A PLACE TO THINK
With autumn comes a renewed focus on home offices – either as places to do school work or the professional work that we’ve been minimizing during the summer.
- How should you design your home office space to enhance your cognitiveperformance?Cut out the red. Red may seem a great color to get mental energy flowing, but recent research indicates that it should be avoided in office environments. Even a small amount of red has been linked to decreased performance on tests evaluating competence, such as IQ tests, and to avoidance of tasks at which viewers might fail.
- Forget about multi-tasking. Anyone can do two tasks at the same time but no one can do either one well well. If you create a workspace where you can “get two things done at once,” your performance on both will suffer.
- Minimize physical stress. When we’re stressed by something in the world around us, we focus on identifying and analyzing what is generating that irritation. Since we have a limited amount of mental energy, if we’re using some of it to deal with stress, we have less left over for whatever cognitive task we’re trying to accomplish. Continuing, unpredictable noises are stressful, and so is glare, an uncomfortable chair, and light levels that are too bright, for starters.
- Locate in a place that helps you ditch the distractions. Stress and distractions can seem a lot alike, but we can distinguish them here by defining stress as resulting from continuing conditions in the environment, while distractions appear suddenly and then stop of their own accord. For example, when a computer tone informs you that an e-mail message has been delivered to you, that’s a distraction. A smoke alarm that bleats briefly throughout the day is a stress. A person who stops by your desk to speak to you is a distraction, the continuous murmur of voices you hear all day from that desk, is stressful, particularly if those voices are speaking a language you understand. After you are distracted, it takes you 15-20 minutes to fully return to the place you were mentally before that distraction.
- Adding some green leafy plants is also a good decision psychologically. Studies have associated them with creativity and improved mental performance, for example.
- Sit so that your back is against a full height wall or a shorter wall similar to the ones found in a restaurant booth. If your back is “protected,” you’ll feel more comfortable and have more mental energy.
- If you’re studying, don’t lock yourself into a single spot. If you study in several different places at home and away from home, research indicates that you will enhance your command of the material you’re learning. You’ll do a better job on a project, such as writing a report, if you always work on it in the same space.