You Can Bet on This

September 4, 2007

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Casinos are designed to ensure their patrons lose all track of time and of course money.

Have you ever been inside a casino? I have … Six hours and two hundred dollars latter I was wondering what had just happened? I could hardly believe that I spend almost half my waking hours, and all my hard earned money … on purpose. Sure enough, I had. How does this happen?

Well folks, it’s all by design - quite literally. A casino’s main goal is to get gamblers in and keep them there as long as possible. They accomplish this through a method called “environmental programming”.

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Environmental programming is arranging an environment in such a way to help dictate a desired behavior in that particular environment. By cleverly leaving out things like clocks or too many windows the house has done its part to help its patrons lose all track of time (That’s why casinos can be crazy busy even at 3:00am).

So what in the world does this have to do with personal productivity? Well, I say it’s about time we start harnessing the power of environmental programming, for our own benefit.

If you’re like most of my clients, you probably work in a sea of cubicles. Please read “sea of cubicles” to mean management’s attempt to cram the most number of people into the least amount of space. That’s not an ideal environment for maximizing productivity. But it’s not completely hopeless either, here are some things to consider:

The overall goal for your work space should be that it’s comfortable, functional, and promotes clear concentration. Here’s a quick check list:

  • Is the surface of your desk clear? Clutter is distracting, and makes you feel busier then you really are.
  • Are the things you use most often close by, and easy to get at? For example, your active file drawer should not be the one furthest away.
  • Is your desk, computer, chair, etc positioned in such a way to minimize distraction due to “peer traffic”? It may seem rude to give them your back, but it invites far fewer distractions.
  • Do you have enough light to comfortably read at your desk? Natural light is best, but a lamp can help if you deal with overhead florescent-type lighting.
  • Is your environment noisy? Do you have obnoxiously loud cube mates that speak so loudly into the phone that you wonder if the other party even needs a phone to hear them? Noise canceling head phones are still pricey, but worth the investment in my opinion.
  • Is your space personalized? A few pictures or themed calendars or posters will do the trick.

(Originally posted 07/05/07, reposted with audio 09/04/07)

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