Tell me what it looks like. Can you smell the air, feel your surroundings, hear the sounds, taste the atmosphere?
I remember an English seminar I had in college that focused on the intersection of science and literature. In one class session, we read and interpreted 17th century poetry. Our task was to tease out the sensory images created in the poems. Each sense—sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, was assigned a different color marker and the class went up to the board to underline each word that evoked one or more of the list. After a few minutes the walls exploded with color. Each word conveyed meaning through senses, in often quite unexpected ways.
Senses alter the way we digest a particular experience. Whether it is poetry, music, films, plays, or other events, the sensory mood invites us to interact with it.
These same senses play with the spaces we inhabit, including our workspaces. This post will explore a few central questions: How do senses inform a space? In what ways does that space, in turn, affect the people in them?
Let’s read on to uncover some answers.
All The Feels
If I describe my favorite place, I wonder if you will be able to guess it.
A space that needs no invitation. It smells like freshly lit candles, the scent dancing around my nose never fully finding a resting place. The brush of my partner's hand against my arm, the bustle of conversation beyond the French doors mixes to ignite a warmth, a comfortable glow like a cashmere blanket. Sugar scatters across my tongue from the homemade cookies as the snow encapsulates us in a winter mobile.
The answer is my home at Christmas.
While my home in Michigan may be my favorite space for the feeling it gives me, it is not necessarily the most productive. Space, feeling, and productivity are autonomous entities but they can work together to create an atmosphere conducive to working.
What does it mean to be productive? This answer will change for everyone but ultimately, in the context of work, it encompasses the amount of tasks you are able to successfully accomplish. Often measured in charts, Excel documents, and annual meetings, corporate culture has many ways of measuring the productivity of its employees. But can all productivity be measured? Perhaps productivity is more complex than an Excel algorithm can handle.
I argue that space affects productivity, and many studies agree with me. Quite a few years back the open concept office environment took off. Businesses were convinced that the cubicle walls had to come down and that colleagues sitting shoulder to shoulder would promote positive and more productive workspaces. What we have seen may just be the opposite. Research has found that the open office environment stalls productivity and encourages aimless chit chat and lack of privacy. This goes to show that productivity and space have a complicated relationship, and that these factors may be subject to each person and their preferences.
Productivity is huge for freelancers because the more you are able to produce, the more work you will be able to take on. I will say that you should not sacrifice quality for quantity, but with time you will be able to increase both simultaneously.
Let’s look more at the interplay of space and productivity and how it can help you as a freelancer.
For me as a writer, the space I work in really matters. Space and productivity affect every working person, but a unique challenge is presented to those who work for themselves or who primarily work from home.
Where you are affects your behavior, mindset, and productivity. Do you think you would be able to write the next great American novel in the middle of a rock concert? Can you do your best work with many people talking around you? The space you are in can directly impact the mood that it creates. Space is a complex word that encompasses many moving parts.
Space has many components:
Think about each of these bullet points in terms of questions to help determine what space you work best in and how you can better accommodate your own preferences while working from home. Do you need natural light? Can you write better when the room is colder, quieter, darker, etc? By answering these questions you will be able to test out different work environments and what seems to produce the best results for you.
As we have seen, space and productivity go hand in hand. Many companies work to create the best work spaces for their employees and this is an active discussion among employers, employees, and researchers alike.
One thing that most people can agree on is that flexible workspaces make for some of the most productive. Flexibility can mean many things, but most often it means changing where you do your work. I had a friend that always went to a coffee shop when she had to do intense reading assignments because she was more productive there than in her office, but for writing tasks, she preferred her office. Allowing yourself this flexibility as a freelancer can be a real game-changer for your productivity levels.
Maybe write all of your outlines at your favorite coffee shop, do your proofreading outside in your favorite park, and do your writing in your home office. Doing something new broadens your perspective and may give you new insights into the material. Don’t be afraid of change!
Space, mood, and productivity have an interesting relationship. They have the power to work together or to clash. Finding the right balance of these three things in your own workspace will allow you to feel better while being more productive.
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