What’s your workday routine? You get up and get ready. You jump in your car, on your bike or the bus and take the same route to work. You pick-up a flat white from your favourite coffee shop (take your first sip in the elevator). Walk in, over to your team and sit down at the same desk, in the same chair to start your day’s work.
It’s comforting but is it the best way to run your worklife? In their book Remote: Office not required, founders of 37Signals Jason Fried & Heinemeier Hanson write that routine has a tendency to numb creativity. And it’s no wonder really.
More often than not we’re working against the way our brains are wired. Our perception, what we experience in reality, and our imagination, our ability to form mental concepts and ideas, are directly linked. In fact, imagination is like the flipside of perception: a messy replay of our collected experiences.
I won’t attempt to explain the neuroscience behind it (you can read about it here and here). The point is, having new experiences helps sharpen our creativity. And taking ourselves away from our desk and into a new working environment works like a creative injection. It is particularly useful if you have a new problem to solve or you are coming to the peak-point of a project you’ve been working on for while.
Finding a new temporary habitat
Changing up where you work doesn’t mean uprooting every paperclip and file on your desk. Far from it. To be effective, your migration needs to be temporary, and you should travel light. Not having a laptop or a tablet isn’t an excuse either. We already know that constraints help creativity so think about what you can work on with just a pen and paper.
Here are some ways to change your working backdrop:
Explore the office
Even if you work in a small company the chances are there is spare corner somewhere in the office where you can set-up: a meeting room or the lunch table. If you work in a large building try working on another floor. You’ll be surrounded by a new set of people and office clutter: great creative stimulus. If you have a team encourage them to try it out too. You can even scatter across the office at the same time.
Find a new crowd
Try taking your work to a completely new spot out of the office. Make it somewhere you’ve never been before or haven’t been in a while. A cafe a few blocks over, the library, or an art gallery. It’s worth doing your research online first to scout out recommendations and factor in time to explore and settle in.
Putting yourself in a new setting like this can also help you to recognise and break destructive habits. Jumping up to make a cup of tea or swivelling around to chat to co-workers when you reach a mental roadblock is not so easy when you’re sitting in a cafe surrounded by strangers (and the tea is brought to you).
Take a walking meeting
Arianna Huffington is a great advocate for walking and in her book Thrive she talks about the productivity and problem-solving benefits of walking meetings. Take one, and you’ll be in very good company. Moving your meetings out of your regular meeting room into the outdoors helps open up conversation and bring new perspective to old or recurring topics.
These techniques are all simple and don’t take much effort. Experiment with different tasks in different settings and take note of the outcomes. I wrote this article from a cafe in a suburb I rarely visit in with just a notebook and pen. I typed it up and made edits back at my desk. But if I hadn’t taken myself away from it, I may not have had the idea in the first place.
Image credit: Jeff Sheldon, Unsplash