Tuesday’s Tip: Surrounded By What?

Take a few moments to look around your work area. What have you surrounded yourself with? Does your environment help you focus on your long term goals and celebrate past achievement? Does your environment make you want to stay organized and productive?


Most people put too little emphasis on their surroundings. I’m not saying that you have to spend all your time trying to create the perfect office, but you shouldn’t ignore the things around you. Your productivity can be greatly influenced by your outlook, and your outlook can be greatly influenced by your surroundings.

For years, I never had a picture of my wife on my desk at work. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my wife, but it just seemed like an extra piece of stuff on my desk. Eventually, I ended up with a framed photo of her and decided to take it to work and put it on my desk. I noticed that I was much happier after I put her photo there. Seeing her smiling face made me feel good, and it helped me get more done.

I have also found it helpful to keep framed awards and diplomas on my walls around my work area. It may seem silly, but when I’m stumped on a particularly difficult problem, I tend to lean back, notice one of the awards or diplomas and think “This problem is nothing compared to what it took to earn that!” It is a simple thought, but it helps me keep things in perspective and stay optimistic.

A messy office breeds a messy office. Having a clean office encourages you to keep your office organized. I have heard that the best chefs in the world keep their kitchens clean as they go. When they are finished cooking, they don’t have a huge pile of dirty mixing pans and measuring cups because they clean them as they go. You can take care of your work area in the same way. It is easier to spend a few extra seconds staying organized (when everything is already in order) than it is to invest 5 hours in organizing everything in a messy office.

Originally published February 5, 2008.


  1. says

    Absolutely! Working in a filthy environment pushes my mental space together to a tiny block and on the other side, cleaning up before beginning a new project feels just as good as the shower in the morning!

  2. Jay says

    I had to think on this very topic recently as I was involved in some intra-office shuffling or desks and locales. I’d always had a fairly spartan work area, but pared it down just a little more in the new digs.

    I’ve got those items required for work, and a copy of Scott Moehring’s “Getting Things Done advanced workflow” diagram at my desk now. Gone are the awards and shelf of reference books. The picture of my wife hasn’t yet returned (she’s decided I should have a different picture). The awards and certificates have become image files that make up my default screensaver, and occasionally make appearances as my second monitor’s desktop wallpaper.

    Surround yourself with distractions, and you’ll be distracted I suppose. Hopefully, eliminating the distractions will allow me to surround myself with success.

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