Setting Up Your Workspace For Maximum Focus
Setting Up Your Workspace For Maximum Focus
You’ve got a big assignment and today’s the day you’ll tackle it.
It’s just you. Your laptop. And a zillion conceivable distractions waiting to ensnare you and pull you into their wayward embrace.
So how do you cut down on these bugaboos and the all-powerful potential they have to wick away your concentration?
We believe in starting with the right workspace. Whether bearing down on reports for a job, summoning that next creative masterpiece, or addressing a school paper that will assuredly determine your very future, everything starts with having the right environment.
Join us as we detail the right way to setting up your workspace, so you can devote your focus to the effort ahead and cut out any impending distractions. Ensuring you’re applying your maximum concentration to the tasks at hand.
The Chair: Nothing will ruin your ability to work for a sustained period like discomfort or pain. So make sure you have a comfortable office chair with full lumbar support. If you’re stuck with a regular old chair, or suffer from recurring backpain (hey, who doesn’t?), we have found these inexpensive mesh back supports to be indispensable in warding off the kind of back problems that come from sitting too long. Either way, make sure your lower back is supported by positioning it all the way at the seat’s rear, and whenever possible, keeping your feet flat on the floor and your back and head straight. This will keep you from developing painful problems in your body that can become habitual.
The Desk: You want one high enough to you can comfortably rest your hands and forearms while working, that sufficiently supports your computer, papers, and necessary gear. What is really important here is the sense of space around you. You want enough room to breathe, stretch, and operate easily.
If your desk feels too small or crowded to support everything, consider upgrading. If it’s cluttered, take five minutes to clear it off. It’s extremely hard to concentrate on one task with stacks of paper, computer wires, or personal effects boxing you in. Studies show that all these extra stimuli do nothing but compete with your primary objectives. To put it another way, a cluttered desk makes for a cluttered mind. Don’t hesitate to clear it.
The Gear: Your poor neck. It spends all day doing things it was never built for. Like supporting a 10-to-18-pound head that looks down at phones and pads and devices all day. So make sure the long hours you spend working are not building on its burden.
If you’re working on a laptop, we strongly recommend buying a separate monitor and keyboard, so that you don’t have to squeeze your fingers awkwardly into a shrunken keyboard and closely attached mousepad, but can give yourself a little more room to stretch your elbows out comfortably. More importantly, with a full monitor, you can look straight ahead of you, saving your neck and shoulders from searing pain.
However, if you are laptop-bound, like many of us, make sure you’ve at least raised it to your eye-level, thus ensuring your neck doesn’t imitate a question mark. We use a big Taschen book to get our screen to the ideal height, but they do make adjustable laptop stands that probably work better.
While on the subject of laptops, though we’ve been ones to stretch the life out of a favorite computer, there is truly nothing like having up-to-date technology at hand that works right, works fast, and comes updated with all the programs and apps that make life easier in 2021.
The Music: Of course, you like to work to a small serenade. But it’s a double-edged sword. Pick music with lyrics and too many tempo shifts and before you know it you’ve turned your home office into The Who live at Wembley Stadium, complete with a pencil drum solo. Or is that just us?
Our recommendation is to veer towards word-less music with a steady tempo. For us, nothing works better than the strings of our local classical station. And when we’re feeling like something not so Masterpiece Theater-y, we may take a step into mellow jazz or low-fi electronica. The point is to find music that provides background atmosphere, but doesn’t keep you from paying attention to what’s in front of you or the (no doubt) brilliant thoughts you’re having.
The Unnecessary Gear: Cellphones and email. They’re public enemy #1 when it comes to work distractions. You need to have a quick pep-talk with yourself before diving into your project. Check your email one last time and close the window. Check your phone one more time and turn the ringer off, put it on Airplane Mode, or best of all, turn the damn thing off. Yes, you may be an hour or two late to return a call, but without taking these definitive steps, your assignment will take at least twice as long as your thoughts to careen wildly from world-changing epiphanies to wondering what shoes Dua Lipa wore today.
The Isolation: If you’re anything like us, you may have been doing your best to single-mindedly work while your children beg you to play Frozen all day. Pandemic parenting and work are incohesive bedfellows we hope to soon be rid of.
But if you do have the luxury, make sure you’re alone in a comfortable, isolated space, and let the people you share your life with know that you need a specified number of hours without being disturbed. Let them know you have work that needs to be done, so that you can eventually go back to portraying Olaf without anything else on your mind but being the best damned snowperson the world has ever seen. It could work.
Your Eyes: Yes, they’re lovely. But we’re actually here to talk about protecting them. Long hours of absorbing the blue light from a laptop or monitor can cause eyestrain, blurred vision, and pain. Which is why a lot of people are embracing blue light-blocking computer glasses to reduce these problems. They help reduce damaging digital light and glare, while slightly magnifying everything you see, cutting down on detrimental eye problems as you’re approaching the finish line. If it feels too late and your eyes are already red and bothered, we get great relief from Rohto’s Digi Drops, which are made to quickly repair any problems your peepers are confronting. Having a bottle on hand is advisable.
The App: Remember when we told you not to look at your email or a bunch of other websites when you’re working? And then we all laughed and said, “yeah, right.” It was funny, but we did mean it.
If you need extra help in this category, we recommend apps that will essentially force you to block those time-sucking sites, such as Self Control and StayFocusd. Our favorite, Forest, makes a game out of it. It offers you a virtual tree that grows and blossoms with your success, or withers and dies if you start looking at the sites you elected to block. Fun stuff!
The Snack: If you’re trying to get into a zone of clear, calm focus for a few hours, allowing you to fulfill any task requiring concentration and poise, we naturally recommend going in with a bottle of Arc’s Elixir, which is proven to help people contentedly focus on the tasks before them.
But lest a hunger pang strike during a moment of brilliance, have a healthy snack on hand and ready to go, so you don’t need a pantry break. Fruit and water are the best sources of sustained sustenance and nutrition that will not result in the kind of crash that derails your labor. The kind caused by candy, giant coffee beverages, or booze. Big meals are also a potential distraction, leading to lethargy, sudden bathroom breaks, and a general desire to sit on the sofa and finish WandaVision instead of your assignment. Keep it light, healthy, and nearby.
The Light: Though it’s enticing to nestle up in a deep dark hole until you’ve finished your duties, light will keep your energy up, your focus undivided, and your eyes healthy. Rather than recreate the harsh fluorescents of that place called the “office” where you used to work, replace your bulbs at home with ones that recreate natural light, which your body and brain are evolutionarily programmed to respond to with an output of productivity and energy.
The Habit: You may find it tempting to cram your entire assignment into a few painful hours where comfort and rest are placed on the back burner. But there’s no easier way to ruin your productivity than hitting burn-out; fatiguing your body, brain, and eyes from too many continual hours of labor.
In other words, take at least one five minute break for every hour you work. Detach completely from your assignment and try not to think about it. Lay on the floor and breathe deeply. Stand outside and look at the sky. Ooh, a bird. Do a few pushups or jumping jacks. Anything to get your mind off work and into the here and now. Not only will you regain the stamina to finish working, you’ll probably find a new idea or two bubbling up to the surface, your brain’s way of rewarding you for a little rest. It thinks of everything, doesn’t it?
Armed with these techniques, hints, and suggestions, we hope you find a less painful, more productive way of working through today’s assignments and the ones you’ll doubtless be assigned in the future after proving your competence on this one.
While focus is not always easy to attain, Arc elixir is here for you, providing the calmest, most constructive way of accomplishing whatever it is you’re being called on to do, in or out of the office.