How to Set Up Your Workspace to Maximize Creativity

Your surroundings can have a more powerful effect on your mindset and behavior than you realize. The way you use your workspace can boost your creativity by taking advantage of your senses, removing your excuses, and even hacking your brain.

Use Your Senses

  • Make blue a major part of your color scheme. It helps people come up with original ideas, possibly because it has a calming effect. Painting the walls may seem like a little much, so just get some blue knickknacks or cover your desk with a blue tablecloth.

  • Play music you’re familiar with. Although the scientific community hasn’t reached 100% consensus on whether music is good or bad for creativity, evidence suggests that a moderate amount of background noise can be helpful, so you may want to play music softly in your workspace. Use songs you already know. Your brain’s frontal lobe and limbic system – both necessary for creative activity – appear to be more stimulated by familiar music than new music (regardless of how much you like the songs) – and common sense would dictate that you’re more likely to be distracted if you’re trying to decipher new lyrics..

  • Integrate aromatherapy. An intriguing study suggests that scents can augment your creativity if you use them in a specific way. Participants who smelled a specific scent while thinking about a problem, and then were exposed to the same scent while sleeping, experienced a heightened ability to come up with original responses to the problem. So, keep your favorite essential oil in your workspace while you’re tackling a challenge. Move it near your bedside when you go to sleep, and see if you’ve got fresh ideas in the morning.

Give Yourself No Excuses

  • Have everything you need right in front of you. You can’t reach flow – the state of being so engaged with what you’re doing that lose track of everything else – if you have to keep interrupting yourself to get supplies.

  • Outsource your self-control. Avoid getting off-task by making it harder to get distracted. If websites distract you, install a blocker like StayFocusd , Productivity Owl, or LeechBlock. If physical objects are distracting you, put them in a plastic container and duct tape it shut for the duration of your work session. The little bit of extra effort it will take you to get to your temptations may be enough to keep you on task.

Hack Your Brain

  • Have some everyday objects around – and think about them. Look at an item and think about its components and how they could be used differently. For instance, look at a candle, identify the wick, and realize that it could be used to tie things together. It sounds a little weird, but this technique can help you think more innovatively if you practice it over time.

  • Be literal. There’s evidence that physically acting out everyday expressions – like taking a box and literally sitting outside it – can boost your creativity.

Will your workspace look a little unusual if you follow these tips? Definitely. But it will also unleash your creativity, and that will make it all worth it.

Alicia Holland

Alicia Holland has a B.A. in creative writing from Binghamton University and an M.A. in teaching of English from Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves to play with language and literature.

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