In my previous Productivity for Creatives posts, I shared some useful tips on what to do on bad days to stay in progress towards your business goals and I also talked about ways to leave behind these bad phases and gain back momentum.
But what if you are in your best mood - creative, cheerful, ready for changing the world for the better - and you face some difficult tasks that you are not the best in?
I’m talking about difficult tasks that you must do to advance your business. Tasks that requires consistency, determination and they likely not cover your strongest skill set. For me, one of these tasks is blogging...
A BIG REALIZATION ON A TINY SCREEN
Two years ago, I bought a MacBook. We spent a few months in Europe to visit our family and I had some design projects that I had to do. I’ve already had a quite powerful iMac that I absolutely loved working on but of course I couldn’t take that with me on the plane, hence the MacBook. I planned to work from coffee shops while my mom or my mother-in-law looked after our one-year-old son.
So I was there in Frei Cafe (my favorite Hungarian coffee shop chain) on beautiful Vaci street, with a yummy macadamia latte next to my new laptop. I opened up Illustrator and I instantly felt overwhelmed.
I’ve got used to the big 27” screen and now all the tools and panels I needed covered the tiny, 13” display with the even tinier artboard, turning my design process from enjoyable to almost impossible. I’ve also forget about my mouse, and while the trackpad is pretty cool on MacBooks, it’s still unbearable in a design software.
I suffered myself through half a project, constantly missing my big screen, quiet office room and big desk with all my drawing tools. This coffee shop & laptop setup simply didn’t work.
So next time, I decided to work on a blog post. Now, you must know that I find blog post writing incredibly difficult. English is not my first language and no matter how much I enjoy writing, making every post into something useful while keeping a length limit and finishing on time every week is hard for me… well, there’s a reason why I am a designer and not a writer.
But on that day, I was blown away. I typed in two posts in a one-hour long sitting with such a focus, that I had never experienced before.
Somehow, the laid-back cacophony of nearby chit-chats and espresso machines, the reassuringly minimalistic user interface of Evernote and the cup of latte turned me into a writer full of ideas. That never happened on the iMac. There, I was intimidated by the big whiteness and the quiet home office.
My new environment turned a difficult task into an easy-peasy one.
Since this experience, I’ve never written blog posts on my iMac and I’ve never done big design projects on my laptop. Also, I write most of my posts outside my office room, either at a little desk in our living room, that triggers the same coffee shop feel, or anywhere else from medical waiting rooms to the GO train. And it works like magic.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WORK ENVIRONMENT
Now where do I want to get with this? It’s pretty simple: you need a different work environment for different type of tasks. If you create the right work environment, you can turn yourself into a full focused, determined writer (or bookkeeper, marketer, videographer, etc - even if otherwise you suck in these).
If you create the right work environment, you can turn yourself into a full focused, determined blogger.
The right work environment stimulate you in a way, that’s perfect for that given task, therefore you are going to work quicker, more focused and more effective. In fact, the new work environments and the rituals compagning them can make you more excited to tackle these tasks.
In my case, the simple and small setup and the lively coffee shop helped me focus on the writing and gave me new ideas, while the quiet, big office and computer allowed me enough space for graphic design experimentation.
CREATE THE RIGHT WORK ENVIRONMENT FOR BLOGGING
OK, but how to do it? Do you really have to buy two computers, spend money on coffee shops and other fancy stuff?
The answer is no, absolutely no. There are many ways to create these differently stimulating environments in your own home with minimal equipment. Here are my tips:
Awareness and tracking are the key to find the right work environment
Before reorganizing your furniture and painting your walls vibrant turquoise, you must take notice of what works. As I talked about this in the previous Productivity for Creatives post, awareness is the key.
Creating the right environment will take some time because it requires some trial and error and many hours of reflecting on what worked and what not. The best you can do is to take your journal and write about your days. It’s a very simple ritual that you can do quite quickly every evening or before going to pick up your kids.
Write down how you worked that day, what you worked on and how did it go. Did your work environment help you focus better? Did you run into obstacles?
Try a work environment setup for a few days and then switch it up a little bit. After a month, you’ll have enough insight from your journal entries to see what worked the best and what needs to be eliminated.
Set the ambiance
You don’t need to head to the local coffee shop or library - or whatever environment helped you the most to put on the blogger hat. You can create the same ambiance in your own home:
- Choose the perfect background music or noise: Coffitivity and Noisli are two great resources of all kind of coffee house and nature background noise. I also love to use Spotify when I’m working on a design project, especially the “Music for concentration” playlist. It’s usually better to choose something instrumental than the newest pop hits because the lyrics would take most of your focus away.
- Choose the perfect light source: I prefer natural light and most of us perform better in a naturally lit space. I worked in an office where after a renovation the management moved everyone into prison cell-like cubicles in a big room without any natural light source. Everyone hated it and felt less productive, administrators and designers alike. Set your desk in front or close to a window, and use sheer curtains to soften direct sunlight.If night shift and artificial light is your path to better concentration, then go ahead, block out sunlight entirely and get good quality LED desk lamps. LED is better than halogen because it doesn’t emit as much heat. But please note, most of use perform better in natural daylight, that’s just how nature created us.
- Choose the perfect view: I love to raise up my glance time to time during blog post writing and rave into the environment around me. It’s not so inspiring when there’s only an empty white wall staring back at you. So I hanged motivational quotes, mood boards and interesting wall art around my office desk. The other little desk in our living room looks onto the street and there’s always something going on: kids playing basketball, squirrels have their quarrels and neighbours chat on their porch. These not so striking activities keeps my creative juices flowing.
- Choose the right screen size: even if you only want to have one computer, consider to invest in a second display. You won’t regret it, especially when you do bookkeeping and other administrative tasks with a zillion Excel sheet and folders open. It also works great when you do research for an upcoming blog post.
- Choose a minimalistic app / interface: When you work on blog post drafts, choose the most minimalistic app possible. I love to write my blog posts in Evernote or in Google Docs, instead of WordPress. WordPress has a gigantic menu on the left side and options, settings all around your work space making it almost impossible to concentrate onto your draft. You’ll likely click away and start updating your plugins and answering comments.
- Choose the right desk and chair: now again, you don’t have to go into financial debt while shopping for the perfect desk. In fact, I use simple IKEA stuff and it’s more than enough. I have a small laptop desk and this table top and drawers setup in our home office. The chair might be a bigger investment as it needs to be ergonomic and supporting your back well. I still use a regular chair in the living room and a simple swivel chair in the office and do regular yoga routines to help my back. Do your research and test out options to fit your body and help maintaining proper posture the best.
- Choose the right scent: this might sound weird, but I noticed that the scent of freshly brewed coffee helps me get into writer mode quicker. Scents have a very strong effect, often bringing back memories and stories which can help you develop a more personal writing style. Try good quality scented candles, coffee or tea
Don’t forget to take breaks and move
No matter how good is your environment, if you don’t get up regularly to rest or move your body, you’ll soon find yourself in an unproductive and painful swamp.
I use a Pomodoro app called Flat Tomato. This app set 25-minute long work phases followed by 5-minute long breaks and reminds you with a short bing at the end of each phase to take a break or return back to work. Really useful and if you want to read more about the Pomodoro technique, here’s the website of the inventor, Francesco Cirillo.
In your break, you can grab a cup of coffee, check social media or move a bit. I love to do a quick round of sun salutation (if you are new to yoga, the Yoga Studio app can direct you through some quick routines). Or switch Spotify to the newest hits and do a quick dance party, girl!
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN: WHAT WORKED FOR YOU TO SET THE RIGHT WORK ENVIRONMENT FOR BLOGGING & CONTENT CREATION?
I would love to hear about you. Please share your stories and experiences about your most productive work environment. What worked? What didn’t work? How did you discover them? Your tips will inspire others to become better bloggers so I can’t wait to read them.