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7 Simple Ways To Ramp Up Productivity In Your Home Office

7 Simple Ways To Ramp Up Productivity In Your Home Office

Big businesses are rapidly realizing something that self-employed workers have known for ages: allowing employees to work remotely does great things for productivity and happiness. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, the percent of non-self-employed people who work from home has more than doubled over the last 10 years. What’s more, the average business saves approximately $11,000 per telecommuter annually, and nearly 70 percent of companies report increased productivity from their virtual workers.

However, the success of remote working depends a lot on the home office environment. Whether you have been working from home for years or are new to virtual employment, a positive work-from-home experience starts with a smartly assembled workspace. Here are seven easy ways to create the ultimate remote work setup.

1. Declutter

Clutter can infest your space with distractions and have a profound effect on your mood. To combat this, examine your home office and remove items that don’t belong, paying particular attention to your desktop or other work surfaces. Use of a variety of storage containers and desk accessories to keep the things you need handy but out of sight.

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Tip: If your office is tight on floor space, use a combination of shelving and wall pockets to organize your essentials.

2. Incorporate a personal touch

You spend a lot of time in your office, so creating a personal and positive space is well worth the effort. Start by establishing a cohesive home office style that you identify with, and then add inspirational décor that works with that theme. Whether you’re motivated by pet pictures, encouraging quotes, or vacation mementoes, a few carefully selected items can arouse positive vibes even on the worst of days.

Tip: For virtual work that requires a heavy dose of creativity or focus, consider changing the color scheme of your office. Different hues provide a range of psychological boosts — white is great for fostering imagination, for example, whereas blue can help promote a calm and centered mentality.

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3. Improve area lighting

Lighting is an underestimated element of a productive workspace. A dimly lit office not only increases eye fatigue, but it can also make you sleepy and negatively impact your mood. In addition to adjusting the ceiling-mounted fixtures that illuminate your office, it’s important to make use of task lights as well. These smaller lights can help ensure that your desk or other work area is sufficiently well-lit, improving both attitude and performance.

Tip: An LED dimming system is an easy and energy-efficient way to change the level of lighting in your home office as needed throughout the day.

4. Update your technology

As a virtual worker, you probably rely heavily on technology, which means keeping devices up-to-date is paramount to productivity. Whether it’s a printer you are always troubleshooting or software you have outgrown, make some time to evaluate your home office technology and upgrade tools as necessary. Plenty of new office tech products are released every year, so stay on top of recent developments to really enhance your work environment.

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Tip: You might not realize it, but a slow Internet connection may be hampering your efficiency. Test your Internet speed to find out if your connection is sufficient.

5. Elevate your computer

Hunching over a computer every day can ruin your posture and lead to an array of neck and back problems. Using a computer stand to elevate your laptop or mounting your desktop monitor to a more comfortable viewing height can help alleviate these issues. You’ll be surprised at how much more enjoyable work is when you don’t have to worry about physical strain.

Tip: Increase your comfort further by investing in a quality desk chair that provides ample support for your lower back. Or, if you want your workspace to double as a workout space, use a stability ball to help strengthen your core muscles.

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6. Play some tunes

A number of reports indicate that listening to certain types of music can boost productivity, creativity, and memory. Capitalize on this by purchasing high-quality speakers and using an app like Spotify to create playlists for different work-related jobs. Upbeat tunes are preferred for redundant tasks, and soothing music is the best choice for brainstorming and creativity.

Tip: When playing background music, stay away from songs with lyrics, as they can be distracting. Instead, listen to natural sounds, like a babbling brook or ocean waves.

7. Add plants

Adding plants to your home office will make the space feel more warm and welcoming. Potted plants also provide a natural way to help filter air and replenish oxygen — English ivy and golden pothos are two particularly excellent plant purifiers. If you don’t have a green thumb, opt for a more resilient plant, like a small cactus or succulent.

Tip: For a dose of aromatherapy, place a planter of lavender near your desk. The scent can help relieve stress and promote uplifting thoughts. Creating the perfect home work environment can be tricky, even if you’re a virtual veteran. Try a few of these simple suggestions to figure out what works best for you. In a matter of days, you could be working in a dynamic home office that catapults both your productivity and your happiness.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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