Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

Cultivating the Work Environment You Want

In my book, Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped up Society, I introduce the concept of time warps. A time warp occurs when you accomplished so much or what transpires flows so freely, that seemingly many more hours have past than actually have.

Time warps happen when you’re not conscious of your output or responsiveness in relationship to fixed time intervals, such as an hour. You can increase the likelihood of experiencing a favorable time warp effect by removing yourself from the time measured environment such as hiding the clock.

This is why jotting notes while sitting on a park bench, in an airplane, or on your back porch, often yields greater output than anticipated or accomplished during the same interval while at a desk in a traditional office. One hour of uncluttered thought can yield more benefits than days of common desk work.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Other people have other names that they use for what I call time warps. Some people call it being in the zone. Some call it being on a roll. Regardless of what you call it, it would be useful for you to know how to get into a time warp on a more consistent basis.

Here’s a simple exercise you can undertake to help create that environment in which you can work at your best:

Creating an Environment Where You Work Best

1. Think back to when you were highly productive:
  • Where were you?
  • What time of day was it?
  • Was anyone else around?
  • What was the temperature?
  • What was the lighting?
  • What resources were available?
2. Think about yourself at that time:
  • What were you wearing?
  • What did you consume the night before?
  • How long did you sleep the night before?
  • How did you feel?
  • What was your level of fitness?
  • What did you eat that morning?
3. Think about the time of day and week:
  • What time of day was it?
  • What day of the week was it?
  • What had transpired earlier?
  • What was forthcoming?
4. Think about the tools available:
  • Were you using a computer?
  • Were you using other equipment?
  • Did you have a pen or pencil?
  • Did you have a blank pad?
  • Were you online?
  • Were other resources available?
  • Were periodicals, books, or directories present?
5. Consider other factors that were present:
  • Did you have a view?
  • Were you in a comfortable chair?
  • Were you at a desk or at a table?
  • Were you in a moving vehicle, i.e., a plane or a train?
  • Was there quiet or soothing background noise?
  • What were the colors of the walls surrounding you?
  • Were you in a room with rugs?
  • Could you hear others?
  • Was water nearby?
  • Were you near the bathrooms?
  • Were you near the coffee machine?
As you recall the situation when you were in a time warp, circle each item above that was present or was a factor at this time. New insights may emerge.

An Exercise Worth Repeating

If you can, recall a second time in which you achieved a time warp and run through each of the questions above once again. What items have now been marked or circled twice?

If you have the momentum, use this list for a third or fourth time in which you were highly productive. You may see a strong pattern emerge. You’ll uncover the specifics as to what factors were present at those times when you were highly productive. Now, your goal is now to emulate the scenario to increase your probability of achieving similarly pleasing results.

I’ve used this technique to isolate those factors that are present when I’ve given dynamite, rousing keynote presentations – the kind that the audience members remember long after the event. To the best of my ability, I seek to ensure that future speaking engagements have all of the key factors present. A large percentage of the time, it works!

Master Your Immediate Environment

Take charge of your immediate environment to the degree that you can, as often as needed. You may find that a lack of productivity stems from the feeling of not being in control. When you creatively carve out sanctuaries for yourself, they give you both the quiet you need to get quality work done, and serve as a reminder that you’re in charge of your career. There’s something about taking control of your immediate environment that enables you to get the best from yourself, to work with your internal rhythms, and to more easily and effortlessly produce superior results.

High Energy When Working with Your Computer

Whether you work with a desktop, laptop, notebook, or hand-held computer, or some combination thereof, it’s too easy to fall into to unproductive energy-draining, customs and postures. This is especially so when you sit for prolonged periods, fixated on a screen.

Here are some simple exercises you can undertake right where you are that will help to keep you on a more energetic keel:
  • To experience an energy boost, breathe in slowly through your nose, and hold your inhale for two seconds and then exhale through your mouth. Repeat this often.
  • To loosen up your shoulders and upper torso, using a wide circular motion, roll your shoulders forward 4 or 5 times. Then do the same thing in reverse.
  • To stretch your neck, turn your head slowly from side to side and look over each shoulder. Count to three and then repeat the exercise several more times.
  • To stretch your back, while seated (and with no one looking!), slowly bend your upper body between your knees. Hold this position for a few seconds, then sit up and relax. Repeat this exercise a few more times.
  • To stretch the muscles in your forearms and give your wrists some relief, hold your arms straight out in front of you and raise and lower your hands bending them at your wrists. Repeat this several times.
  • To give your upper back and shoulder blades some relief, fold your arms in front of you, raise them up to your shoulders, and then bring your elbows straight back. Hold this for several seconds. Repeat several times.
  • To relax your fingers and hands and make them feel more nimble, make a tight fist with your hands and hold it for several seconds. Then, spread your fingers as far as you can and hold for another five seconds. Repeat this exercise several times.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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