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Make your environment a woodshop

If you go into a woodworker’s woodshop and look around, what will you see? Organized environment with a dozens of different tools ready at hand. Now, is that what you see when you open your computer in your office?

Over the centuries, the various tradesmen have developed tools, techniques and structures that help them be better at their craft. They’ve made thousands of small adjustment and disctinctions to get the tools right. The result is the perfect tool for the job at the perfect time.

They’ve also created environments around them that breathe the essence of what their job is about. The woodworker has the woodshop, the smith the smithy, the tanner the tannery… But what does the information worker have?

App and websites — that’s the digital environment. And then, an office — that’s the physical environment. Let’s get concrete.

The physical environment

Does your office breathe the essence of what your job is about? When you step into the place where you work, does it immediately remind you of what your work entails? Does it display clearly all the tools you need? Or do you need to make an effort to remember and organize them before you begin?

We’ve become less used to shaping our physical environments because we spend so much time in the digital one. We neglect the space on the walls where a helpful poster could be, or we are content with headphones lying about freely when one nail would suffice to hang them and have a clear desk.

The digital environment

It’s a mess. How many people are clearly reminded of what they do and why when they look at their computer?

To add to the struggle, if we use the same machine for fun and for work, it lacks a sense of specific purpose. There is no clear boundary. It’s like if the woodworker’s woodshop was also the living room, with sofas and bookshelfs and all. That wouldn’t work too well.

Another part of the problem is that to shape significantly your digital environment, you need programming knowledge. Without it, you are confined to the predefined customizability of products made by others. Not much sense of ownership in that.

Work to have your environment work for you

Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone designed a computer and a office specifically for you? Took all your life into account and tailored everything to you from the ground up, figuratively and literally. How would it feel to be in that place? Everything would be right where you need it, organized and ready to be used to help you be your best. Need to write? Here’s the perfect room and a program just for you! Want to make some music? Here’s a soundproof room and the guitar you always wanted!

That’s the ideal. And it’s an ideal worth going toward because altering the enviroment we experience every day, even though it may require inital effort, will make what we do that much easier.

One example to leave you with. My dad and I put a pull-up bar in between the wooden pillars of a pergola on our front yard. It took a few days, but by now, I’ve done hundreds of pull-ups and various other exercises using it and it’s a part of my everyday workout. And it’s fun for me.

What can you do or create to make your physical and digital environment serve you more? How can you make it into a woodshop where everything is ready at hand when you need it?