How do you work best? | The Washington Center

How do you work best?

Back at my home university, there are different “sections” in the library. The front part with all the computers is a more "socializing" corner, where students who come in to do a simple printing job can chat with their friends who work at the circulation desk. Further back, the environment gets a little bit quieter—people have their headphones in, their noses buried in their textbooks, or are typing away on their computer. The lower level gets even quieter, but the real gems in the library are in the further corners—that’s where I go when in desperate need for productivity.


That’s the environment I work best in; where there’s close to no sound, and I can place all of my focus on my work and there are no distractions. I work on momentum—any disruption places me back to the beginning, and I have to build up my momentum again.


At school, I can choose the environment I study in: library, coffee shop, classrooms, my own room. But in the workplace, there’s no choosing the office environment, and usually no way to separate yourself from the office environment. I mean, where else are you going to work other than the office?


The office environment at my internship site is the very opposite of the environment I previously described. There is one larger common office where all the interns and associates work together. The room is usually crowded to the max, both in number of people and noise.


Courtsey of Glassdoor


Below I’ve listed a few recommendations for how to deal with a workplace that doesn’t coincide with your optimal work environment.


1. Come in early

You know what they say—the early bird gets the worm. If you know that your office environment can have too much energy for your productivity, come to the office about half an hour early. Since no one is in the office yet, use this time to do the most analytical, concentration-requiring work. The other option is to stay a couple minutes after most of your office has left to finalize that report or get the bulk of your research out of the way. Early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese, right?


Personally, if I wasn’t as productive as I needed to be the previous day, I make myself come into the office at least 20 minutes early. This way, I’m also giving myself incentive to concentrate more during the day.


2. Adjust

The harsh reality is that you’re going to have to adjust to the existing ebbs and flows of your office. Figure out how others stay productive in your office, if you’re struggling with it. If it’s a more flexible office environment, move your seat to a corner where you can remove yourself from conversations and discussions between your co-workers that can be distracting.


I found a corner of the office that acoustically, moved the noises away from me. But if the room gets too full, I’ve excused myself to the lobby area to work where there’s a little less excitement and action. Energy is contagious, and while I use it to get myself through the day (without drinking 6 cups of coffee), your energy can go into overdrive at some points.


3. Headphones, if possible

This should be the last resort. You’ll miss out on the many conversations happening in the office, ie. projects you may want to volunteer working on or an event that someone recommends the interns attend, etc. But this would be a good option if, contrary to my current situation, you need more stimulus to avoid the post-lunch lull.


Good luck finding what works for you!

Read Jenny's previous blog posts

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