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The One To Zen Organizing Blog

Breathe in Calm, Breathe out Clutter

  • Writer's pictureJill Katz

Switching Spaces for Maximum Productivity

woman working on a laptop in a coffee shop, productivity, work space,

The Story

To set up my clients for success, I try to tune in to their natural tendencies, including where they work. For example, I don’t assume that someone pays their bills in their home office. Instead, I ask my client, “Where do you like to pay your bills?” Many of them, in fact, prefer to do their daily paperwork at their kitchen table. For those clients, we set up a paper area in or near the kitchen.

Another example - I worked with a client who preferred to do all his work in coffee shops. So we set up a go bag with his technology and important papers so he could "grab and go" at a moment's notice.

When I am in your home, I take my cues from you. And chances are, you do your best work in different spaces, depending on the task.

The Research

Students & Work Spaces

Woman reading under a tree, studying in nature
Channel your inner Gilmore Girl

In Leslie Josel’s Book How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away, Josel challenges her college student clients to choose 5 different places on campus to do their work. Her philosophy:

“Changing your environment keeps things interesting and fresh just when you start to lose focus and attention.” -Leslie Josel

She suggests going beyond the typical dorm lounge and campus coffee shop and choosing out-of-the-box places such as the photography darkroom, music rehearsal space and under a favorite tree.

The Self-Employed

Jefferey Shaw, author of The Self Employed Life, shares his ideas about switching spaces as a guest speaker on NAPO Stand Out Podcast Ep 76 The Self-Employed Life: Key strategies for sustainable entrepreneurial success

Shaw explains that he is constantly encouraging “creative thinkers”, aka the self-employed, to set up different work environments. And he practices what he preaches. Shaw has set up 7 environments in his own apartment for different tasks- a place to write his book, a place to zoom, a place to create his podcast, to name a few.

“When you space switch you’re tripping the brain to get into the immediate task of that space.” -Jeffrey Shaw

So if you pick the same space to write a book, your brain will be triggered to focus on writing when in that space.

He also claims that the noise at a coffeehouse is at the exact decibel to become background noise and encourage productivity.

In Conclusion

We are diverse complex creatures so it only makes sense that we have individual preferences about where we like to work.

Here are some places that I like to work when I am not organizing in other peoples homes:

  • I like responding to emails and writing my blog posts at my kitchen table where it is

Studying at table, working space, productivity
Working at my kitchen table

nice and sunny (I am sitting there now as I write this post)

  • When I need privacy, I set up a mobile desk area in my bedroom, next to the window

  • Sometimes, if I am feeling a bit nervous or a little tired, I bring my laptop into the living room and sit in my reclining loveseat. It makes me feel calmer.

  • I get my best ideas in the shower or while driving although I don’t take a shower or go for a drive just to brainstorm (maybe I should)

  • I like to stand when going through papers - it keeps me from zoning out.

  • When I am procrastinating or I need accountability, I use where I am paired with an accountability partner.

  • When I have a problem, I go for a walk in nature, and usually return with some perspective and a solution.

Where do you do your best work? Let me know in the comments.

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Julie Bestry
Julie Bestry
Apr 01, 2022

Fascinating! I have always been the kind of person who gets great comfort from a regimented life. I have always sat in the second row of the bus (school bus, tour bus, etc.), the second row of the classroom, to the right of my client when we're perpendicular to one another, or to the left when we're side-by-side (a client's left-handedness notwithstanding). And I'm ridiculously persnickety regarding sound, light, and proximity to others. So, although I agree with your advice (and Leslie's, and Shaw's), I suspect I may not be the kind of person for whom shaking things up works well.


Mar 28, 2022

I'm a fan of switching spaces since I have been working from home the majority of the time for over 20 years. Thanks for bringing attention to this productivity tactic.

Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Mar 28, 2022
Replying to

I think many people who are home working for the first time are discovering this phenomenon. It will be interesting to see if people apply this principle in an office.


Janet Barclay
Janet Barclay
Mar 28, 2022

Even though I've been using a laptop for over 10 years (not the same one!) I've never shaken the habit of working at my desk. Only rarely do I take it to my recliner or the bed, though I do occasionally sit in one of those spots with my tablet and catch up on emails or other light work.

Janet Barclay
Janet Barclay
Mar 29, 2022
Replying to

I'll keep it in mind. I think this is only one of three places I've read a similar suggestion this week, and it's only Tuesday! I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something...

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