Your Working Space Can Help You Unleash Your Creativity



Most of us heard about Google Plex and the environment in which Google employees in California (and also worldwide) work.

Google premises are colourful, spacious, modern and full of surprises and amenities: video games, micro-kitchens, bowling alleys, movie theatres, pool tables and climbing walls.

Every office is unique and the employees are invited to work in a laid-back, relaxing atmosphere which may include trailing plants, fish tanks, sand or lava lamps…

People are immersed in a vibrant and multicolour space which should promote creativity and cooperation.

Google is not the only company which is working hard on creative ideal working areas for their employees.

Workers at Ferrari can enjoy a marvellous production floor made of glass which allows natural light to pervade the building and their working stations are surrounded by plants and trees as if they were actually working in a greenhouse.

Is that one of the secrets which should help up maximize our inventiveness?

Is that really what our workplace should look like in order to be able to come up with glorious ideas?

How does the surrounding environment affect your productivity as a freelance writer working from home?

We, at Breakline, tried to look into the matter in order to provide our writers with some great tips which should help them find the ideal working environment for writing great content.

Your desk is not the place where the best ideas will come up

As Jason Fried pointed out in his TEDx Midwest talk in October 2010, virtually nobody mentions their office when they think of a place where they can get things done. Most of the people talk about their own living room, the porch, the backyard or their car.

There are a few reasons connected to this fact: the surrounding environment, pressure, and distractions.

An office room, no matter if shared with one or two people or if open space and therefore shared with a multitude of colleagues is usually quite noisy, dull and quite foreign.

No matter if you managed to decorate your cubicle with family portraits and/or stuffed animals and motivational quotes on the walls…it’s an alien place where we can’t feel free to do whatever we want.

We don’t feel free to be ourselves.

Additionally, if you enter your office at work or at home and you force yourself to be creative and give yourself an hour to do so, the pressure will replace the serenity that you require to hear and get in touch with your own ideas.

Time is a constraint, and creativity hates constraints. If you need to come up with innovative solutions make sure that there are no clocks around, no limit, no upcoming events you have to attend, no deadlines, due dates or commitments which keep worrying you.

Get everything else done (phone calls, payments, chores, reports….) and then tackle the problem you want to solve (or the piece of content you want to create) without any time constraints.

Keep clocks away from your sight and remember that the pink elephant paradox applies here as well: the more you tell to yourself that you have to be creative the fewer the chances of that actually happening.

Be alone, be yourself, surround yourself with the things you love, make sure you have something to drink and maybe some healthy snacks to keep your hands occupied.

Natural light, as mentioned is the best source of light!

What about distractions?

Real distractions are the ones that we didn’t choose

Even if in many companies employees can’t access Facebook, Youtube, eBay, taking a few minutes to check your Facebook feed or checking your bids on eBay or a chat on Whatsapp is not the real problem, provided that it actually only takes a few minutes and that we personally choose the best time to access social media or other platforms.

Okay, there are some problems with the fact that when we hear our phone beeping we often feel compelled to immediately read the message we received. And these problems are treated in a separate blog post.

Generally, though, it’s worse to keep working on a problem while our brain keeps wondering what’s going on in the digital world instead of just taking a second and check directly.

As mentioned, constraints limit our creativity and if our mind keeps going back to other issues we can’t concentrate properly.

The idea is that after a while, writing, thinking, designing and so on are very taxing activities.

When we feel that our productivity is plummeting, it’s okay to quickly move our attention to a more relaxing topic and then go back to the original problem with fresh thoughts and spirit.

These aren’t distractions because we know when we reached a sticking point with our work and instead of facing a blank sheet for half an hour we know that we can go back to our work after a short break.

The real distractions are the ones that interrupt us while we are productive.

You might have heard that it takes ten to twenty minutes to go back to the same level of concentration after an interruption (even if this is maybe only a person asking us what time it is).

When we finally got our thoughts together and we visualize a clear path that leads to a solution we have to persistently keep working till the end so that we don’t lose sight of the whole concept which suddenly revealed itself in our mind.

A telephone call, somebody knocking on the door, a text message which interrupts our train of thoughts in that very moment is the worst thing that could happen.

You don’t find ideas, ideas find you

As pointed out, many people talk about the fact that the best ideas came up while they were doing something else.

Usually, slightly meaningless and repetitive tasks such as driving, taking a shower or cooking: tasks which don’t usually require our thoughts to follow what’s going on at that very moment (although with driving that should actually be the case!).

It’s like when you’re trying to remember the name of the song you heard on the radio or where you saw that actor which currently plays another role in a movie you’re watching.

The more you focus on it, the more difficult it is to finally verbalize something which is stuck on the tip of your tongue.

Always keep a piece of paper or your smartphone or a pad next to you because ideas often take shape while doing something else and it‘s vital to write down our thoughts as soon as possible because they quickly disappear exactly as those vivid dreams that we nevertheless forget a few minutes after getting up and having breakfast.

Your desk is the world around you and the best ideas will catch you by surprise.

Information should surround you

So you finally got struck by the lightning of inspiration and you find a peaceful place where to create (without clocks, distractions, and other constraints)…make sure that in this place you have access to information.

Books, magazines, painting, pictures, music…make sure you can always stop for a second and check data you came across in the past and that impressed you.

The internet is a great source of information, but it’s not very focused or easily accessible.

The information we categorized and worked on in the past represent the most important source of inspiration because we spent time organizing it and taking it in.

It’s part of who we are.

Make sure that all the notes and books which you consider valuable are around you and easy to go through.

Oxygen is your friend

Information and ideas travel through fibres in our brain which require oxygen and sugars to work properly.

In terms of sugar, give yourself a treat from time to time (and don’t forget that the best form of sugars is to be found fruits).

As far as oxygen is concerned, talking a walk outside from time to time is really good, not only because it creates the perfect conditions for boosting creativity by concentrating on something else but also because our body requires a fresh load of new air from time to time.

It would be best if you could take a walk in a park or something similar, but also a stroll around the block might do the trick.

While we talk about fresh air, it is necessary that the room you are in be provided with a wide window which you can open from time to time.

A/C alone doesn’t provide the perfect air circulation and quality which we need.

Also having a nice, inspiring view can stimulate our brain cells.

Overlooking a green area or a beautiful landscape helps our motivation and provides an endless source of inspiration.

Posters and motionless images, unfortunately, don’t really help.

Mobility and change are important

When it comes to choosing proper furniture for your working space, try buying cheap and, if it’s possible, changing it from time to time instead of buying expensive stuff which you’re going to hold on to for ages.

Colours and smells influence our mood and natural wood seems to have a very positive effect on our imagination and ability to interact with reality.

Bright colours boost curiosity and cleverness.

Try with some harmonic combinations of two or maximum three colours.

It’s also helpful to create a space where things can be moved around.

We might need more space for laying down pieces of paper which we need to connect to create a story, we might need to introduce new elements (a flipchart or a shelf) or we might just be tired with the way the whole room is arranged and we might feel the need to introduce a new couch.

Additionally, we might need to configure the space to allow others to work with us on a group project.

Mobility is connected to variety.

Variety is great for freelance writers

When working on an article or on an idea in general, don’t stick to one single medium.

Don’t write all the essential ideas on a computer or on a piece of paper.

Combine all the media you can possibly think of to depict a picture and create a plot: use your computer notes, pieces of papers, a flipchart, sticky notes, pictures, sounds…make sure that the space you work in is filled with elements of a story that you’re trying to create, no matter if you are trying to write a song, an article, design a bridge or solve a logistic problem.

Variety and different points of view will only enrich your approach to the idea you need to generate.

Make sure that all the media you’re using are accessible to others

Other people can help you whenever you’re stuck.

But if you built a castle with all your ideas which can’t be accessed from outside, nobody will be able to help you.

Make sure that all your resources are available and easy to share.

Whenever you feel that you need external help, it will be easy for others to grasp the process you have been going through up to that point.

Technology needs to be well integrated with the whole environment and we have to make sure that space is cosy and functional enough to facilitate face to face and online communication.

A tiny room can be as functional and welcoming as a very large working space.

Make sure that everything is at the right place and think vertically: you can always extend the available space by using walls and hanging stuff (which can also be attached to the ceiling) .

Make sure no elements cut through the space (a couch in the middle of the room for example) and place mirrors into corners to create the illusion of a wider space.

Don’t cover the light that comes through the window.

Light will make the room look brighter and larger.

Chaos doesn’t necessarily mean being disorganized

Some of us require that everything be at the right place, piled up and categorized with labels.

Others seem to easily find anything they need even if the whole place is a mess.

Something might seem chaotic to people who didn’t create that state in the first place, but for people who worked in that mess from day one everything makes perfect sense.

A tidy space is not the only way to organize material, information, and ideas.

We all have access to the system we created.

Important though is that there IS a system…otherwise, we’ll waste lots of time trying to find out the point where we had left from or trying to access information which somehow disappeared in a series of cabinets full of loose paper sheets.

Your space is your space

Make sure that your workplace is unique and tailored to your own specific needs.

If you want your ideas to be unique also the place where you generate them has to be part of who you are.

Your personality shapes the inimitability and distinctiveness of your visions.

The space where you get in touch with your own individuality has to reflect who you are.

Make sure you feel comfortable and that you feel like you can totally be yourself.

Try removing your shoes (provided that you have a warm floor or a carpet).

This simple gesture will make you feel home and comfortable and you’ll be free to sit in any way you want.

People at Google are not that wrong then…your working space can really boost your creativity!

About the author

Alex Thomas

I've been involved in digital marketing for over 10 years and have worked with global and local companies on large scale SEO and PR campaigns. In my current role at Breakline, I'm responsible for winning new business, creating, implementing and overseeing SEO campaigns, social communications, online and offline media relations.

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