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4 Proven Ways to Design Your Work Environment for Deep Focus

Physical clutter leads to mental chaos

My workspace. Pic credits: Me.

On some days I start working at 2 pm. And without my realisation, I end up on Instagram when I actually want to use my phone for a legit reason. And before I check the time, it’s 5 pm, and I am losing to my flatmate in the 8-ball pool in my nearby mall.

The previous paragraph might sound similar to you because when we don’t design our work environment to shield us from distractions, our days pass at light speed, leaving us feeling like we haven’t accomplished squat.

To ensure you stay focused and complete your designated tasks for the day to have a peaceful sleep, here are four ways I have accomplished my goal for more than two years whenever I see my productivity suffer. Steal my focus regime if you find it interesting.

#1. Work in Zen mode.

Make your work the only source demanding your attention.

If you’re like me, you have terrible distraction tolerance and must avoid all chances of leaving your workspace. For the same purpose, I work in Zen mode.

Zen mode is inspired by the Zen mode of VSCode, a text editor for developers. When you enter the Zen mode in VSCode, you see only one file where you do all the typing with customised font and colour theme. No sidebar, no toolbar. Just one point of focus. Here is a preview:

Screenshot of VSCode in Authors’ computer. I see only one file and nothing else. If you’re wondering, the vertical bar on the right is a mini-map of the same file.

Applying the same mentality in your workspace is to design your workstation in a way that attracts you there while also keeping you hooked.

For example, given the benefits of single-tasking, I work in fullscreen mode on my computer, and the only source of stimuli is my computer.

My phone is out of sight. And if I want to note down something important that pops in my head out of nowhere, I record it on sticky notes on the wall to attend later.

Make your work the only source demanding your attention.

#2. Work in short bursts.

Working in shorts bursts is a proven method to boost your efficiency, mainly because of Parkinson’s law, which says:

“The amount of work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
— Parkinson’s Law by Cyril Northcote Parkinson, The Economist, 1955

Here is a quote from Elon Musk about the same idea:

“Stop being patient and start asking yourself, how do I accomplish my 10 year plan in 6 months? You’ll probably fail, but you’ll be a lot further along than the person who simply accepted it was going to take 10 years!”

Here is how the practical aspect of Parkinson’s law comes into play. If you don’t set time blocks for focused sessions, we tell our minds that we have all day. It results in extended procrastination for a task that barely takes an hour.

Working in bursts improves well-being because we see our little progress pile up after every short session.

“What gets measured gets improved.”
Peter Drucker

#3. Schedule distractions.

We are social animals vibing with each other, both offline and online. It implies one or the other time, you will check your phone to see if the world cares about you.

And with red being the default colour of app notifications and the colour of danger, love and sex, it’s naturally tempting to check our phone when we hear the chime.

You can make your phone minimalistic to avoid surrendering to the trap of nonstop notifications. I have written a separate article about it.

But if you want to take it to the next level, devote a fixed time to checking your phone. Otherwise, keeping it out of sight is better because you’ll gradually realise that you didn’t need your phone as much as you thought.

#4. Make hard work rewarding.

My favourite tip for making my work sessions attractive is easy access to ready-to-eat food.

Depending on your health concerns and metabolism, always keep snacks nearby to fulfil your craving on the desk whenever you want a reason to leave your room.

For example, I don’t need food when writing because seeing the words flooding the screen is a healthy drug. But when I am working on something where moving forward is difficult — for example, attempting an online test in my Master’s program — I binge on food when trying to solve the problems.

The most obvious benefit of having food within your one-arm reach is that you will never have to leave your room before your work ends.

I devoured a banana before writing this article. And I’ll bang one more after I finish writing.

Final words

Even though the photo of my workspace is the cover image, there is a lot more about the design of my room that is at play here, like:

  1. Organise your room for peace of mind.
  2. Attending all mundane tasks like laundry and groceries together.
  3. Designing your day based on your energy levels.
  4. Getting quality sleep every night.

When getting your skin in the game, ensure no insects interrupt your journey with the four ways I mentioned above. Here is a recap for your memory:

  1. Work in Zen mode. Only your work should direct your attention. It is beneficial when you have a low distraction tolerance like me.
  2. Enhance efficiency by working in burst sessions. Even little progress will keep you moving.
  3. Schedule distractions so they don’t hang around uninvited. Devote a dedicated time to attend to your phone.
  4. Make hard work rewarding because why not! You sweat for something and deserve a little pampering.

If you want to receive more stories like this, my lifelong learning newsletter is for you.

Sanjeev is a mentor, writer, and fitness enthusiast from India. He writes about lifelong learning, personal growth, and positive psychology. When he’s not engaging with students in solving their doubts or busy writing, he’s sweating either in a workout, PC gaming or playing 8-ball pool. You can also find him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Sanjeev Yadav

Sanjeev Yadav

Writer • Mentor • Recovering Shopaholic • IITR 2019 • ✍🏼 Personal Growth, Positive Psychology & Lifelong Learning• IG: sanjeevai • List: sanjeevai.ck.page