21 Productivity Lessons I Learned from Feng Shui Principles

Productivity is all about efficiency. It’s about being able to focus and concentrate so you can achieve the same level of results with less resources and time.

If you find yourself having trouble focusing at work, it’s probably not a problem with you. Instead, it could be a problem with the physical environment that you work in.

The productivity lessons that I’m about to share with you are for those whose jobs require high levels of concentration. It is not for those who meet and greet customers on retail floors, or for factory supervisors that constantly oversee a manufacturing line. It’s for those who have a desk job with tasks that require high levels of focus and critical thinking.

The productivity lessons that you’re about to read are based on my observations, personal experience, and scientific literature.

So here are the 27 productivity lessons I learned from feng shui principles:

1. Sit with your back against a wall

I’m sure you’ve heard of this.

Feng shui talks much about having your back against a wall for “support”. The concept goes beyond your office desk to include bed placements in your bedroom and the geographic surroundings of a house.

How do you feel when someone’s looking over your shoulders while you work?
How do you feel when someone’s looking over your shoulders while you work?

With your back against a wall, you will find yourself less distracted. There will be no more noise or movements from behind that’ll make you abruptly turn your head to see what’s going on.

Furthermore, mean co-workers cannot surprise you from behind. With your back against a wall while working, you will find yourself more able to gather your thoughts together even when you’re distracted.

2. Place some nature next to your desk

The use of plants can be seen in many feng shui adjustments. It’s no exception for your desk.

We are naturally attracted to nature, and studies have shown that office plants can boost employee productivity and morale. Also, according to Harvard Business Review and the University of Minnesota, gazing at nature, or getting in touch with it, has the ability to brighten your mood.

So if you have space on your desk, why not add a small potted plant?

I put a small money tree right by my desk.
I put a small money tree right by my desk.

 

Whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressed out at work, take a break and interact with your plant. You can water it, wash the leaves, or trim it. You’ll find that this chore can be quite relaxing.

Further, if you’re in an enclosed office space, putting a plant on your desk provides a little more oxygen for you, which helps to keep you awake and your energy levels up.

3. Keep your work area bright

Part of the reason why feng shui is big on directions is because of sunshine. It is one of the three treasures of feng shui.

Light in our eyes is what wakes us up and sets our biological clock. Even though most of us stare at a computer monitor most of the time, the amount of light that surrounds us substantially impacts our productivity.

The optimal amount of light depends on how big your office space is. The bigger it is, the more light you need. Take advantage of natural sunlight, because studies have shown that it improves productivity and work performance.

An office with both natural light and soft white light.
An office with both natural light and soft white light.

I personally prefer light bulbs that are soft and cool white rather than the pale white daylight. But for an enclosed work environment where sunlight is minimal, you may want to choose cool white or daylight because they mimic the more energetic sunlight during the day.

A guide to selecting different light color temperatures.
A guide to selecting different light color temperatures.

4. Open your windows if possible

Fresh air is one of the three treasures of feng shui (the other two are clean water and sunlight). So if you have a window in your office, open it because it is the best source of oxygen, assuming your office is not located right next to any industrial factory or animal farm.

The amount of oxygen in our bloodstream is directly related to our energy level. Many sources have taught us that deep breathing increases our oxygen intake and therefore wakes us up.

Alternatively, if you keep your windows closed, your office will be filled with more carbon dioxide that’ll make you drowsy. It’s the same feeling you get when sitting in a concealed meeting room for hours.

For those that work in office buildings and have no window access, take a 20 minute walk. Not only does it keep you sharp by increasing your blood circulation and oxygen intake, it also helps improve your work creativity by an average of 60%, according to Stanford University.

5. Remove clutter from your desk

Many of today’s feng shui experts are focused on decluttering. The same goes with your work desk, as it will help clear your mind so you can better focus on the tasks at hand.

Clutter around your desk subtly adds stress to your work. Unless you have laser-sharp focus, seeing a mess lying around can impact your mood when you start the day. The clutter will be competing for your attention and makes it hard for you to work.

How different would your day start in these two different desk arrangements?
How different would your day start in these two different desk arrangements?

Remove anything that you don’t use on a daily basis from your desk. Things such as staplers, tapes, and calculators can be kept in your drawers. If you have lots of paper files, you can catch up with modern times and go completely digital.

If you need more tricks on decluttering your office, here are 10 tricks you can learn from Whitson Gordon.

6. Organize your files by deadline or priority

This is a little similar to de-cluttering your desk. But by organizing, I mean keeping your desk organized in a way that your files and notes are filed together in groups, either by projects, tasks, deadline, or priority.

Each one of us has multiple projects to work on at a time. But to be efficient and productive, it is best to work on one project at a time.

If you have different projects piled on your desk, you may find yourself jumping from one task to the other. All these projects are competing for your attention. It is distracting, because you may be thinking of other projects while you’re working on one of them, and it is stressful, because you are constantly reminded of how much work needs to be done.

If possible, keep your files organized and away from plain sight so you can focus on one thing at a time.

7. Organize your wires

This is for those who are bothered by the sight of an electric wire jungle.

Wires are a site for sore eyes (for some). It gathers dust (that gives me allergies) and is hard to clean. Every time you look at it, you are adding a tiny bit of unneeded mental stress. The effects can be subtle or profound, depending on the individual.

Businesses understand this. That is why many types of products have been developed to organize your wires. You can find more about these products here.

A cable organizer that I use. You can find it at Amazon.com.
A cable organizer that I use. You can find it at Amazon.com.

If organizing the wires is on your to-do list, the sight of it being unorganized will only add more stress which will lower your work output, because you’ll start the day feeling you “have so much work to do.”

8. Keep your computer’s desktop organized too

This is similar to organizing your files and keeping your desktop free from clutter.

With most of our files going digital, organizing them has become a challenge (similar to organizing paper files as mentioned in #6 above). The simple way is to save our files on desktop where it is in plain sight and easily accessible.

However, I’ve seen people’s desktop completely filled with files and folders, and I’ve noticed that sometimes it takes them minutes locating a file “somewhere” on their desktop. Time spent on searching for files could have been better spent on getting more work done.

Here’s a typical messy PC desktop. I’ve actually seen worse.
Here’s a typical messy PC desktop. I’ve actually seen worse.

Similar to clutter on your desk, the files on your desktop can distract you when they compete for your attention. Your attention will be divided, and you will feel much more stressed because you are constantly reminded of other projects and how much work you need to do.

Again, keep your computer’s desktop organized, just as how you would keep your work area organized.

9. Have an open space or someone in front of your desk

Feng shui talks much about having an open area in front of the house and the front door. Your work desk is no exception.

Before learning about feng shui, I stuck my desk at the corner of two walls. After learning about this concept, I’ve re-arranged my desk so there’s a small open area in front.

Here’s what felt different for me.

The additional space felt like my thoughts are no longer “hitting a wall.” It’s hard to describe, but it felt as if my mental capacity has enlarged.

An open-plan office where your co-workers have a great influence on how productive you are.
An open-plan office where your co-workers have a great influence on how productive you are.

On the other hand, it could be better to have someone sitting in front of you than having your desk stuck to a wall. However, please know that the person has the ability to affect your work. If he works hard, you’ll gain some of that energy. If he slacks off, you will gain some of that energy too.

10. Keep a distance from the kitchen or common area

Feng shui teaches us much about a kitchen’s location, and what I learned was that you should keep your work area away from the kitchen.

In my previous work, my desk was right next to an open kitchen. Whenever my co-workers needed to get coffee, water, or something from the fridge, I would notice them walking by my desk. (I also ate more because of easy-access to food.)

Although I have my headphones on, I can still hear the footsteps of heels and leather shoes coming at me. Sometimes they come over for a small chat, and sometimes we just say hi. I know what they’re cooking, what they’re drinking, and what they did over the weekend, although I completely had no interest in knowing. It was very distracting.

If you have a choice, keep a distance from the kitchen or common area (unless your job is to gossip). The noise, smell of food, and social interactions can harm both your productivity and performance.

11. No walkways or doors in front of your desk

Feng shui has many rules about doors and walkways, and one of them is not to have your desk facing a door or walkway.

Some feng shui experts say that this is the path of negative energy. For me, it’s just plain distracting.

The office where I used to work had an open area with no cubicles, and my desk was right next to a long walkway. I couldn’t help but notice whoever that was walking towards me from about 50 feet (15 meters) away. Most of the time, it felt as if they were coming to chat or to ask me something, even though they were just passing by.

What was more distracting was when my boss walked towards me. I would stare at him and ask whether he needed any help from me. Even when he didn’t need anything from me, I had already lost my train of thought on whatever I was working on.

This may not be a problem if you’re home-officed. However, if your desk is facing a door, you might find yourself using that door more often than you’d like, because your mind may be more likely to drift away by the tasks outside that door.

12. Avoid beams or low-hanging furniture on top of you

Feng shui is quite big on overhead beams. It shouldn’t be on top of your bed, and the same goes with your desk.

Overhead beams can bring stress to some people. Depending on the ceiling’s height and size of the beam, it can give you a feeling of being compressed and pressured. It is similar to that feeling when you’re inside a room with extremely low ceiling.

What I found was that it only bothers some people but not the others. So if you find yourself feeling uneasy or discomfort, try working somewhere else because your work productivity may very well be affected.

13. Use inspirational or relaxing artwork

Artwork and imagery can trigger emotional response, which is artworks depicting violence, sorrow, or other negative emotions are not suitable in the bedroom.

However, you can use artworks to your advantage at work.

What I’ve seen in executive offices is that they put inspirational quotes on their walls. I learned that whenever the executives felt lost or confused, the quotes gave them mental focus and resilience to tackle their problems and kept them going. Pinterest is an awesome resource if you’re looking for great inspirational quotes.

My favorite inspirational quote.
My favorite inspirational quote.

Similarly, you can put images of nature, which takes you away from the stressful work environment momentarily and gives you a much needed mental break that will help power you through the rest of the day.

14. Place photos of your loved ones

Photos of loved ones are not suitable in feng shui bedroom. Some experts say that it negatively affects your sleep and bedroom romance because it gives you the feeling as if someone is staring at you.

However, the work area is a different.

For me, I put a photo of my family right next to my desk. It gives me a sense of purpose. It reminds me of who I am truly working for. Most of all, it keeps me driven and gets me going.

Further, seeing photos of your loved ones are known to provoke positive emotions such as love, which can give you a better ability to tackle your problems throughout the day. According to the scientific literature, this is called the 3-to-1 positivity ratio. I first heard about it in this TED talk by Jane McGonigal, and you can find it at 14:34 below:

15. Balance furniture colors with light intensity

Too much brightness irritates us, and not enough light puts us to sleep. This concept is commonly used in feng shui for the bedroom, where dimmer light is preferred, and for the common areas, where brightness is favored.

Here’s a home-office with balanced and energetic colors.
Here’s a home-office with balanced and energetic colors.

If you have an office filled with sunlight or bright lights, you may want to choose darker furniture to balance out the light intensity. Suitable colors include dark brown and black.

Conversely, if your office seems a little dim, you can balance it with furniture that have brighter colors. Ivory white or light brown colors can be quite suitable.

16. Get rid of the mirrors

I’ve read somewhere that mirrors in your office can reflect negative energy from clients to other people in the room.

I’m not sure if I agree with it. But here’s my experience and what I’ve noticed from my co-workers.

With a mirror on their desk, they tend to look at themselves from time to time. It’ll sometimes feel like they pay more attention on their beauty than on work. The mirror is something that’s competing for attention.

Mirrors on the wall bring about the same behavior. People (including myself) that walk by will often check to see how they look. Sometimes they do weird things, which draw attention and distract those sitting around that area.

So mirrors are another distraction that lowers your productivity. Place it somewhere else and you may notice an increased ability to focus on your work.

17. Install blinds wherever appropriate

In feng shui, blinds and curtains are used for privacy. It is also used to block sunlight during the day and street lights during the night.

If your office has glass walls or windows, it can add a layer of privacy to your work environment. This is especially important if you’re working on sensitive information and reports, such as company financials and employee records.

Adding blinds can add a layer of privacy and reduce distractions in glass-walled offices.
Adding blinds can add a layer of privacy and reduce distractions in glass-walled offices.

Instead of worrying about sensitive information being compromised by prying eyes, blinds will give you an added sense of security, which in turn helps you focus on your work rather than being worried or on high-alert all the time.

18. Get the right furniture

Feng shui talks about the main furniture for each room, like the bed for the bedroom and the sofa for the living room.

In the case of your work area, it is your desk. All other furniture are of low priority and are not required, such as sofa and coffee table.

The size of the desk should be proportionate with the size of the office. A good indicator of having an oversized desk is when you have to walk sideways to go to your desk. Feeling crammed is another good way to lower your productivity.

The desk in the image above seems a little small for the size of this office.
The desk in the image above seems a little small for the size of this office.

On a side note, the chair that you use has a significant impact on your productivity. Most desk jobs require us sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time. Thus, your chair should prompt you to sit with a good posture so you can avoid neck strains, back pains, or other injuries to your body that’ll affect your ability to concentrate.

19. Don’t flood your walls with artwork

I’ve visited offices where the walls are filled with inspirational quotes. To me, it felt like visiting a website that is filled with advertisements.

A wall with too much artwork can get overwhelming.
A wall with too much artwork can get overwhelming.

I remember that when I first entered that office, I felt overloaded with information when I saw the wall full of quotes. The longer I stayed, the more it felt as if the inspiring quotes were shouting at me instead of inspiring me.

A wall full of artworks can get quite overwhelming, which undoubtedly increases unnecessary stress that’ll reflect on your ability to focus and concentrate.

20. Don’t sit with a window or glass wall behind you

I’ve encountered two feng shui explanations about this. Some say that you need a solid wall behind where you’re seated, while others say you need an open space behind you, and a window is the best way to go.

As for me, here are the reasons why I don’t like sitting with a window or a glass wall behind me.

First is the sunlight. It obstructs the view of my computer screen due to glare.

Glare makes it hard to see what's on the computer monitor.
Glare makes it hard to see what’s on the computer monitor.

For instance, if your window faces east, you may be struggling with reading anything from your computer screen in the mornings. The same goes with light reflections from the glass windows of surrounding office buildings.

I hope you never have to use this “laptop compubody sock” that completely eliminates glare on your computer screen.
I hope you never have to use this “laptop compubody sock” that completely eliminates glare on your computer screen.

Though you can install a blind and block out the sun, you are still susceptible to the sound or movements coming from the window, which can easily derail your train of thought. These noises include automobile traffic, lawn mowers, and especially unfamiliar noises.

21. Don’t have your desk face a window

Some experts say that your desk should not be facing a window because it may cause you to miss out on important business opportunities.

I cannot personally vouch for that, but what I do know is that a desk facing a window is another way to distract your concentration.

I'm not sure if I can work on this desk. I’ll be thinking about going out rather than working.
I’m not sure if I can work on this desk. I’ll be thinking about going out rather than working.

The previous office that I worked at was located on the first floor with glass walls that oversaw the entrance of an office building. I had a co-worker whose desk was facing that glass wall, and he kept complaining about not being able to concentrate.

According to science, our human eyes are unknowingly distracted by anything that comes into our visual field. It’s what kept us alive from predators (or hunting for food) in ancient times. It’s no wonder why my co-worker was constantly distracted.

I used to work on the first floor of this office building.
I used to work on the first floor of this office building.

First, people could look right into our office space from the outside. From the inside, we could see everyone entering and leaving the building. Even when I was highly engaged in a conversation with him, I easily noticed people who are entering and leaving the building as well as those who are looking inside that window at you.


It’s really the human traffic outside the window that’ll distract you, because your eyes will naturally pick up those movements and your attention will be drawn to them. So if you find yourself distracted by this, simply get your desk to face somewhere else.

Conclusion

Feng shui can help you in many ways, and part of it is to improve your work productivity. These lessons can help you minimize distractions so you can better concentrate on getting things done.

Depending on your work environment and the nature of your job, many of these may not apply. But if any of these lessons apply to you, I suggest you make the adjustments because these small changes all add up. Over time, you may be both surprised and happy about how much you can accomplish in a given day.

If any of these worked for you, or if you have any other experiences on work productivity, I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below!

Author, blogger, and digital marketer at Feng Shui Nexus. During the day, I do marketing in the tech industry. At night, I explore all sorts of knowledge, including feng shui, ancient wisdom, big data, analytics, and science. Click here to read more about me or say hi to me on Facebook or Twitter!

Comments (29)

This is management, not feng Shui. Whoever wrote this has no feng Shui knowledge.

Like you I am also on my computer most of the time. But unlike your style, I rely on cigarettes and kopi-O kosong for a break. I also read all the never-ending daily hilarious M’sian stories. It works wonders as I can concentrate better thereafter. If you say these are not feng-shui boosters, then what are they ?. Let’s hear your argument.

This is Western. It is not eastern.

So many Eastern concept adulterated by the Western concept.
Feng Shui is very basic.
Yin Yang and the flow of Qi.
InComing Qi and OutGoing Qi.
To attract Sheng Qi and to dispel Bad Qi.
The rubbish we get is almost like a sop opera.

Hey Beng Kung Tan. Thanks for your feedback! It’s true – I am taking a more Western approach, because there are many that fail to understand the concept of Qi, and an ordinary layman would call it superstitious. Perhaps I’m giving feng shui too much credit? People have found it helpful with this kind of simple and understandable approach that they can relate to. http://amzn.to/1I9kQq0

Kopitiam Kini Thanks for sharing. You’ve got some great habits and I’m glad you found one that worked for you. Like you, I also rely on cigarettes, but I’m not telling everyone to do that 😀

If it’s non fengshui related it shouldn’t be posted here.

Thanks Perisai, but I didn’t just make these up. I got them from multiple sources and “feng shui experts”. Some I do find a little controversial. Perhaps it’ll help if you give me some input?

Internet nowadays are full of information. In fact too much until one need to use common sense to decide whether that piece of info is real or otherwise. Most importantly in fengshui is to go back to the fundamentals. A test to see if a particular method falls back onto solid yin-yang principles

No 3
Keeping the work place bright.
Against the concept of Yin Yang.
Why it is so important to know the Yin Yang to determine if a place should be bright or dark.
Same with bright hall.
It must comply to the concept of Yin Yang.
The bright hall should be bright if it is Yang and should be dark If it is Yin.
The basic concept of Feng Shui.

Hey Beng, thanks for bringing this up. I agree the lighting is part of balancing the Yin Yang, such as dimmer lights in bedroom because it is Yin. As opposed to the bedroom, the workplace is a place that is highly active (I’m referring more to a corporate office than home-office). Do you not agree that the workplace is Yang due to the nature of its activity? I’ve got links to other sources in the post. Did you check them?

No 5
Remove clutter from ur desk
Absolutely nothing to do with receiving Sheng Qi and expelling Bad Qi.
Qi does not flow based on clutter but on frequencies and direction.
When auditing a desk, we would measure the Xue and the InComing and OutGoing.
Not the clutter.
By removing the clutter, can you improve the Feng Shui. What a joke.

Thanks for the input. I did not intend to touch on adjusting desk and office feng shui for the specifics. People had found this helpful and I wanted to reinforce it, and yes, it is within the murky waters of east and west feng shui: http://amzn.to/1m7MYzI

No 4
Open the windows if possible
Question
How does Qi flows
Through Windows?
Do you see Feng Shui master placing the LouPan on windows?

Hey Beng, I disagree with you on this one. Do you live in an apartment or a single-family house? Qi of course can come in through the window, just the same way it enters from the front door, but only to a lesser extent. What you’re talking about is how the Qi flows from within the house. Please don’t neglect the Qi from the surrounding environment and those sitting right outside your front door or window.

If Master Yang Yun Sung read this, he would %%$##&&-+++())[email protected]@-+(&%%-++

I don’t think you can speak for him. Things change over time. Perhaps you can comment more on this: http://fengshuinexus.com/blog/what-is-feng-shui/

This is not Feng Shui. It is science and a very good understanding of the world based on experience and western philosophy.
Feng Shui is metaphysics.
“the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.”
Feng Shui methodology is very well explained and structured based on the classics.

No 7
Organise your wires.
Imagine when asked to do Feng Shui for a house and your advise is to organise your wires.
Imagine how fast you would be asked to get out of the house.

Hey Beng, let me be clear – I am not giving any feng shui advices. And yes, if I hire a feng shui consultant and he/she advises me to organize my wires, that would be quite funny. Again, it’s about what I learned about productivity, giving credit to (western) feng shui.

No 6
Organise your files by deadline or priority.
If this is Feng Shui, #%&&++($#@$&+

I agree this is a little stretch. But like I mentioned, it is one solution to de-cluttering. (again, the popular western feng shui concept) You’d be surprised how many people don’t even know how to start.

Thanks Beng Kung Tan for great comments and feedback. He exposed valuable info on the more traditional feng shui than on the feng shui that’s evolved. It’ll be even better if you’d add a little more depth to help other readers learn more about what you know.

One thing that I want to add to this discussion – I’ve seen houses and home interiors constructed differently due to different regions, cultures, or habits. Instead of applying the rigid age-old concepts, I’ve instead learned that feng shui should be adjusted to time, place, and people (天時地利人合). Ultimately, it is to improve people’s living.

Traditional Feng Shui and Feng Shui that’s evolved.
This is stating that anyone can change and add whatever to this knowledge based system that we called Feng Shui which has been passed down through the ages.

Feng Shui is based on teachings passed down from the ancient sages.
The classics are the manual or the text book for this knowledge.
Can we just add whatever 天時地利人合 as we like?

Is there such a thing as the Western way?
If it is a Western Thing, why not use a different name like Interior Design?
How can it be Feng Shui when it is not based on Feng Shui principle and fundamental?

When referring to Qi in Feng Shui, what are we referring to?
We are referring to very specific things.

杨公养老看雌雄,
Master Yang grows old observing Ci Xiong (female male).
So what is he observing?
He is observing the form of the surrounding.
先看金龙动不动,次察血脉认来龙。
First observe golden dragon, stirring or not stirring.
Next observe (blood) vein to identify incoming dragon.
Comment: Golden dragon referring to the mountain/topography of the surrounding area. Whether it is moving or not referring to the slope of the land. Identifying where it is higher and where it is lower. The blood vein referring to the flow of the Qi. Always from the higher ground to the lower ground. Once the path (blood vein) is identified, the In-Coming Dragon can be located.

Hey Beng. Your approach to Feng Shui is the traditional one. References to dragon, blood veins, and the invisible Qi is the very reason why most people find this knowledge superstitious.

Anyways, thanks for your comments!

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