using your environment to reinforce your goals

Greetings from occasionally-sunny San Francisco. After a great weekend workshop, I had a chance to catch up today with my friend W – a remarkable woman of many talents and interests, including being part of the team of artists that helped string lights all along the Bay Bridge turning it into a work of art in and of itself.

While chatting with her about her work projects, we commiserated about some of the inconveniences of working in the home. Both of us have “commutes” of about 15 feet to get to our desks, and when your living and work spaces are that close, it can make focusing on work difficult. Even worse, it can make unfocusing on that work difficult as well. Especially if you’re a project-oriented worker, like me, there’s always one more edit, one more chapter, one more post you can put up, and when your desk is just sitting there, it can be hard to unplug.

Persona non Data

W has an interesting solution, simple yet brilliant. She creates entirely different user accounts on her computer for her work vs. her everyday life. That means it has a plain background, it has shut off access to social networks, all her backups are done. It puts her into a frame of mind that “this is work time.” She can code and design and do whatever it is she does (frankly, it’s over my head, I just know it’s cool) in a frame of mind that spells out productivity.

Then, when Work-W has completed the day’s tasks, she logs out and logs back in as “Play-W.” Colorful personalized desktops, her social media bleeping and blooping messages from her friends, the NetFlix queue pulled up and ready to go. It is more than just a convenient distraction; this means that she can relax, let go of the projects, and really devote her leisure time to actual leisure.

If you don’t work at home, this may not seem useful to you. But it occurred to me that it doesn’t have to apply only to work and play. What about projects? What if your home had a “guitar practice” setting, a “family dinner” setting, where the lighting, the online distractions, even the little things like the dishwasher running are shut down to enable some real focus? What are the ways you can improve your practice – the practice of work, of play, or whatever priorities you have – through shaping your environment ever-so-slightly differently?

Personally, I’m taking this from a traveler’s perspective, to see how I can create some small elements of consistency regardless of environment – and we’ll talk more about that wednesday. But for now, tell me about your environment. What ways does it help – or hinder – your practice.

More to the point: what are you going to do about it?

1 thought on “using your environment to reinforce your goals”

  1. Timely advice, as always. And that’s also my answer to your question.
    I need to rearrange my time to remove some blocks that are hindering me. Unlike “the Labyrinth’s” Jareth, I can’t add an extra hour, but I do know where to find one. I’ve been indulging in the luxury of sleeping late and staying in bed until I positively, absolutely HAVE TO get up. It’s been one of the things I do “for myself” because I really enjoy the blissful feeling of slumber and snuggling under the blankets. However, it impoverishes me for time for the rest of the morning and makes me and my family vulnerable to all sorts of last minute snafus.
    I’ve known forever that I need to do this, but I’ve been fighting it because, as I said, it’s my little luxury. So the question has been, “what can I do for myself instead of sleeping in?” Going to bed early doesn’t feel the same, but it’s what I’ve got for now, plus a hope that I’ll enjoy getting up early so much that it will be its own reward.

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