that's an interruption. This is about background noise and how it can really interfere. Now different situations and tasks apply but research shows noise disrupts productivity more than improves it. Ever found yourself saying "pipe-down" to everyone in the car because you're lost and trying to find your way? Straining to blot out workshop chatter as you read a detailed email? Intermittent speech is worst – are they talking to me? And what about trying to ignore the half of a phone call you can hear?

Whistle while you work

Background music lifts mood. It fits with manual non-conscious routines – work you've done many times before (see "The Art of the Changeover" for more).

But music can disrupt reading. Just think about what happens when your favourite tune plays on the radio? The very fact you noticed it shows you how it's interfering.

Extroverts and people with good working memory – they're the ones good at remembering phone numbers and holding stuff in their heads - are better at fighting off noise. But notice the word 'better'. When all's said and done, quiet or silence is advised for best productivity. Perhaps having the radio on while doing quotes or learning a repair procedure isn't such a good idea? Maybe it doesn't make sense to always have your office door open?

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