At the end of the work week, do you often wonder where the time went and how you got so little accomplished? Are bosses or clients breathing down your neck because you’re always late with your assignments?

It doesn’t matter if you work from home or in an office full of other people there are certain things that go a long way toward helping you be more productive, and many of them are fairly easy to change.

Lighting:

Research has shown that people work best with natural sunlight, but for many of us that just isn’t an option—either there’s no way to get direct sunlight in our office, or we have difficulty using it anyway because the glare it can cause on computer screens. Luckily, there’s another way to go: natural daylight bulbs and desk lamps like this one from OttLite simulate the light from the sun’s rays, and encourage alertness and productivity.

Seating:

Human beings weren’t designed to sit at desks all day, but unfortunately, that’s the reality in many of our jobs. This is made even worse when we have to spend 8, 10, 12, or even more hours each day in a chair that just doesn’t cut it—after all, it’s pretty hard to concentrate on your work if you’re always squirming in your seat and feeling uncomfortable. If you let this go on for too long, you can even develop long-term problems, so it’s important to invest in ergonomic seating, such as the Herman Miller Aeron chair—a popular choice if you can afford it.

Air quality:

Did you know that removing pollutants can improve the performance of tasks like typing and solving mathematical problems by between 4 and 16 percent? Or that even the perception of better indoor air quality can make people work better? Air purifiers are a great way to remove allergens and other pollutants from the environment and help you to breathe easier and cleaner. This is especially important for people indoors for long stretches of time, because foul air has nowhere to go and simply gets recycled without something to purify it. Just research home air purifiers to find one that best fits your office setting.

Temperature:

We’ve all been in that workplace “perfect storm” where our station has been positioned right under the ventilation ducts, and it’s never fun. Sure, the main temperature gauge might say that the office itself is a perfect 71 degrees, but if you’re directly beneath the gale-force A/C winds or the scalding heat coming from that vent, you know that number doesn’t apply to you. Unfortunately, it’s been scientifically proven that if we’re too hot or cold it can adversely affect our work performance. You can combat this in a couple of different ways: change your clothing based on the “indoor season,” or get a small fan or desk heater for your space.

Noise:

Of the many things that have been shown to distract us from the things we’re supposed to be focusing on, noise is one of the worst. Unlike visual distractions, you can’t just close your eyes or turn away and be done with it, and if you simply try to distance yourself from it, you might find it to be a long trip indeed. Luckily, there are ways to drown out or dampen noise that have been shown to help: earplugs lessen the negative impact of distracting sounds, and headphones can help you to cancel it out with sounds or music you want to hear. In fact, a number of studies have shown that classical music can actually increase productivity and even make you smarter—at least while you’re listening to it!

Organization:

Yes, yes, messiness is the sign of a creative mind and all that, but try arguing that to your boss or clients when you miss a deadline because you forgot the project was due or couldn’t find important documents in all of that creativity-inspiring junk piled on your desk. If you want to work more efficiently, schedule your tasks on calendar programs and invest in a nice filing cabinet and desk organizer.

The most important thing you can do is to create a functional space over which you have as much control as possible so that you know you can change things to suit your needs and the tasks at hand whenever you want. Once we feel like we’re more in charge of our domain, we let down our guard, and free ourselves up to focus properly.

Featured photo credit:  Modern interior of office via Shutterstock

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