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Content developers: Do you know that the brightness of your workspace can affect your ability to generate ideas?
Or that an environment that is too quiet can have a negative effect on creativity? How about the temperature – can that make a difference, too?
It turns out that paying attention to those factors, and other aspects of our work surroundings, can have a big payoff. Here are four things you can do in and around your workspace to be as productive as possible:
1. Turn down the lights
Could the bright lighting common to office areas be sabotaging creativity? Quite possibly. Studies have shown that dimmer lighting triggers a chain of interrelated processes that are beneficial to out-of-the-box thinking.
“There are certain times when you want the lights turned way down low,” writes Tom Jacobs at Salon. “One such time, according to recent research, is when you need to think creatively.”
Study results indicate that “darkness increases freedom from constraints, which in turn promotes creativity,” Jacobs writes. “A dimly lit environment elicits a feeling of freedom, self-determination, and reduced inhibition, all of which encourage innovative thinking.”
If you don’t have access to a dimmer switch, never fear – it turns out that even just thinking about working in a darker environment can be helpful.
“Other experiments found that merely priming the idea of darkness – such as by taking five minutes to describe an experience of literally being in the dark, and recalling how it felt – was sufficient to boost creativity,” Jacobs writes.
2. Opt for the right amount of noise
We always thought that accessing an endless supply of caffeine is why so many people choose to work and study in coffee shops. But there’s at least one more reason: research shows the noise level in coffee shops supports abstract thinking.
“A little bit of ambient noise (between 50 and 70 decibels – the average noise level of a coffee shop) slightly disrupts the mental process, which one study showed to help people engage in more abstract thinking during a word-association task,” writes Cody C. Delistraty in The Atlantic.
“A high level of noise, however, around 80 decibels – the sound of a dishwasher or garbage disposal, for instance – becomes so disruptive to information processing that it becomes hard to think at all.”
Adds Belle Beth Cooper at Buffer Social: “It turns out that a moderate noise level is the sweet spot for creativity. Ambient noise gets our creative juices flowing unlike silence, and doesn’t put us off the way high levels of noise do.”
If you can’t get out to coffee shop, you can bring the ambient noise of one to your computer speaker or earbuds using Coffitivity.
3. Turn up the thermostat (but not too much)
In addition to how bright and loud your workspace is, the temperature of your surroundings can also affect your creative output. It turns out that, according to research, that it’s better to be a little too warm than a little too cold.
Cathy Presland at Author Unlimited reports on a study “that shows that warmth has a strong correlation with positivity; it makes you more generous — which could improve the quality of your writing. You’re also less likely to make mistakes in a warmer environment compared to a cold one.”
And there’s more: “Although we might assume that we’ll finish more quickly in the cold (because we want to move around), turning the dial up on the heating could make it more likely you’ll stick at it until you’re finished,” writes Presland.
4. Know your clutter tolerance, and manage accordingly
Is it possible to be too neat? When it comes to fostering creativity, the results of at least one research study suggest the answer is “yes.”
The study, which was conducted at the University of Minnesota, found that “working in a tidy room encourages people to do socially responsible, normatively ‘good’ things like eat healthfully and give to charity. But working in a messy room seems to help them try new things and come up with creative ideas.”
Although the study generated a lot of interest, a messy work area is not for everyone.
“We’re all affected by our surroundings — and some people just work and feel better in a space that isn’t too orderly, says Susan Biali, M.D., a life coach and author interviewed by Fast Company. “But for some people, clutter is very negative, making them feel disorganized and unproductive.”
The key, experts say, is to understand how your creativity and productivity are affected by the clutter (or lack of it) around you, and manage your workspace accordingly.
This article originally appeared in Movable Ink Blog.