Entities and Environments

Entities and Environments

You probably notice that when you’re in certain buildings, rooms, or an overall work environment you feel more energized and productive than others. You might notice that when trying to accomplish certain tasks at home vs. the office it’s much more difficult for you to focus. Similarly, you may find that getting certain tasks done on your touchscreen devices is impossible compared to, say, a computer. Where you’re trying to get work done and through which means greatly impacts the level of productivity you’ll get to work with.

Different Devices for Different Duties

Many people refer to their iPad or tablet as their consumption device. They’ll use it nearly exclusively for reading news, watching movies, or browsing the web. More often than not, if they’re so exclusively reading books on their tablets and then try to pick up where they left off on in the story on their computer, they’ll feel out of place and experience trouble focusing.

Imagine you have multiple assistants all aggregating and organizing the relative papers and tasks, slams them in front of you on your desk, you handle them all, put it all away, and the next assistant comes along to do the same thing for a different topic. This is essentially what is happening when you condition yourself to understand one device for one activity. Each device is that assistant laying out the relevant things for you to take care of right then and there.

Some practical examples of this are:

An iPad with only iBooks, your favorite RSS reader, and a web browser.

You better believe that you are only going to be reading and consuming the news on this iPad. Even before you take any action, simply seeing the only available applications prepares you for doing nothing else.

An AppleScript that opens a browser, text editor, and Terminal.

In this case, you’re stuck on the computer which is probably your main workstation that has everything. Unless you have multiple computers you can devote for certain activities, creating workflows that place the relevant items in front of you can nearly act as that personal assistant.

For doing your web development or programming, a script that opens the tools needed in a separate space for that is just enough to clear your mind of anything else and focus on the tasks at hand.

An iPhone with social media apps

You may be a marketing manager who has to post to Pinterest and Twitter every hour on the hour. Note to yourself to unlock your phone, navigate to a page with the relevant apps placed in order of which to post on first, and you’re good to go. Most of the friction is removed and your only job is to post, not to remember everything.

Where You Work – Your Work Environment Working for You

Have you ever noticed that you’re in a completely different mindset if you’re in the coffee shop than when you’re in the office — even compared to when you’re home but on the couch vs. the desk vs. the bed? Unless you have enough tunnel-vision to completely block out where you are at all times, your work environment is going to impact what you’ll feel like working on and how well you’ll perform working on that.

Harvard Business Review has a great write-up on the subject of why you’re more focused while in a coffee shop than in the office. The issue goes deeper than just where you are but who’s around you as well. In this situation, knowing that there are people you directly work with who can easily distract you by speaking about things you’re currently working with other co-workers is, by itself, distracting. On top of that, anyone discussing anything along with the knowledge that anyone can look over your shoulder is just as distracting. This is a large debate in the tech community nowadays regarding open offices and such but slightly deviates from the scope of this discussion.

Cultivate Your Climate

One way to take more advantage of your inevitable shifts in productivity based on location is to allocate certain tasks to certain areas. If you’re working on the same laptop all day for all your tasks, you can essentially have multiple workstations with just one device depending on how well you organize your spaces, programs, and environments.

You can do this by contextualizing the different tasks you have to get done to certain areas:

  • Desk
  • Couch
  • Coffee shop
  • Library
  • Patio

Here we have three different workplaces doing work for us by getting us in a certain mindset all with one device. Know how you operate and allocate certain tasks that you’ll accomplish more effectively in whichever context. Something that requires focus might be done best in the library or at your desk whereas something that is more lighthearted can be done in bed since you’re likely going to be in a comfortable position — finally something monotonous like checking email or organizing your task manager could be done on your couch or patio since the ambiance can’t really interfere.

The best system is always the one that works best for you. If you find that you can only focus on an important task at certain times of day in certain locations, don’t pass up an opportunity to trick your mind into getting you in that place so you can focus and accomplish those tasks. Sometimes getting up and moving someplace else is the most important push your body needs to finally be in the proper mindset to get things done. Ultimately, sounds, locations, and ambiance can drastically impact how much you get done and how effectively you do it — be in control of how well and how timely you do things by becoming more aware of your surroundings.

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