What’s your ideal environment? If I’m honest, mine would probably include a hot tub, a beautiful mountain view, and a ready supply of cocktails. And a fast internet connection.
Although… if I’m being truly honest, I couldn’t spend every day like that. (I am, however, willing to try, if anyone is in a position to make such a thing happen.)
Our environment is super important for our happiness, which makes our regular working/playing/relaxing space a huge factor in our daily mood. It’s worth making it just right for us.
Now, clearly, there’s no such thing as the perfect environment – that is, a place that would be ideal for all multipotentialites.
But we can take inspiration from what works for others, and use it to create our ideal environment, whether it’s an art studio, a computer workstation, a meditation area, or a place to binge-watch TV shows.
First, a Warning…
At the risk of rendering this entire article pointless, I want to remind you that while our space matters, it isn’t everything.
If we’re supposed to be working on a project, it’s more important to make progress than to spend days worrying over the exact feng shui alignment of our desk ornaments. Don’t let your environment be an excuse for not getting anything done!
Perhaps the best balance is to see our environment as a project in itself – something we work on long term. This way we can gradually develop the space over time while also moving forward on “real” projects.
What are the things we need to consider when creating our environment?
The Obvious Advice
Clearly, there are a few things that are banal but still important, so let’s just make a checklist without talking about them in great detail. Have you considered:
- Light (natural and artificial)
Okay, so now you’ve thought about those (and taken advantage of the great advice elsewhere on the internet regarding these basics), let’s think about the more interesting stuff.
I used to believe I could only work in absolute silence. Silence is great… except that it’s almost impossible to control, which meant my ability to work relied on the peaceful cooperation of the rest of the universe.
And the rest of the universe stubbornly refuses to just automatically do whatever I want, so I had to learn to work without requiring silence.
I’ve found it’s useful to work with some controlled noise. Obviously, music is a popular option here (I personally favor electronic or instrumental sounds with no distracting vocals).
There are also some useful apps and websites that provide ambient noise. If you haven’t tried these before, I recommend checking out Noisli, which drowns out irritating noise from the real world with relaxing background sounds.
Comfort and Health
I’m not in a position to advertize specific and comfortable pieces of furniture to you, but this is a factor you shouldn’t neglect.
Spending a significant portion of your time in one place means you should invest in being both comfortable and healthy. I used to have terrible back/neck pain, but buying both a super-comfortable office chair and a (cheap) standing desk has helped tremendously.
Taking a moment to do something as simple as changing the height of your monitor can reduce pain and effort massively. Don’t neglect this!
Until recently, it had honestly not occurred to me that it was possible to consciously control the smell of my environment. (I am proud that I’m resisting the urge to make any of the obvious jokes here.)
But then I was introduced to the concept of diffusers, and now everything smells wonderful all the time. It turns out that this is an easy and common thing to a) think about and b) improve. So if you’re like me, maybe you could consider this too!
So far everything has been a matter of taste, but messiness is a matter of self-knowledge.
For some, it’s impossible to work in a messy environment, whereas others feel uneasy when a space is too tidy; a bit of organized chaos is required.
We generally know this instinctively, but it’s common to let things slide and get away from how we’d like them to be. Is it worth spending a few minutes to tidy up, clean, or organize your chaos?
You might require constant social contact, absolute isolation, or anything in between.
Again, this might seem like one of those things you can’t change. While it’s harder to get more isolation (colleagues, family members, and neighbors aren’t too easy to get rid of!), you can mix more people into an isolated working environment.
Are you scheduling enough meetings? Enough quiet time? Can you enforce a period of solitude, even if only for an hour? Would an online co-working huddle help with those isolated working-from-home days?
If you’re getting too much or too little social contact, that may be something that’s in your power change.
I’m sure there are many ideas I’ve missed here, so I’d love to hear what is or isn’t important to others. I’m hoping to find some great inspiration for areas to improve in my own space!
What do you need to feel comfortable in your environment? Is there anything that makes it impossible for you to work? Share your ideas in the comments.
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he puts his time into standup comedy, computer programming, public speaking and other things from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you found him at www.walkingoncustard.com and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.