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When inspiration strikes, things seem to fall into place. Ideas jump out, words turn into sentences and our workdays buzz along. We have a sense of certainty about what we’re doing, a clarity about what needs to be done and the motivation to go out and do it.
But inspiration is fickle and often fleeting. And when it’s gone, even the most mundane tasks feel monumental. At Hana, we know how powerful inspiration can be — and how frustrating the workday can feel without it. Here are five simple psychology tricks to recapture your creative spark at the office.
It’s no secret that your environment can have a big impact on your mood and psychological comfort. As the movie Office Space illustrated a bit too well with its iconic seas of drab cubicles, your environment can also affect your overall motivation.
Image credit: The Office
Science backs this up. In a study, research at the University of Texas discovered that offices with too much white, grey and beige coloring are correlated with higher levels of sadness and depression. The same study showed brighter colors like blue and greens and reds increased productivity and motivation.
Other studies have found that having a variety of workspaces in the office — and not a visually monotonous environment of homogenous cubicles — improves workplace fulfillment and can fuel productivity.
If you find yourself in a rut, try moving around the office to change your environment. Look for places with natural light and extra colors — like blues and green. At Hana, we used these two colors in our workspaces to help fuel productivity and creativity.
Sometimes we have too many thoughts and tools and clutter ourselves with possibilities. From making a PowerPoint presentation and getting tangled up in the design to getting lost in metrics while building out a business plan and, there are dozens of ways to lose sight of the bigger picture — and end up overwhelmed.
According to the psychologist Barry Schwartz, “The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option you chose.” The solution, Schwartz says, is to limit yourself and remove as many options as possible.
A good example comes from the musician Jack White, who is famous for his minimalistic guitar-and-drums combination in the White Stripes. “Telling yourself you have all the time in the world … all the colors in the palette you want, anything you want — that just kills creativity,” he says in an interview, noting how important it is to put constraints on himself in order to be creative.
If you feel adrift at the office, try forcing yourself to focus solely on what’s truly important in a given project. If, for instance, you’re stuck while building a PowerPoint presentation, step back and build an outline in Microsoft Word first.
Far too many articles have been written on the adverse effects of open office plans on productivity. But there’s a good reason for that: When you’re working on a project or problem, a private place to think can be a godsend.
Image credit:Good Will Hunting
Research shows that long stretches of focused work can leads to bursts of inspiration — and focused work is more likely to happen in distraction-free spaces.
In recent years, office designers have taken this cue, building focus rooms and private workspaces into their plans. And that’s a good thing. According to The New York Times, “people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption.”
Studies show focused work increases creativity and inspiration. So, when you need a midday boost, look for a private and quiet space where you can avoid interruptions.
The baseball player Yogi Berra famously said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” As neologisms go, it’s pretty apt.
The key to inspiration — and creativity, for that matter — is to search out new ideas and perspectives and key an eye out for connections between what you know and what you learn. An oft-cited example comes with Bill Gates who would take a “think week,” where he would take a week away from the office to read and think through new ideas.
“We’re most likely to get, and stay inspired, when we have fresh experiences and information that can trigger insights,” according to The Harvard Business Review. “There are lots of ways to gather these – take a class, read a book, attend professional gatherings, travel.”
Give yourself time to take in new ideas and information. Fresh experiences and new ideas can shift your perspective— and fuel breakthroughs.
When asked about his work method, Thomas Edison notoriously said “it boils down to one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” More succinctly, inspiration doesn’t come to those who wait for it.
Experts in cognitive behavior therapy have found that “our thoughts and perceptions influence behavior,” according to Psychology Today. The inverse has also been found to be true: Our behaviors can, and do, impact our thoughts and perceptions.
Image credit:Rocky Balboa, Columbia Pictures
All this means that waiting around for inspiration to strike when you feel stuck is a good way to ensure you’ll be waiting around for a long while. Instead, it’s better to keep working as best you can. And if you’re truly stuck, move on to something else so you can come back with fresh eyes.
Don’t wait for a sudden moment of inspiration when you feel stuck. Psychology shows our behaviors and thoughts inform one another and by doing nothing, you’re more likely to keep doing nothing.
No matter how much you love your work, it’s normal to have stretches where inspiration feels distant and creative ruts feel insurmountable. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You have more control over your workday than you realize, and making simple changes can go a long way to unleashing creative bursts.
The French poet and writer France Anatole once said, “To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.” Psychology shows this be true: Inspiration comes to those who work for it.
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