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Let’s take a moment to talk about your workspace. Not in the “this is what you need to do to make your workspace awesome” way, but instead to talk about how the place where you ply your trade can have a very real effect on how you function. See, last week I had a problem with the way my office shifted, and it caused a fairly dramatic result on my productivity. Let’s talk it out after the jump.


A Fly in the Ointment

I work out of my home, and right behind my desk sits a 2007-era iMac that holds our home’s iTunes library. That’s all of our movies, music and everything needed to entertain the family in one capacity or another. Oh, and our pictures, too. Recently, it started acting up, and I figured that I was pressing my luck by continuing to put it through the paces. I picked up a Mac mini and called it a day.

It just wasn’t right.

Now to most people, this would be no big deal. I move the iMac, put in the Mac mini and go on my way. But because of a multitude of reasons, the only space it could go was on my desk. And that’s where the trouble began.

I like desks that show as few wires as possible. After doing some trickery and tweaking things up a bit, I still had a bunch of exposed USB cables and the like — way more than I could handle. And next thing I knew, I’d catch myself obsessing over how things needed to be “tweaked” or shifted. It just wasn’t right.


Not Just For Neat Freaks

This isn’t just a problem that I have because I have a touch of OCD. Take a look at your workspace right now. Do you have papers strewn everywhere? If I asked you to find a pen real quick, could you? Can you trip over cables along the way? These are all little things that can stop you in your tracks. And every little misstep can cut your productivity down substantially.

Don’t believe me? Michigan State University recently did a study on how accurately a person can complete a task, and how short interruptions factor in. Per MSU:

The study, in which 300 people performed a sequence-based procedure on a computer, found that interruptions of about three seconds doubled the error rate.


Now think about those errors and what it does to your workflow. You’re fixing things, taking care of mistakes or maybe not even knowing a mistake was made until later when it’s too late to sort out. If you’re distracted by cables in the way or can’t find something on your desk when you need to, well then you could be making more mistakes.


Making It Work

Whether or not you work from home or in a cubicle, keeping a workspace that functions well for what you do is important. It doesn’t matter how you set it up or what it looks like, as long as you can work efficiently and well, that’s all that’s important.

For me, the fix was as easy as a trip to Ikea to get a few parts that made life easier. Without that hanging over my head — and because getting things sorted out also required cleaning the office — I’m much more productive than I was just a few days ago.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.

Featured Image by Kawanet on Flickr.

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