Published Last updated 3 min read

Workspace Optimizations for Focus

Related: Productivity, Dopamine


Sunlight and Circadian Rhythms

For best performance, it makes sense to sync your working schedule with the daylight.

For the first 6 hours after waking up the brain is naturally running on high levels of dopamine, epinephrine, and cortisol. It is a state of high alertness

A light environment, especially at this stage allows for increased alertness and focus. Blue light (or better sunlight) exposure can be beneficial.

After 16 hours after waking up, it’s time to deem the lights. Replace blue lights with yellow and red.

It makes sense until you are not an all-nighter. If you are an all-nighter and need for some reason to stay awake. Drink a lot of water and wait 19 minutes not going to the bathroom. There is a neural circuit that awakes us when we need to urinate.

Posture

When we look up it activates neural circuits that are related to alertness. Looking down activates brain areas that are related to the release of certain neural transmitters that activate areas associated with calm and sleepiness and inhibition of alertness.

The level of alertness also depends on the body position. Standing posture is associated with higher alertness than when you are seated.

When you adjust your body position to angle back, it increases sleepiness

Vision

There 2 modes of vision:

  • High-detailed zoom-in mode when we focus on one particular thing.
  • Low detailed relaxed vision when we look at a more vast spectrum. Which is more suitable for movement detection

The vision system has direct connectivity with a brain's ability to focus.

  • To stay more focused make sure that your monitor is not too big, not extending your eyes' direct vision scope.

  • Focusing your eyes is rather exhaustive so you should switch to a panoramic nonfocused vision after 45 minutes of focusing for at least 5 minutes. Having a walk is perfect.

  • Checking a phone while relaxing is a bad idea because it requires you to focus.

Circadian Phases Effects

  • The 1st phase of the day is better for analytic work.
  • The 2nd phase is better for creative work.

Cathedral Effect

  • High ceiling environment triggers more creative thinking.
  • Low ceiling provokes more precise and focused thinking.

Background Music and Noise

There are times when we tolerate background music or noise and there are times when we need a silent environment.

  • Annoying sound of air conditioning or a heater or simply white noise can decrease cognitive performance.

  • Long-term exposure to white noise is not good, especially for children. It can cause damage to the auditory system and decrease cognitive performance.

  • The annoying sound triggers an alerted state by increasing [[cortisol]] that’s why we experience a feeling of relief when it shuts down.

  • White, pink, or brown noise can increase performance is because it simply increases alertness.

  • 40hz binaural beat frequencies show some evidence of improving the performance of memory and reaction times and also verbal recall.

  • Ocean waves or raindrops combined with binaural beats show lower effectiveness than just binaural beats.

  • 7hz beats with rain sound showed a negative effect on memory.

  • 15hz binaural beats show effectiveness in improving working memory in certain tasks like memorizing numbers.

  • 5hz and 10hz shows the opposite effect

Beats are better before work than during work. It's not recommended to use them every day because the auditory system attenuates.

The binaural beats dopamine increase effect was measured by measuring spontaneous blink rates which are directly related to the level of alertness

Workspace Tips and Environment.

  • To maintain focus any sort of distractions should be avoided by all means.

Sitting for 6 hours is bad for a HUGE number of reasons and leads to a number of diseases.

  • Combination of sit-stand positions shows incredible not only in cognitive performance but also good for neck pains and vitality in general.

  • 50/50 of standing and sitting is probably the best option.

  • Cycling or treadmill improves attention and cognitive control scores compared to a seated-by-the-desk session. Although verbal memory gets lower scores.

  • Cycling vs treadmill doesn't show any significant difference.

One of the explanations why this kind of activity increases performance could be that repetitive movements reduce anxiety. However, it’s not likely that only an anxiety decrease could improve performance. It’s more likely that it affects alertness in general.

Novelty in the environment forces you into alerted state, so moving from one place to another can make you more productive.


References

Optimizing Workspace for Productivity, Focus, & Creativity | Huberman Lab Podcast #57 - YouTube