A great influence on our productivity really often gets forgotten but is absolutely crucial is environment. How you manage your environment is paramount to how you show up for your time. There are lots of different triggers and things that are connected in our environment. We need to understand what triggers are in our environment and how that environment is influencing us, either in a positive way or in a negative way, and taking away from our productivity. Having a greater awareness on what things are detracting you from your productivity, what’s going on in your environment that is supporting you physically, mentally or emotionally, and also with the environment itself, is important so that you can then set an action plan for what you can do differently.
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Manage Your Time, Manage Your Environment
On this show, you know that we talk about the strategies, the tips and the tricks that are going to help you to be more productive, to work smarter and not harder so that you can get more done in less time and more of the right things done is most important. I want to talk about a great influence on our productivity that often gets forgotten but it is absolutely crucial, it’s paramount and that is environment. Our environment is paramount to how we show up for our time in many instances. We have the physicality of it. Do we have enough light? Are we sitting in clutter? That can have a big impact. What are some of the things that are in our environment?
We have an open office environment where there’s a lot of noise. Is that noise something that we can block out and can be background noise? Is it disruptive type of noise where somebody is talking to us or talking to our neighbor? Our ear goes out to it versus being in a coffee shop where we can just block it out. Understanding the dynamic of that environment and how it influences us.
There are also lots of different triggers and things that are connected in our environment that once we look at it, once we sit down or are a certain way that we do a certain thing as a result, different types of triggers. I don’t know about you but I find myself when I want to procrastinate and I’m feeling stuck in my computer, I will go and I will open the refrigerator. I catch myself sometimes there like, “What are you doing? You are not hungry and why are you in the refrigerator?” It was automatic mode that sent me there. It’s because of the environment that I’m in and that is my reaction.
You can be at work and your reaction might be to go and get a cup of coffee. As a result, maybe you drink way too much coffee. It’s not because you want the coffee or you enjoy the coffee, it’s because you got caught with a trigger into an automatic pattern that has you going there and using that as procrastination means. We need to understand what are the triggers that are in our environment and how is that environment influencing us? Either in a positive way or also in a negative way and taking away from our productivity.
I’d like you to think about what are some of the times when you got the most done? Where were you? What was going on around you? Sometimes people listen to music and they find that that is a real inspiration and can support them. I find that certain types of music definitely helped me to be more productive and have that in my environment, but I also find that other types of music can be a distractor. I’m a little bit more listening to the music than I am giving my full attention. If I’m singing along, then I am not focusing on what it is that I need to do.
Just because they say that having music is helpful and you find it uplifting, I find that if I’m wearing headphones and it’s close to my ears that I can’t focus on other things. I don’t get the highest level of attention that I could because of the way that that music is organized. I want you to think about what’s working for you and what’s not in your environment. Go ahead and take a piece of paper and make three columns on that piece of paper. In the first column you could put physically, in the second column you could put mentally and in the third column you could put environmentally.
Identify in each of those areas, how is your environment supporting you and how is it taking away from your productivity? You could then put a line across the center and at the top you could say, how is it supporting you, what’s working and at the bottom what’s not working? That you can get greater awareness on what things are detracting from your productivity. What’s going on in your environment that is supporting you physically, mentally or emotionally and then also with the environment itself?
Go ahead and take some time to do that and build some awareness so that you can then set an action plan for what you can do differently. When we set up our environment proactively, that is way more powerful for us than it is to rely on willpower. For instance, I could say that studies tell us that if we set our mind to it, we can say what time we’re going to wake up in the morning. That’s a willpower thing where I’m going to rely on my willpower of what time I’m going to wake up.
There’s an easier way to do it and that’s set an alarm. That’s creating value in my environment and structure that’s supporting me to get the result that I want, which is to wake up at a certain time. Don’t rely on yourself to wake up because the sun is coming up and that’s when you should get up. Set an alarm. Don’t allow yourself to snooze. There’s a new tool that somebody said that they have. It’s an app that makes you go across the room and dance in order for it to shut off.
Those types of structures that we can put in our environment, that’s going to support us to get the results that we want. That’s intentional and when we run our days intentionally and we use our environment to set us up for success, then we’re going to get to a result way faster than if we allow ourselves to be reactive and to be driven emotionally and there’s a difference. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with those emotions. There are a lot of great emotions like joy, happiness, fun, gratitude and there are a lot of great emotions and we should definitely embrace those and use those also intentionally.
We also get caught up in emotions like anger, sadness, hurt, fear, guilt and shame. They take away our productivity, they suck our energy and we can counteract that a little bit with our environment. We don’t want to get caught up in self-pity and say, “I haven’t had enough sleep and I need this time to sleep.” That’s okay, but if you have a health goal and you need to get up and work out in that hour, then that may be more important than that extra 30 minutes of sleep.
[Tweet “When we set up our environment proactively, that is way more powerful for us than it is to rely on willpower.”] If you need that extra 30 minutes, then you’ll have to set an alarm to go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Set yourself up for success. Create that environment. For people who are looking to be healthier in the way that they eat and create a certain lifestyle, you set up your environment to have the right foods in your house. If you allow yourself to have foods that are not going to support you, then you’re going to reach for those in time of late at night when you need something quick, then you’ll take some of those chips or cookies.
The fact is you can’t eat just one chip. Don’t have them in the house and you won’t be tempted to have one. That’s how you set up your environment for success. You create meals ahead of time. You can create a meal plan and you can prepare those meals ahead of time. All you need to do is heat them up or open up whatever has been prepared. That’s setting up your environment for success.
You can do that in every area of your life. You can do that with your relationships, you can do that for your health and you can do that for your work. What things can you set up in your environment that are going to get you focused on the things that are most important to you and the things that are going to drive your results forward faster? First thing is always get clear on what those activities, those tasks, what do you need to do that’s going to give you the fastest and best result?
What are those most important things? Get clear on that in each area of your life and then use your environment to support you. Be proactive around setting up your environment. This has been a huge help for me. I do a lot of those different things. I do prepare my juices for the day and have a shake ready for me so that when I’m hungry, that shake is already available. I can reach for it as a snack instead of going for something that’s not as healthy and nutritious for me.
I do it in my work by setting up my plan about what it is that’s most important for me now. I call it the one, three, five. What’s the one thing that I need to get done that’s strategically going to move me forward in the long run? What are the three things that I’m going to do that are important and strategic for this week to get me results in the short-term? What are the five things that I need to do that are absolute urgencies? That’s my second to-do list. I have a bigger, broader list that is broken out by project, but that’s my daily list. When I accomplished that for the day, I feel good. I know that I have accomplished the most important things.
That’s what I encourage you to do is to look around and see what structures that you can put forth in your environment. What sticky notes can you put up to remind yourself of what’s most important? Ask yourself, “Is this good enough?” Sometimes just a simple question to review the work that you’re doing and saying, “Yes, this is good enough for what it is that I’m creating. I don’t need to throw one extra bells and whistles. I don’t need to go and spend that last percentage that takes forever to get to that level of perfection if it’s not necessary.”
Do you have a glass of water that sits by you so that you can always take a sip of water and stay hydrated? That in itself can make a huge difference in the energy and the productivity that you have throughout the day. Look to see what are the ten most important things that you can set up in your environment that you recognize from what’s working and what’s not working from the sheet that you filled in? What are the ten things that you’re going to focus on in and around your environment to create greater productivity, to boost your energy and to get you better results and get them faster? I’d love to hear what those are because there may be some nuggets in there that are part of what you do that can benefit someone else and vice versa. As you look at what other people are doing, that may trigger some great ideas for things for you to do.
I gave a couple of examples with sticky notes, with having water in front of you, the way that you schedule things. I also did a podcast on front-loading and how you can schedule your calendar. That’s part of your environment too. You have your reminders. Your environment might be to put your phone away. Let’s hear what’s working for you, especially after you’ve implemented the ten things that you’ve selected. Let us know what’s working because I always love to hear new strategies. I don’t have all the answers and I’m learning from people like people are learning different things from me.
Share your results, even share your what’s working and what’s not working sheet because that may have some insights too. When I see that I may be able to ask you a couple of pertinent questions that may also trigger some even greater success for you. Thanks for reading this episode of tips and strategies that your environment is paramount and how to give more intentional attention to your environment so that you can boost your productivity with the simplest of strategies and tools that are at your fingertips, your environment. Thanks for being here.