We've previously spoken about how your workstation area matters, mentioning topics such as consistency in input surfaces, arrangement of screens, good chairs, etc. Today I'd like to extend that to talk about the general environment in which you're working/hacking/playing.

As with all these little articles, I have a story to tell, and this one is about how my heating boiler died at home and I had to spend two weeks with a computer room which was consistently below 10 degrees celsius unless I spent a lot of electricity heating it up. Sitting in the cold at my keyboard was difficult. You can put jumpers on, and generally keep yourself warm, but for at least some of us, our hands still get cold, and that can be quite unpleasant when you're a keyboard worker.

The temperature of your working/hacking/playing environment will affect your effectiveness dramatically. If it's too cold, or too warm, you will not be able to think properly and your reaction times will grow. Keeping the area around your workstation clear of clutter will also improve your ability to think, though some do benefit from having one or two fiddling things for when you need to do something with your hands while your brain wanders off to solve the problem.

I recommend ensuring that there's not too much in the way of noise distraction at your workstation too. Music is something that some of us find helps, as can a white noise generator or rain generator. I sometimes use an internet cat to help me relax, but it's important to try and block out sounds which you cannot predict or control such as building site noise, other people talking, etc.

For me, it's also important to try and eliminate unexpected or unpleasant scents from your workstation too. I find that I cannot concentrate if I can smell food (sometimes a big issue because my neighbours love to fry onions at times of day when I'm hungry).

Keep hydrated. While that's not entirely an environmental thing, ensuring that you have an adequate supply of water, squash, tea, or whatever you prefer, is very important. Bad hydration causes your brain to behave similarly to being drunk or super-tired. Obviously if you're going to keep hydrated, don't try and sit and work through a full bladder, that can be just as distracting/unhelpful.

Your homework for this week is to look critically at your work/hack/play environment and make at least one small change for the better. Perhaps you could comment below about a change you made and how you feel it has affected you, either positively or negatively. If you have other tips for improving your work/hack/play space then also include them below.