Your Workspace

I finally got around to reading Tim Ferris’ lifestyle manifesto, The 4-Hour Workweek Although some sections of the book proved personally immaterial, I found it to be mostly practical and wholly applicable.

Throughout the book, Ferris emphasizes the difference between effectiveness (doing the things that get you closer to your goals) and efficiency (performing a task in the most economical manner possible.) By maintaining effectiveness at all times, Ferris propagates liberation from the constraints of a 9-5 schedule, boosting productivity through short-term goals and the ever-looming question “Am I being productive or just active?”

The completion of Ferris’ work spurred a personal debate on productivity and creativity, and the relationship between workspace and output with regards to those two notions. Obviously, everyone has a different method with regards to their workspace, so I won’t attempt to create a blanket equation for ideal productivity. However, I will comment on one or two case studies, and speak on my ideal setting, which is constantly changing as I continue to grow and adapt to my environment.

“When push comes to shove, actually, I think we just prefer, like you said, a comfortable environment in which we can sort of live. We move into the space and there’s something really great about being able to creep out in the middle of the night and just shred on guitar. We had this one space that was so big that we could all be sleeping and no one would notice [if someone got up to play]. There was this freedom of being able to do what you wanted when inspiration struck. There was no 9-to-5, punch-in-the-studio fee.” -Ed Droste, Grizzly Bear

Droste and his spectacular band Grizzly Bear’s perversion to the traditional studio model starkly contrasts the majority of their cohorts, who use the studio as the driving force behind musical output. However, for a collaborative project such as a band, living together creates an environment conducive to maximum output in their own home, a place where most of us couldn’t lift a productive finger. By eschewing the traditional studio model, the band uses the lack of constraint as their creative catalyst, pouncing on inspiration whenever it may strike, even if it may be the middle of the night.

“If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” – Albert Einstein

There can be no doubt that Einstein practiced what he preached. I’m sure that Einstein would debate that in fact his desk was not a “messy” desk per say, but rather a “working” desk. By surrounding himself with his ideas, both literally and figuratively, Einstein managed to create an environment conducive to personal productivity and a bevy of innovation. I imagine this quote arouses malaise in parents everywhere, whose children aptly argue that if Einstein kept HIS room messy, why can’t they?

My personal philosophy on the subject starkly contrasts the notions of both aforementioned individuals. I’ve found a direct relationship between my personal productivity and the number of distractions surrounding me. Because of this, I rarely attempt to work at home, preferring to work in an alternative setting devoid of the effects and distractions found at home. Unlike Einstein, I find it almost impossible to work in a cluttered area, and must clear out my work space entirely before embarking on any creative endeavor. At a library or coffee shop, I traditionally seek out the biggest table I can find, spreading out my assorted works while maintaining a single notepad in front of me. The notepad keeps track of tasks, and allows me to keep track of inspiration and assorted thoughts.

Like I mentioned before, there is no end-all solution to an effective environment. What works for you? What doesn’t?

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