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Is cool light the secret to improved concentration?

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If you’ve ever had the option of working from home you’ll know just how easy it is to lose focus and get distracted from the task in hand.

By mid-morning you were on track for an empty inbox, a completed to-do list and ahead of the curve on your daily goals. Then, sometimes in the form of a daydream about an unrelated task, a news article that opens up into a rabbit hole, or the cat sits on your keyboard, the sidetrack monster steps in and you’ve lost your flow.

You’re well managed day implodes and suddenly you’re left feeling like you’re chasing you’re tail and you can’t stop clock watching. It’s not the nicest of feelings, especially when a deadline is involved.

So, it was that we found ourselves wondering whether a simple trick of light could lend itself to curbing distraction. Thankfully we found that there have been plenty of reputable studies into understanding and utilising light to our benefit and in short, from our research the answer is yes light can be used to prevent distraction and remain focused.

Join us below to why this is the case and how you can improve your own work output by making one or two simple changes.

In the digital age students and office workers can be required to spend upwards of 1,700 hrs per annum at a desk and in a sedentary state. This can lead to multiple negative impacts upon well-being. Inevitably this then translates into a loss of productivity that isn’t good for your business or study goals.

I am cursed with a mind that skips between different trains of thoughts at an alarming rate and with wild abandon. I wanted to do everything in my power to eliminate any and all distractions while sat at my own home office desk and so I did a little research and came up with some interesting finds.

Firstly I focused upon home office decor and design. I told myself, at the very least I can take comfort that if distraction continues to be a problem after applying these tips it’s not my environment that’s the issue and we can explore elsewhere for a fix.

Giving consideration to the design of your home office is one way you can do this as this is the most crucial area where the battle for concentration, focus and the feeling of fulfilment can be won or lost.

How Does Light Affect Us?

Light temperature scale

There is widespread acceptance that light and lighting has a direct association with worker performance and along with other factors contribute to productivity levels.

A little background information here goes a long way to help explain just why considering light temperature as well as light colour is important to get the most out of our efforts.

The temperature of light is measured in Kelvin (K), a unit derived from the colour an object emits as it gradually increases in temperature.

At the lower end of the Kelvin scale are warm colours from the start of the colour spectrum. Think orange and yellow hues from a newly started wood fuelled fire.

The highest colour temperatures on the other hand reflect the appearance of an object that has been heated until it is white hot, so has cool tones from the blue-violet end of the colour spectrum.

The Kelvin scale is useful to understand as ultimately it helps us relate to how light is directly correlated with melatonin, the hormone found naturally in our bodies that regulates our sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.

The presence of light decreases melatonin production and signals to our bodies that it’s time to wake up. During daylight hours the level of melatonin in our bloodstream is greatly reduced as the pineal gland remains inactive.

Not until we are present in a dimly lit environment once more does the pineal gland reactivate and once more release melatonin into the blood stream.

Having an appreciation that light has the ability to influence focus, concentration and productivity it’s now time to look at how the design of your home office can be tweaked to best suit your goals.

Warm Light vs Cool Light

So what kind of exposure to light do you need in order to use it to your advantage?

Well, the answer to that question depends on what kind of setting you wish to create within your home office.

For example, warm lighting creates a sense of comfort and relaxation, which are ideal if your home office is designed to be a place of calm relaxation. Perhaps you wish to create a cozy writers studio where you can lose yourself in a wave of creativity.

Or perhaps you absolutely need to be alert and fully engaged to quickly pick up on any mistakes during a data heavy task such as programming. For this scenario cool lighting would definitely suit best to help reduce fatigue inducing melatonin levels to their lowest levels.

If you find yourself shopping for light bulbs in the future look out for a Kelvin (K) rating value on the packaging or product description. Light colour temperature can be rated anywhere in a scale of between 1,000 – 10,000K. Typically warm light is classed as having a Kelvin of between 2,000 – 3,000K whereas blue white light that mimics daylight is over 6,500K.

Warm Light Or Cool Light In The Home Office?

So now you are familiar with how light can affect our innate biological processes, what can we do to implement this knowledge into practice?

  1. Ideally, position your desk or work surface so that you’re exposed to natural light. This doesn’t need to be right up against a window sill but at least within a room that is flooded with bright light for as long as possible during working hours.
  2. If natural light is proving difficult to come by, if for example you smartly occupy an otherwise unused space such as a corridor or storage room, it is possible to reduce fatigue and increase with artificial lighting. Blue-enriched light bulbs that mimic cool colour tones were found to result in workers reporting they were happier, more alert and feeling less sleepy during working hours.
  3. If you’re unsure what colour temperatures you are being exposed to it is possible to use the White Balance Color Temp App for Android phones, or the Lumu Light Meter for iPhones to check if you are working in warm or cool light.
  4. Not really a design tip but more a good habit to practice. Head outside during lunch breaks whenever you can.

Bonus tip: If you have trouble switching off at the end of the day or find yourself working into the wee hours and want to wind down, adjust your night light settings on your display to reduce the colour temperature of your screen and invite sleep to take you away.

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