This guest post was updated September 23, 2011. The guest post is courtesy of Alana Cash sorry for any confusion.
For endurance purposes, making the work environment as comfortable as possible is important – not just ergonomically, but psychologically as well.
Entrepreneurs generally work longer hours than employees of their own company and others. An entrepreneur also has a difficulty walking away from “the job” at the end of the day or taking vacations. For endurance purposes, making the work environment as comfortable as possible is important – not just ergonomically, but psychologically as well. One way to do this is to understand your productivity style.
Productivity style is an understanding of how certain external factors affect your ability to think – stimulating it or depressing it. Development of productivity style for adults came out of research done on learning styles in children. Why did some children learn faster or easier than others, giving similar socioeconomic backgrounds, health, intelligence, and learning in the same environment? It came down to certain environmental factors that are controllable:
The standard environment in most educational institutions is:
- Analytical/sequential tasks and instruction (left brain)
- Bright overhead lighting
- Hard furniture/formal design (rows)
- Begin working/learning early morning
- Oral instruction
- Silence except for authority figure
- Restricted mobility
- Cool temperature
- Limited intake of food/drink
If you function best under these conditions, then you probably did well in school. In fact, most teachers did well under these conditions, and therefore assume that everyone can and should, and believe that a student should change to adapt to the educational system and not the other way around. The business world generally has the same assumption – everyone should be able to begin work early in the morning in a cool, quiet, formal atmosphere with bright lighting, and restricted mobility. But this isn’t so.
Here are examples of how productivity style works with the six main qualities:
RIGHT BRAIN/LEFT BRAIN dominance: Fifty percent of all adults are left-brain dominant and fifty percent are right brain dominant. The person oriented to the left brain is analytic and thinks sequentially. If you ask this person for directions to their office, they answer in a step-by-step format with precise measurements of distances (i.e., go out of the parking lot and turn right, go .8 miles to the second traffic signal, which is Wister Avenue, and turn left, drive 1.5 miles and turn right again into the underground parking entrance). On the other hand, the right-brain oriented individual typically thinks in images. If you ask a right-brain person for directions, they want to draw a map, naming the streets and landmarks.
In business terms, what this means is that the left-brain thinker lists the steps for meeting goals or starting new projects. “HOW are we going to do this?” is a more important question than “WHAT are we going to do?”. The right-brain (or “global” thinker), on the other hand, will consider the whole picture, the ultimate result. They then break it down into pieces, not in any particular order, just feeling their way intuitively.
Unfortunately, there is a prejudice in the business world in favor of the analytic mind (especially if you want a bank loan). Methodical reasoning is considered “rational” because all the steps are there in evidence of a reasonable conclusion. Thinking in this manner follows algebraic formulas, seeks concrete solutions, and can easily be set forth for a banker in charts and graphs. The intuitive, holistic approach of the right-brain individuals, however, is suspect because it cannot necessarily be backed up with evidence. Right-brain people often don’t know how they know.
Being aware of the significance of brain hemispheres, however, can enhance your business communications. Since there is a fifty-fifty chance that business meetings will be among groups with opposite brain hemispheres, you can prepare proposals and presentations in a manner which fills in the gaps for both left-brain and right-brain thinkers. A person operating from right-brain can make the effort to include detailed steps for their project or its specific advantages (i.e. how it saves money or time” for the benefit of the left brain person. The left-brain person makes an effort to imagine the grand design, the finished product (i.e. a beautiful polished brochure, a complete set of financial statements).
QUALITY OF LIGHT: Even though we are trained to believe that bright light is absolutely necessary and the healthiest condition for eyesight and reading, this is not necessarily so. The preference for low light is correlated right-brain/left-brain functioning. Fluorescent lights can over-stimulate some people and wilt their ability to concentrate. Remember the old movies where the police shone a bright light on a prisoner to get him to confess?
It isn’t expensive to change the lighting in an office — it’s usually a matter of wattage. If there are fluorescent lights overhead and the preference is for lowlight, turn them off and use a desk lamp.
FORMAL/INFORMAL DESIGN: Preference for furniture design can be distilled down to the Goldilocks effect – too hard, too soft, just right in furniture. There are people who take their own seat cushion to sporting events and others who would never dream of it. Some people think better when they feel casual, and tense up when they have to sit up straight. Other people become more intensely cognitive when they feel formality and structure. It also applies to clothing. Do you think better in a suit or sweatpants?
PERCEPTUAL STYLE. Some people register information better aurally (listening), other register better visually (seeing), and others tactile/kinesthetically (touching). Ask yourself: When interviewing a new employee, am I more conscious of and form my strongest impression by what they are wearing (visual), what they are saying (aural), or by their handshake (tactile/kinesthetic)?
It can be very helpful to determine the perceptual style of employees and clients, especially if you have been asking yourself “Why can’t they ever remember anything I tell them?” Maybe they weren’t told in the way that their brain registers information best.
Generally, people give clues in their speech which will tell you how they are processing what you are saying. Do they use visual terms when responding? “I see what you mean” or “I look at it this way?” Or aural terms? “I hear you” or “I’m listening?” If they are tactile/kinesthetic, they will say, “I get it” or “That feels about right.”
Most people are visual and it will help you tremendously to get your point across to them if you put it in writing. The next most common perceptual style is tactile/kinesthetic, they must physically experience what you are saying in some way — through taking notes or touching a keyboard. The least common perceptual style is aural which is why most people wander off the subject in their minds if communication is totally verbal.
TIME OF DAY: For some people the statement, “I’m not a morning person,” does not even begin to cover it. However, 55% of all adults are morning people, which is good because the business world is geared to the early riser. People who believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day can eat bacon and eggs right after their morning shower which is right after their morning workout, and then are productive the minute they get to work at 7 or 8 or9 a.m.
For 17% of the population, peak mental alertness time will be late morning or early afternoon. These people are chronically 15 minutes late to work and given the choice will prefer meeting clients and talking business over lunch or even dinner?
Because you are the most alert during certain hours of day does not imply that you are totally worthless the rest of the time. The importance of knowing peak time is so that appointments, budgeting, and crucial meetings can be scheduled for the optimal time of day.
Along with the five primary aspects, there are a myriad of other elements that make up productivity style — for example, “intake” which means concentration is easier while drinking or eating. What may have been considered “nervous eating” may be an unconscious response to a need for intake. A couple of carrot sticks and some apple juice can produce a better business letter.
Productivity style may include a need for mobility, and if forced to sit too long, an employee may reach for food out of anxiety. Given breaks once in a while for some stretches and a short walk will freshen the mind. Thomas Edison claimed that he received his greatest inspirational flashes while getting exercise.
Other productivity style factors:
- Sound level — whether a mind works better in complete silence, with soft music, or with loud rock music.
- Temperature — most people prefer a slightly warm temperature, yet most business offices are on the cool side.
- Peers — are you more creative when you bounce ideas off of a partner? Are you persistent on your own, or do you need to be nudged?
Knowledge of productivity style can not only increase effectiveness, but can also enhance the ability to communicate with others. Products and sales pitches can be presented in all three perceptive styles — orally, visually, and tactile kinesthetically.
This guest post was written by author/filmmaker Alana Cash. www.alanacash.com