How your ‘third space’ can turn you into a productivity master

Working flexibly across your workplace and home can be hugely beneficial for your productivity.

Now, a new school of thinking suggests that a third space between your office and home can be just as important for improving your work-life balance as well as getting things done.

What is a ‘third space’?

Business performance expert Dr Adam Fraser, author of The Third Space, defines it as a place to “transition between one role or task to the next role or task”.

It’s where you can take stock of what you’ve done, throw out the baggage of past tasks and prepare yourself for the work ahead.

It’s also about finding actual areas in the community to belong to outside of work and home. Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg, author of The Great Good Place and founder of the Project for Public Spaces, describes ‘third spaces’ as places that “host the informal and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work”.


Using a cafe as a third spacec

Cafés are a popular third space choice, especially if you’re partial to a good coffee. 

Choosing your third space:

Pick the right place for your personality

Café, library nook, or park bench, it’s crucial that your third space suits your personality.

You’re unlikely to make the transition between tasks if you feel like a fish out of water, so choosing an atmosphere that puts you at ease is crucial.

Owner of Melbourne-based accounting firm OneLedger, and keen coffee enthusiast, Andrew Hubbard finds his third space in the many inner-city coffee shops at his doorstep. “It’s amazing what a nice coffee in a relaxed environment does for my focus”.

“The team will often head out together. It’s a great way to regroup and recharge the batteries, which is important when you’re dealing with figures.”


Working outdoors in the sun

Fancy some sunshine? Heading outdoors can be incredibly effective for taking a moment to reset.

A recent report on Australian workplace flexibility conducted by Officeworks showed that 85% of small business owners like Andrew want the freedom to work outside their usual environments.

Furthermore, four out of 10 small business owners believe that not giving their employees this freedom is likely to decrease their productivity.

Match your third place to your work style

The research also found that half of Australia’s workforce currently work flexibly, with 37% doing so from home and 17% from cafés near the office.

Today’s ‘knowledge worker’ also has a number of complex workspace needs that might not slot well into the standard office, so flexibility can provide lots of benefits, but only if it suits how you work.

Everything from the amount of sunlight, tech you have, background noise and people density can affect your ability to complete a task efficiently.

Depending on how you go about things, the following third spaces might be for you:

• The library goer – you desire peace and quiet, ample private space, plenty of resources and a studious atmosphere to work productively.

• The café frequenter – you desire a lively atmosphere, brain food, light socialising and a sense of community to be productive.

• The nature lover – you desire ‘me time’, the splendour of the outdoors, fresh air and a clear mind to be productive.


Working in the library as your third space

If you’re an especially quiet achiever, your local library could be the perfect third space for you.

Make time to take a moment

You might have a third space in mind, but how exactly do you go about making the most of it?

In a nutshell: rest.

Resting your mind literally and figuratively is key to resetting and transitioning from one task to the next.

Keep these three steps in mind and you’ll be a productivity master in no time:

• Take stock – focus, recognise you’re moving onto a new task and put the last task behind you, regardless of the outcome.

• Prepare – big or small, in a minute or an hour, you need to think about what your next task is.

• Reset – this is where you put your game face on for the next task and make sure your mind’s free of any distractions and negativity.

As Andrew Hubbard says, “That ten or fifteen minutes with coffee in hand is pure ‘me time’. I think we all need that breather during a busy day – it’s like a productivity powernap”.

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