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How a blanket fort can make you more productive

You’ve heard me talk about how your workspace affects your work before – this isn’t the first time you’ve heard it from me. (Unless you’re new around here, in which case, hi! Nice to meet you.) But I bet you didn’t think it extended to blanket forts, didya?

Let me explain a bit. In Making Ideas Happen (one of the books I rave about every time I get a chance), a study is mentioned, the results of which are really fascinating and have some obvious uses for designing your workspace. The study showed that smaller, more confined spaces with lower ceilings help people focus and get work done without getting distracted. Meanwhile, open spaces with high ceilings are great for brainstorming and loose, free thinking. And, possibly the most interesting part of all:Β changing a person’s perception of the space is just as effective as changing the space itself.

(This is where I get geeky-excited and have to calm myself down before proceeding. I love this stuff!

…Okay, I’m done.)

What this means for you…

…is that, knowing this, you can change the way you perceive a space to create the effect you want – to help you focus on writing your book, or to brainstorm a solution to your latest problem. Or, if you want, you can change the space you’re working in to achieve that effect. No, I’m not suggesting you have two offices. There are lots of other ways – see below.

Ways this could work:

  • Need to brainstorm, or find a solution to a problem? Create some objectives to get them first & foremost in your mind. Hint: Try wording these as questions; for example, instead of saying “I need to rework my services so that they fits my customers’ needs better”, say “What are my customers’ needs? Where are my services currently meeting them? Where are they not meeting them? How can I get more of the first, and less of the second?” Once you’ve got your objectives, hit the town! There are probably all kinds of places that meet the “open + high ceilings” requirements (museums, art galleries, hotel lobbies, libraries, a coffee shop inside a book store) that aren’t going to care if you wander in with a notebook and park yourself for a while. Not only are you changing your environment, which tends to remove stuckness, you’re activelyΒ choosing a new environment that suits your needs at this moment.
  • Need to focus on one project, and knock it out of the ballpark? This is where the blanket forts come in. Seriously – make a blanket fort. (You’ll need to make sure the lighting’s good, I suppose.) Or get standing screens and set them up around where you’re working. Wear ear plugs. Experiment with various ways of essentially creating a cocoon, a safe space, for you to be separated from everything else – leaving only you, your focus, and your work.
  • Need to know how you can use this in everyday life, when switching back & forth between focusing and brainstorming? The best way to do this is to create a container for each of these functions in your work. What this looks like is deciding when you’ll work on each of these things, and separating them out. For example: in a given day, you’re going to do brainstorming, idea generation, & problem solving on project X, and also work in a more focused fashion on project Y and Z. You set aside two hours in the morning, after your morning routine, to brainstorm on project X – before you do this, you open the blinds + windows in your workspace to give it an added feeling of space. After your two hours of brainstorming on project X, you shut your laptop or turn off your monitor and go get some lunch. When you come back to your workspace, you close the windows (you might want to leave the blinds open: we tend to function better in places with lots of natural light) and move those standing screens you have sitting in the corner to around your desk. Or make your blanket fort. Voila! Focus-space created. And then you get down to work.

See what I mean? There are so many ways you can use this information to have a huge impact on your work. So often, we feel like we don’t have a whole lot of control over when we can focus & get work done, and when we can’t, and it comes down to nothing but a battle of willpower (which, btw, is most certainly a finite resource). But there’s an easier way – there’s always an easier way. Give it a try & let me know what you think.

16 Comments

  1. These are great suggestions. I’ve been trying to figure this out, the difference between focus and brainstorming. I’ve been going in mental circles. Now I know the cure–a blanket fort!

    Reply

    • Thanks for your comment Loran – glad you liked the post! If it helps, think of focusing as akin to a laser (which is very literally focused, haha) and brainstorming more like a spiderweb. They both have specific purposes, but they look very very different and they can’t be approached the same way.

      Let me know how the blanket forts work for you πŸ˜‰

      Reply

  2. Hi Michelle, I love this idea of how actively changing your space facilitates the optimal environment for different levels of creativity ~ expansive for new ideas and cocoon like for gestating. It leads me to think of the waxing and waning lunar phases and how they support our productivity in a similar manner.

    Reply

    • Oh that’s a fascinating connection Stella – one that I wouldn’t have made myself, I don’t think. I’m sure we could probably find the same pattern elsewhere if we looked hard enough – after all, that’s one of the basic dualities of the universe, inward and outward.

      Thanks for commenting, I’m glad you liked the post πŸ™‚

      Reply

  3. Great points! I’ve always felt more secure and focused in smaller spaces, so this all totally makes sense to me. I’ve always seen it as an instinctual connection to before we were born, inside the womb. We draw in and focus when cocooned just like we were so intent on our own growth and symbiosis with our mothers pre-birth. (Just a freaky little thought for you. :3)

    Reply

    • Haha, thanks for the freaky little thought, Ellie πŸ˜‰ It makes sense, though! So good observation. I’m glad you liked the post!

      Reply

  4. You are so witty Michelle! I’ve been thinking that I needed to mix it up as a way to get around my writer’s block in that project we chatted about before – now I have ideas on how to do so. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Oh why thank you Jo – nice to know someone appreciates my razor-sharp wit πŸ˜‰ Good luck on your project, let me know how it goes or if there’s anything I can do to help!

      Reply

  5. Fantasmic, utterly fantasmic. I am going to start implementing some of these ideas tomorrow. I think there is a booth at the cafe with my name on it tomorrow in fact. You rock Michelle!

    Reply

  6. Wow, this is so cool! We live in a one bedroom apartment and I’ve often wondered why it’s so much harder for me to get cracking on work in our airier, more wide open living room than in the small bedroom. Now I know – the living room can be for work, too, just brainstormy type work rather than the extremely focused stuff. I’m excited to try the blanket fort, too!!!

    Reply

    • Well, now you know, Marla! πŸ˜‰ I’m glad you liked the post – definitely let me know how it works for you using this knowledge consciously!

      Reply

  7. I homeschool two free spirits. We often get distracted and loose focus, but no more! You have the perfect solution! Can’t wait to build a blanket fort. The kids are going to love this!

    Reply

    • Oh, that’s an amazing application – I never would have thought of it! Definitely let me know how it goes, I’d love to know what your kiddos think πŸ™‚

      Reply

  8. Pingback: Don’t let your projects die: give ‘em space to thrive | Let's Radiate

  9. Hah. Now I know why my favorite place to get homework done was on the top bunk. πŸ˜€ Brilliant stuff, I see a blanket fort in my near future.

    Reply

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