11 July 2010

Productive Workspaces

My productivity has always been a little spotty. I've devoted hours over the years to the investigation of why that is the case. I've tried to ascertain which stimuli or lack thereof impede progress and which speed it.

Should I brighten the whole room when I'm working or shine a single spotlight on my current project, as if to say, this is only thing in the whole world that matters, or at least in the whole room?

Should I use a large table, giving my project room to expand? Or should I confine myself to a small desk in order to invite focus?

What, if anything, should I listen to while I work? I once listened to the same two minute Shostakovitch piano prelude over and over on repeat for an entire paper. I tend to prefer instrumental music with repetitive motifs like that of Philip Glass. It's easy to jump into their rhythm, and the melodies are not too distracting.

How much coffee yields the perfectly functioning brain? If breakfast is the most important meal of the day and Cheerios the best breakfast cereal, then I should be eating Cheerios every day, no? Chocolate--distraction or part of the process?

Does the presence of peonies in the workspace help or hinder progress? This question requires copious verification.

I have a problem with sameness in workspaces. Rarely have I written two papers in the same place, with the same organizational method. For a chemistry final, I covered the living room floor in stacks of paper, each for a different unit. I wrote a lab report for biology while standing up at the kitchen counter. I once used my parents bed because it was ideal for spreading out notecards for an English research paper. I wrote two final papers standing up at my desktop computer, on top of my cinder block-lofted bed in my dorm room.

Last May, I had a "homework island"--a blanket on the floor, where one beach was lined with things read and another beach with things not yet read. It was nice to watch the beach of 'things to read' erode.

My favorite work location ever has been the west side of the 5th floor, the top floor, of the IUSB library. From it I can see the river valley, lined with trees. At night that forest is lit up with little points of light. This is a space to think big thoughts in. I sit in my carrel with a light under the shelf that shines on my work and on my work alone. It is a space both for grand thoughts and for industry. And I wish I could take it with me wherever I go.

Perhaps I will move in to the 5th floor of the IUSB library. I would be well-provisioned in respect of drinking fountains and books. I could breakfast every morning with fresh newspapers on the 2nd floor. I could receive quiet guests, whom I would entertain with readings from whatever was at hand, or just pop down to the basement for a few congressional hearings transcripts. They're ripping!

It is possible that my difficulties with productivity may be owing, in part, to something other than workspace. It is possible. But this requires further exploration.


  1. I've been working on creating a new workspace! I cleaned my room a ton, and with the help of a few IKEA things and a new baily lane writing desk, it's complete! I think I like a nice, organized, consistent place to work, personally. But the key is - a clean space!


  2. Like a blank canvas!

  3. Very nice! I can't wait to meet your new desk!