Blogger: Mary Keeley
Every year around this time my mind begins to wander (more). The days are getting shorter, and it’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is three measly weeks from today, and then onto Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the pressure of so many work-related things yet to do before the end of the year: proposals to polish and send to publishers, and manuscript submissions needing a read and a reply. I feel a weight of guilt over that one because client needs and contract negotiations come first, and some of these writers have been waiting a while. You surely have your own set of circumstances that raise your stress and guilt levels too. We’ll always have these to deal with, but a few personalized adjustments to your writing environment can boost your outlook for work optimization any time of year.
A natural place to begin is at your WORKSPACE.
This goes beyond the usual organization of files and research materials. That’s an obvious need, and an entire post can be dedicated to organizational tools and technology, but today’s focus is on environmental aspects that influence your individualized work optimization. I’m a firm believer in the adage, “A cluttered desk = a cluttered mind,” because for me this is true, but it might not be an issue for you. While working, some writers have the gift of tunnel vision and don’t even notice the non-essentials crowding their workspace. Because there are no two of us alike, there is no one-size-fits-all set of recommendations.
Some people are more sensitive to their surroundings than others. Creative people, such as writers, tend to be distracted easily, often by external stimuli, which then take their thoughts on a detour. How frustrating this can be, especially when we’re writing against a deadline. I wonder if this is in part why Anne Lamott talks about keeping index cards with her at all times in her book about writing, Bird by Bird. She uses the cards to jot down thoughts, words, and ideas as soon as they come to mind so she doesn’t forget them. Knowing they’re recorded for later use, reverting to the task at hand is a quick step. Good tip, but other influences distract too.
Subtleties of the ENVIRONMENT surrounding your workspace are important.
If you’re noticing a difference in your productivity as the autumn days become shorter, you might be interested in reading this feature article, “Winter Darkness, Season Depression,” by Martin Downs, MPH, on WebMD.com. According to him a number of factors are involved, but the commonality of those who suffer from what’s called “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD) is that they are unusually sensitive to light or the lack of it, particularly sunlight. Alfred Lewy, MD, adds his research finding that “the most important time to get light is in the morning.” There are varying degrees of severity, but apparently the best way to deal with it is to add bright artificial light to your work area and invest in a light therapy lamp.
The color of your work area can have nuanced effects as well. If your space faces north, you might want a cheery tint. If it faces west or south, a quieter hue might be better for you. Here are a few examples of the effects of colors from an article, “Color Psychology,” by David Johnson:
- Green – soothing, easy on the eyes, the color of nature
- Blue – peaceful, tranquil, the color of the sky and oceans
- Red – emotionally intense, said to stimulate a faster heartbeat, also the color of love
- Yellow – cheerful, bright, enhances concentration, but most difficult color for eyes
Pay special attention to how you might be reacting unconsciously as you walk into your workspace area. Do you enjoy the surroundings or do certain elements deplete you? It matters in terms of your work optimization. As winter approaches and windows are closed, add several plants for the oxygen and the natural beauty they provide. Keep your room a little cooler to avoid feeling sluggish. Put a special light box on your Christmas list. Change the paint color to one that works better for you.
What elements affect your work optimization? What tactics do you use to keep from being distracted easily while you’re working? Are you aware of the degree to which you are affected by bright light or the lack of it, or by the color of your workspace?
Subtle elements of your writing workspace affect your work optimization. Consider these examples. Click to Tweet.
Making simple changes to your writing environment can increase your daily results. Click to Tweet.