Does your work area encourage you to do your best work?
As someone who works from home, it’s important for me to have a work area that helps me focus my attention so that my efforts are more effective. However, what is ideal for me might not be ideal for you. As you prepare to set up your ideal work area, here are some things to consider:
A Space that Encourages You to Work
Your work area should encourage you to, well, WORK. While many freelancers like working on the couch with a laptop, I find that it distracts me. My ideal work area should feel different than the space I use to relax. I like to work at a desktop, and I like sitting at a desk. When I’m sitting on the couch, my mind tends to switch to relaxation mode, and I’m more likely to become distracted.
Think about what you need to encourage you to work. For some people, it helps to get out of the house completely. Working in a coffee shop or a coworking space can make sense in these circumstances. When I leave the house, I expect to have fun, so it doesn’t make sense for me to set up outside the home for work. While I can get work done outside my home office if I need to, I work best when I am in my home office because the entire setup triggers a “work” mindset.
Identify (and Eliminate) Distractions
Determine what is likely to distract you. My office is set up so that my back is to the door, and I am well inside the room. That way, it’s more difficult for outside happenings to draw me in. I also listen to music while I work. There are times when I am more distractible than others, so I pay attention to my mood and adjust my music accordingly. One of my playlists is entirely composed of classical and jazz music without words. When I have trouble concentrating, I switch from my regular mix (which contains everything from baroque to heavy metal) to the “focus” mix.
Set up your work area so that you minimize distractions. If you are working in a coffee shop, set up away from the window where you might be tempted to people-watch instead of work. When in a coworking environment, wear headphones to signal to others that you aren’t interested in conversation. Figure out what distracts you from your work and create solutions to help you tune those distractions out.
One of the problems you might encounter as you work from home is mental fatigue. I know that sometimes I need a bit of a break from my work. As a result, I like to position my work area near a window where I can look out and see nature. My home office in Utah included a view where I could watch hummingbirds. In Pennsylvania, my work area overlooked a stand of woods. When I get set up in Idaho, I'll try to choose a location that allows me to see the landscape of the yard. I also like to keep a plant or two in my home office. These are soothing to me and provide me a chance to take a mental break when I need it. I also like to have plants in my work area.
When I fly, I often work on the plane, since lack of Internet provides me with a distraction-free way to work. While using a laptop on an airplane isn’t exactly ideal, it does help me to sit next to the window and look out on occasion.
You can also include other features that might soothe you and offer you a way to refresh. It’s possible to purchase small fountains if you find running water soothing. My parents gave me a portable water fountain for Christmas one year. It’s compact and easy to take with me on the road. I know one freelancer who brings meditation chime balls to her coworking space. She can quickly engage in one to two-minute meditations with the help of the chime balls when she finds herself becoming mentally fatigued.
The ability to take a break is important. Even if all you do is make sure you have the room to stand up and stretch a little bit, you can greatly improve your work area.
Think about what provides you with the best conditions for working. Try your best to create those. Even when you can’t reach your ideal, you can employ strategies to help you work a little more efficiently overall.