Spark

How creating 'context zones' could turn you into a productivity powerhouse

Have you ever thought that there aren't nearly enough hours in the day to get everything done? A writer uses a few tricks to master every minute
Writer and coder Kunal Shandilya created bespoke "environments" for his activities, and increased his productivity. (Pixabay)
Listen8:32

Have you ever thought that there aren't nearly enough hours in the day to get everything done? Did you worry about that when you were 18?

Kunal Shandilya lives in Mumbai. And not yet cracking into his third decade, he's already achieved a lot. He's built a successful app, and is a thoughtful writer.

Kunal Shandilya (Twitter)

But he believes he can be even more productive.

So Kunal explored the idea of environmental design, which is basically looking at how the physical features of a place affect how people behave.

In his case, he wanted to design the optimal environment for focusing on a particular task without interruption. Kunal isn't an expert in this field, but we thought it was a neat idea.

The whole thing began for him when he had a particular insight one day while trying to work on his bed.

He'd read an article that suggested using one's bed only for sleeping and sex, so he wondered whether that type of area-specific use would work in other parts of his house.

Contextual zoning

"When you switch from one task to another it takes up a lot of mental energy in time for the recalibration," he said, noting that time ate into productive work time.

To mitigate this, he set up zones in his apartment where he would only do one task, in the hope that when he entered that zone, his mind would be ready focus on the relevant activity.

I noticed that when I entered the library, I was already thinking about reading and writing.- Kunal   Shandilya

At home, he has zones for sleeping, reading fiction, writing, coding, reading non-fiction, and meditating. And he extended that idea to other place, too, including the library on his college campus, where he does a lot of work.

The experiment proved successful, he said. 

Sound shaping

"I noticed that when I entered the library I was already thinking about reading and writing. I was already thinking about the structure of my next article. So the time spent on recalibrating yourself for that task is much less," he says.

He also decided to try associating different forms of background noise with certain activities. He downloaded an app to his phone that had dozens of background white noise, such as rain falling, a fire crackling, etc., and linked specific white noise sounds to specific activities.

"I associate the different presets with different tasks and I find that that goes really well, he said.

Light quality

We have long been warned that the cool, blue light emitted by computer and device screens is bad for getting to sleep. So Kunal uses this to his advantage, depending on what he is trying to accomplish.

"I stick to cool lights and bright lights for my work, and when I'm done with all of my stuff I switch to a warmer, orange light at my home and I unwind after that."

You can read Kunal's full report on his environmental design experiments here.