I used to think that I worked best in a high-stress environment. After all, with the path I’ve chosen to take in business, it’s kind of a prerequisite to success. I realized, though, that while I’m often confronted with stressful situations, my productivity is highest when my pressure to work comes from a place of passion and drive, as opposed to stress and fear.
One of the biggest changes I made that helped me to work consistently from that place of positivity was to revamp my workspace, so that I could work productively for hours without feeling like I was going out of my mind. It all came down to following a single rule: if it feels right to me, than it’s right.
I spend a considerable amount of time in my office, so for me, a sterile vision of metal and beige just won’t work. Given the amount of time that most of us will spend living in our workspaces over the course of our lifetimes, it makes sense to make our them look attractive to us. For me, that means vibrant colors, lots of natural light, a wooden desk, and a vase of fresh flowers. When I walk into my workspace, I feel great about it. It really is one of my favourite spaces. The emotional response you pull from your workspace should mimic the way you feel about your work. I don’t want an office environment that makes me feel bored or overwhelmed. Peaceful, focused, alive — these are feelings I get from my workspace.
If my workspace is a mess, chances are, so am I. It automatically makes me feel stressed, overwhelmed, and disorganized. That being said, an empty desk and bare shelves makes me feel uninspired and a little lost. It reminds me of an Albert Einstein quote: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?” I like having artwork on my walls and meaningful knick knacks on my desk, and real reference books that I can pull off of shelves.
I’ve been known to burn scented candles in my workspace, but by far, the best thing about my office is the smell. Real wood and fresh flowers and books and a breeze from an open window. I’m sure if I bothered to run the numbers, I’d find that it’s improved my productivity by a factor of 10. Scents do have a measurable effect on productivity. I think I read somewhere once that lemon and lavender produced the most significant positive results, but for me, it’s the wood and the books that do it.
There may of course be the down side of working for an employer who rejects the idea of these changes to a work environment. My reaction to that was to get a new employer — namely, myself! I live by the idea that my work should support my lifestyle, not suppress it. That, of course, might not be a feasible option. But why not do what you can? Clean up, add a photo, buy a plant, and relax! Work is a necessary part of life, so it might as well be enjoyable!