Upgrade your work environment

Ensuring a focus-supportive work environment may sound like a basic step, but like most basic steps, it is often a missed one. Our rational brain is guided by physical and sensory cues and constantly responds to the environment. Imagine having to write an important research piece while sitting in a stadium during a lively football match. Even if you’re not interested in the match, you’ll need to direct much of the energy you were planning to invest in writing to shutting out the auditory, visual, olfactory and other environmental cues. Laying the ground for focused work is well worth the effort.

Below are some straightforward steps to create a work environment which encourages focus.

  • Keep your desk clean, tidy and free of any clutter. You can make this into a morning ritual, giving your brain a cue that ‘this is when work starts’ (see also under ‘Attention rituals’ below).
  • Ensure plenty of good daylight. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin, associated with boosting mood and helping you feel calm and focused. Choose a sunny room or area in which to work, and support with extra lights on dark days.
  • Allow for fresh air – with fresh air, the oxygen levels in your blood go up. More oxygen then circulates to your brain, which helps you feel energized and improves your ability to concentrate. If keeping a window open is not possible or desirable, go outside for a few breaths of fresh air every hour. It will be a short, refreshing break in itself and it will help make your mind clearer, sharper and calmer.