It’s easy to overlook the role our immediate environment plays in productivity.

When it comes to working through visual or auditory distractions, I’m the absolute worst. A conversation taking place outside my office door or a TV screen in my visual field completely saps my productivity, rendering me a distracted mess. My office isn’t soundproof (whose is?), so to drown out background noise, I use a pair of earbuds along with on a daily basis. When I really need to focus, I grab my laptop and abscond to an empty conference room. Some days—like today—I spend nearly the whole day there.

These two interventions—listening to white noise through earbuds and working in a quiet, empty room—are game-changers for me (though it took me years to figure this out). In the interest of helping you improve your work environment more quickly than I did, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • What would be your ideal workspace, and how could you bring your current workspace closer to that ideal?
  • What about your work environment do you find most distracting, and what can you do about it? For instance, if coworkers tend to unknowingly interrupt you during periods of deep focus, could you hang a hotel-style “Do Not Disturb” sign on your doorknob?
  • What are the positive features of your workspace, and how could you amplify them?

It’s easy to convince ourselves otherwise, but our immediate environment has a major effect on our productivity. We can’t afford to ignore it.