Take a moment to look around you, right now. Are you in your office? At home? On a balcony overlooking the ocean? A coffee shop? A lounge?
What’s your view like? What are your feet touching? Your hands?
What’s the temperature like? How’s the lighting? Is there any natural light, or just artificial?
What do you hear? Smell?
Are you hunched over, or is your back supported?
If you spin 360, what other sights enter your awareness?
This may sound like a silly exercise, but each of the elements we just discussed influences your mood, productivity, focus, and maybe even your health. (For example, studies have demonstrated an association between noise exposure and blood pressure.)
We often don’t allow these environmental factors to even register in our conscious minds, but our subconscious still knows about them.
It’s important to take a moment to bring awareness to the elements that surround us, and ask if there’s anything we can do to improve those elements.
If you’re at home, you can easily rearrange furniture to create better flow, adjust window treatments to let in more light, and bring in fans or heaters to impact temperature.
At work, you might have a tougher time modifying your environment, but there are still things you can do (short of demanding that your boss give you a nicer office with a door and a window, which would be nice).
If, however, you’re in a public space that you have chosen to be in—say, a coffee shop, a restaurant, a library, a gym, a bar, a park—decide if the space is actually supporting you in the way you want to be supported.
What do we mean by that? We mean that loud music is great in aerobics, but not if you’re trying to read. Bright, artificial lighting is okay if you’re trying desperately to stay awake at the library, but not if you’re trying to unwind. Incessant chatter at a coffee shop is okay—unless you’re actually trying to think, relax, or hold a conversation.
If where you are isn’t helping you do what you want to do, why are you there?