I have always delayed buying furniture. The act of buying sizeable things induces a feeling of acquiring a burden that will affect my relocation freedom. For a considerable time, I didn’t have a table in my room. I worked on the bed with my Macbook during this time. It wasn’t awful but mentally, I made it be.
Source: Mac Desks
Browsing stunning photos of professional desks, I was often awed by neatly kept books, stationary, and a high-resolution monitor. I fancied the delight of having the same environment, believing it’d bring a kind of a productivity boost. To an extent, I held my working conditions culpable for my procrastination problem. The reason I didn’t feel like working on my side-project, I thought, is because my environment needs to be fixed.
At some point, I decided to fix it by buying a small desk and a decent chair. Even though I was far behind what I idolised with those photographs, it was a meaningful improvement. Yet, as I got down to work on my side project, I plunged into the same habits of procrastination I had before. A quick visit to checking Hacker News turning into a half hour of vacuous browsing. That wasn’t supposed to happen. My new room additions were to help me get things done but instead, they proved to be ineffectual.
A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.
— E.B White
A good environment is a nice-to-have thing but its influence is minor against a more important factor: inner motivation. I had a terrible propensity to associate working environment with productivity. It turned out to be a manifestation of overemphasising the impact of external factors. When I managed to solve the external issues, I gradually realised I had solved the wrong problem. The joy of having a beautiful desk was as ephemeral as purchasing a shiny-new-thing. It faded as the initial excitement dwindled. The bigger thing to fix, I realised, is not a material one, it’s a psychological one.
Over the years, I have learned that there is no better way to be productive than to force yourself to get started. No processes, mantras, or hacks help when starting out is needed. Considering how many renowned companies have started out from garages, the excuse of the environment is hardly legitimate.
There is no denying that some working environments are unacceptable: loud noises, cramped space, or lack of air conditioning. But, in many cases, they fall under less-than-ideal. As I have found, embarking on making it ideal is a fruitless exercise. You can have the perfect desk, chair, and room but still not begin writing the lede of your essay. There is no easy fix for the motivation problem other than pushing yourself to start.