What’s your work environment look like? Is it neat as a pin, or does it look like a tornado just swept through your office or studio? Is there lots of natural light, or is it a dark corner of the basement? You may wonder why I’m asking you all these questions…
I’m asking because research has shown that your environment plays a crucial role in how creative you can get. So, if you’re sitting at your desk and you just can’t think straight, maybe you need to be straightening up your desk before you start to work.
Personally, I like to think the theory that a messy desk indicates a genius mind applies to me. *cheeky grin* But, even I, unsung genius that I may or may not be, can only take a messy desk for so long before the clutter physically overwhelms me and I have to stop whatever I’m doing and clean things up my desk.
Since my success as a writer and designer depends on me being able to think straight and work without feelings of stress and overwhelm, it’s critical that the environment I work in be conducive to creativity and productivity.
In case you’re feeling the same way, here are four ways to make your environment work for your creativity instead of against it.
Tip #1 - De-Clutter your workspace
This is one of the most important pieces of advice on creativity. The thing about creativity is it’s like a delicate creature that doesn’t show up until it knows the environment is right.
A messy desk might be the sign of a genius, but I can tell you from experience that a cluttered room does not inspire creativity. For me, it inspires annoyance, irritability, anxiety, and other negative emotions.
Clutter tells your brain you have to fix your environment, and anxiety ensues when you don’t do as your brains tells you. This is why it’s hard to focus when your room or office or desk is cluttered, because you end really wanting to clean up your room!
A messy room does not inspire creativity. Remember that. Your mind freaks out at the sight of clutter and mess. But what if it’s impossible to remove the clutter? What if you cannot do anything about the files on your desk that cry paperwork out loud?
One solution is to have a separate desk. Or better, have a separate room that’s clean and organized. In other words, you can have two work stations. One work station is for busy, regular work. The other is for creative work.
Tip #2 - Keep the noise to a minimum
If you live and work in an urban area, it’s almost impossible to find a place of complete silence. Even so, it’s hard to work on new content, regardless of what it is, when you can hear the traffic outside. My neighbourhood has been a construction zone for the past couple of years, so unless I get up at about 4 a.m., there’s never any quiet time around here.
Research has shown that some noise is necessary for the activation of the areas of the brain responsible for creativity. Neither silence nor loud sound has a similar effect. Moderate noise heightens your brain’s ability to process abstract thoughts, allowing us to navigate through more difficult problems, which require creative thinking to resolve.
However, this advantage of sound gradually disappears as it becomes more intense. The louder the noise, the less you are likely to come up with creative solutions. Loud sound, whether it’s noise or music, can dampen your creative juices. In other words, listening to heavy metal at full volume isn’t going to help you much with your marketing plan.
Chatter, ringing phones, car horns, and machinery noise all do double duty as creative blocks. What if it’s impossible to get away from them? You have a few options. One is to play nature sounds in your office or workplace. To optimize the masking effect of the sound, put the speakers in every corner of the room so as to bathe you in relaxing noise. An alternative to this is to listen to nature sounds or white noise on headphones.
Tip #3 - Get More Natural Light
People who work near windows where natural light gets in tend to be more productive than those who work with just lamps above their heads. Natural light has mood-enhancing properties, whereas artificial light does not. The reason for such differences between natural and artificial lighting is not clearly understood.
It makes sense to work in areas where you can peek outdoors and see the sky. However, this is not always the case. For instance, if you are an office employee, you may have little or zero control of your work space. If you work at home, and home is an apartment building, your view may be blocked by the building next door.
The alternative is to make sure the work environment is well lit. A sufficiently lit environment allows you to focus more and work faster. However, watch out for over-lighting, which is counterproductive. Too much light can serve as a distraction.
What about dim lights? Dim lighting has its key purpose in stimulating creativity. When you are in the process of brainstorming ideas, dim lighting can help. Dim lighting, not total darkness, reduces visual stimuli and thus allows you to focus more on your inner thoughts.
Tip #4 – Set the thermostat to where you’re comfortable
Ambient temperature affects creativity. You’re at your creative peak when you’re not bothered by icy chill or tropical humidity. According to research people are most productive at temperatures 70-73 degrees. Try to keep your work environment close to these temperatures.
Having a workspace that comfortable for you is a key to getting the most out of your creativity. Use these tips to make the changes you need to create a workspace that helps you be more creative instead of hindering you. Your inner genius will thank you for it!