Four ways to control your immediate environment

Having mastery over your immediate environment, especially during break time or during off-hours, yields greater peace of mind and makes you more productive when back on the job.

A recent issue of Men's Health contains a statistic that I found to be intriguing. It seems that 70 percent of men listen to music while exercising. Of this population, 70 percent listen to their own tunes via an iPod or cell phone with connections to a channel, a playlist, or other method. 

This made me curious whether or not individuals who control what they hear while exercising have a different experience or outcome compared to those who do not. Does their inclination towards exercise or the effectiveness of their workout differ?

study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences observed that playing relaxing music can help to decrease stress as well as facilitate recovery from a psychologically stressful task. More specifically, the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology published a study in 2012 concluding that music can be employed gainfully before exercise as a motivational tool to get started, and it apparently enhances exercise performance. 

You might be wondering what this has to do with the healthcare field. The key takeaway is that individuals who control aspects of their environment may actually be able to perform better in fast-paced and stressful situations as well as more easily recover from that performance. As physicians and other healthcare professionals face those types of situations every day, finding ways to de-stress and recharge before, during, and after work is vital. 

Take control

Here are four ways to take control of your immediate environment when you have the option to do so.

  • Control the sound level, quality of sound, and type of sound to which you're exposed. As demonstrated by the music studies mentioned earlier, it's to your benefit to play the songs that are most comforting to you. Seek opportunities to close doors, turn off noisy equipment, or, if needed, turn on equipment for its white noise capabilities. 

  • Do the same on a visual basis. Adjust the lighting (both natural and artificial) to find that level of lumens that works for you. Close or open shades and blinds, and regulate overhead and desk lighting, the visibility of your computer tablet or cell phone screen, and so on. You're likely to have greater comfort while you work, to be more productive, and to have more energy when you're done.

  • Limit the potential for interruption. Whether it's posting a note on your door or leaving a message on your voicemail, let others know when you need to have an uninterrupted, quiet stretch. Most people today will respect that because they have the same need themselves. 

  • When you need to have a relaxing, refreshing break, do what you can to ensure that that is exactly what you attain. Find a quiet place near where you work-maybe the conference room, the last table in the cafeteria, a rooftop terrace, or even a park bench. 

Precious minutes   

Don't underestimate the value of having several precious minutes away from the fray where you can relax, become centered, perhaps meditate or visualize for few moments, and then return to work.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and a thought leader on work-life balance issues. He speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the work-life balance of their people. Visit for more information.