5 Alternative Work Spaces to Boost Your Productivity
As strange as it sounds, it’s often true that the workplace isn’t conducive to actual work. You have people talking all around you; phones ringing off the hook; email alerts flashing on the corner of your screen; distractions, distractions, distractions.
What you need is a change of scenery—quiet places that will allow your mind to breathe, shed the daily grind, and focus on the task at hand. You need a secret work station. I’m not talking about a vault behind a bookshelf that opens when you play a certain key on your piano, I’m talking about places in life that we normally wouldn’t consider a workplace, that are actually perfect for brainstorming, problem-solving and generally getting stuff done! These are places that force you to be still and quiet, and are separated from the bustling business world you’re used to.
Here are our picks for the top 5 best secret work stations.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
One in ten executives spends more than 25% of the working week in the car1. That’s a lot of time wasted. Vehicles aren’t just good for getting us from point A to B. They serve as one of the few spaces we can be alone with our thoughts for an extended amount of time. Now I’m not suggesting you pick up your phone and start answering emails on your way to work, but I am suggesting you turn off your radio and get some good hard thinking done. Plan how your next meeting agenda will go. Figure out what to say to your boss. If you’re flying, you have the advantage of being able to use electronics, so turn off the in-flight movie and get out your laptop instead. Take advantage of this precious alone time that is (for the most part) quiet and still. Although nobody likes a long commute, sometimes they are just what the doctor ordered.
It’s been widely proven that spending a little time in nature every day is good for you, body and mind. What we don’t often think about is how that exposure to nature can affect our work habits. The University of Melbourne recently did a study on just this concept, and found that even a brief break in the work day to go for a walk in the park or sit by a tree provided measurable cognitive benefits. She found that these “green micro-breaks” increased the respondents’ attention spans that had deteriorated throughout the day, and helped them get their work done quicker and more easily. So whether your creative ideas are spawned within nature, or are a result from taking that time to just relax, get outside and enjoy it!
Alright, get the chuckles all out of your system. I’ll wait. Because the truth is, the bathroom is another place where we are absolutely allowed to be alone. It’s one of the few things that humanity has generally agreed upon: what you do in the bathroom is a private affair. So why not take advantage of that privacy? Whether you’re taking a nice bath, brushing your teeth or doing nature’s business, there’s a quiet zen to bathrooms that somehow fuels great thinking.
There is actually a science behind this too. Dopamine, the “good-feeling” hormone, is released in the brain when we do something nice, like take hot shower or, well… do other things in the bathroom. Dopamine fuels creative thinking and gives us great ideas. But that’s not the only ingredient to good hard thinking. The bathroom is like an incubator for thought. Let’s back up a minute. So, our brain is a powerhouse of thought, and we’re actually only aware of a small percentage of the thinking we’re doing. All day long our subconscious has been working on overdrive under the surface, without us even noticing. Places like the bathroom--quiet, dopamine-rich places--give us a moment to let our subconscious thoughts become our conscious thoughts, and working with dopamine, our best thoughts come to fruition! The perfect reply to that nasty work email is just a shower thought away.
The Waiting Room
Isn’t it strange to think there are rooms we’ve constructed that are specifically just meant for waiting? Ironically too, these rooms are usually the least entertaining places you’ve ever been in. You’re choices are often a stack of magazines from 1998 and a couple of old toys in the corner that you must resist playing with. The decision to go on your cell phone is the easiest one you’ve ever made, but you naturally gravitate toward the social media apps or addictive mobile games. Why not take advantage of that forced waiting period and get something productive done? Make a list, check emails, call a lost client. Now obviously, if you’re in a hospital, you must check the posted policies before using your cell phone--they can disrupt certain equipment if used nearby—but for the most part, you should be good to go. Make your boredom work for you.
In Bed and In Your Dreams
There are some great studies out there that prove that our best ideas come to us right after sleep. But why? When I wake up in the morning I definitely do not feel like my brain is functioning at all, let alone at its best. Well, our prefrontal cortex is most active right after a good sleep, and that is the area that works on decision making and differentiating good, better and best. Has someone ever given you the advice to “sleep on it”? They were on to something! Take advantage of that optimal hour and make a couple of hard decisions—they’ll probably be good ones.
Furthermore, creative ideas come easiest to us after slumber. This is partly because our brains have already been hard at it throughout the night, making creative connections through the medium of our dreams!
Consider this observation from Tom Stafford, writing for the BBC:
An interesting aspect of the dream world: the creation of connections between things that didn’t seem connected before. When you think about it, this isn’t too unlike a description of what creative people do in their work – connecting ideas and concepts that nobody thought to connect before in a way that appears to make sense.
Once again, the subconscious is working hard for us without us even knowing. Thanks, subconscious!
As you can see, not all work has to be confined to the workplace. There are plenty of other secret work stations out there that might do you better than your typical office. That being said, be careful not to make the entire world a workspace. Take the time to not only work in these places, but enjoy them as they ought to be: as a nice, quiet break.