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Do you get easily distracted when working from home? Spatial association could be the answer!

May 1, 2024
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While many people point the finger at remote work as a hotbed for procrastination and distraction, 68% of us find it more distracting working in an office than at home, where only 62% of us struggle to stay focused. Nevertheless, 62% is still a lot of us, and it’s clear that distractions can creep up on us no matter where we’re working.

Whether you look longingly over at your comfy bed or itch to scroll listlessly through your phone, working from home is an inviting place to give in to distractions. But, according to experts, you can better control your urges and distractions with something called ‘spatial association’.

Coined by neuroscientists, spatial association is all about creating dedicated areas to work and dedicated areas to do the exact opposite. By employing strict rules around where you focus in your home, your brain is able to recognise the places where it’s time to concentrate, and the places where you’re welcome to take a break.

For example, if you’re guilty of having the television on while working remotely, it’s a good idea to make any room with a TV a no-go-zone when working. Instead, choose a room with fewer temptations and leave the living room for relaxation time when the working day is done. Alternatively, if you find yourself unable to switch off from work once the day is over, try making certain rooms a completely work-free zone. For instance, you can ban checking your work emails or opening your laptop in the bedroom, helping your brain to associate that space with rest.

If you want to, you can take spatial association to the next level by using individual places for different purposes. For example, you could use your desk for longer tasks like writing or creating pitch decks. But for creative sessions or ideation, you might like to use a standing desk (aka the kitchen counter) or even spread your ideas out across the living room floor. If you do this with enough consistency, your brain will start to recognise where it needs to think most creatively, and when it needs to prepare for longer focus sessions.

In order for spatial association to work really well, you need to teach other people to have the same respect for these places that you do. Making the kitchen a distraction-free zone is much harder if your family or housemates see it as a place where they can interrupt you whenever they like. And similarly, if the bedroom is a work free zone, it can help to employ that rule to anyone that shares that bedroom. It’s not much fun trying to unwind with a book if your partner is tap-tapping away on their work laptop.

By becoming stricter with spatial association, your home can function just like an office. There should be places where you can switch off, spaces where you can be creative, and spaces where it’s time to really focus. Of course, the benefits over an office are obvious. Because, after a hard day’s work, you only have to commute a few strides before you can sprawl out on the sofa for a well-earned rest.

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