Tips to overcome a creative block.

Creativity is never static, and it is experienced differently by different people. For the ones among us who have finally cracked the secret of how to be creative at work, this may not always be as easily translated into the new environment that we now have to work from: our homes. While we may sometimes find it easy to be creative at work during the pandemic, at other times, this may pose new challenges for some of us. Today, we would like to give you a few tips to help you overcome a creative block, by making use of space and interactions.

The stages of creativity

The psychologist Wallas summed up his theory of creativity by dividing it into a 4-stage process. These are: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. The first stage, that of ‘preparation’ involves gathering as much information about the problem as possible. The second one, ‘incubation’ refers to the “unconscious processing” of all that information. This stage involves making connections between different facts gathered in the first stage, and it could either unfold through active thinking about the problem or while resting or performing a different task. The third stage, that of ‘illumination’, refers to the moment when, after the research and the reflection on it have been finalised, an optimal solution is identified, by weighing in all the benefits and consequences. In the last stage, ‘verification’, one tests and adjusts the solution to the problem at hand accordingly1.

The 4-stage process of creativity includes preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.

Following this theory, we can assume that a creative block usually happens somewhere during the first two stages, especially if not enough time or attention is dedicated to the incubation period. This is especially relevant when thinking of the nature of the process through which illumination occurs. Making use of our mind’s ‘focused’ and ‘diffused’ modes is essential for boosting creativity and facilitating a better problem-solving process. While the ‘focused’ mode is essential when actively working on a task, the ‘diffused’ one allows our minds to wander while resting or daydreaming, while also activating our imagination and our subconscious mind, and increasing brain activity in a different way to the first one2. Researchers have therefore shown that making use of our mind’s ‘diffused’ mode has very positive effects when it comes to creativity and problem-solving3. This is why it’s important to consider a balance between the two when being faced with a creatively demanding task.

The best way to help our minds think out of the box is to have regular breaks. However, this is not any type of break: it needs to be a productive break. To ensure its productivity, this break would have to be taken after the ‘preparation’ phase of the creative process. In this way, by gaining a deeper understanding of our project or problem first, we can then let our minds wander and come up with creative ideas or solutions.

There are, therefore, a few ways in which we could help our minds form new connections when these don’t seem to occur instantly. To help you deal with a creative block better, we have a few suggestions.

1. Do things differently

Making use of space is a great way of putting this theory into practice. You could, for example, change your environment by sitting in a different place in your house. However, you could also stimulate your mind by creating the illusion of a different environment. You could change the position of your desk and furniture, opt for a different style or color palette, or even place your paintings upside down. For more ideas of how to redesign your home office, check out another one of our articles here. These tips will help you see your home from other angles, which might trigger your brain to see things differently and make new connections. This will hopefully provide you with a new perspective on the task at hand as well.

Another way of activating your imagination is by attempting to change your daily habits. You could, for instance, choose to incorporate new activities at different points in your daily routine. Consider taking useful breaks either by doing a short workout for example, or by reading an article or watching a video that is relevant to your field of work4.

The best way to help our minds think out of the box is to have regular breaks.

2. Talk to someone

Social interactions can not only help your creativity by helping you relax and allowing your mind’s ‘diffused’ mode to kick in. It can also boost your serotonin levels, which are proven to be effective in promoting creative thinking and helping one come up with a solution5. You could choose to unwind by having a conversation about any kind of topic, and this will allow your state of mind to shift once you start working again. At the same time, if appropriate, talking to someone about your specific task could also be a great way of getting to the bottom of the source of your creative block. Attempting to put the issue you are confronting into words and explain it to someone who is not familiar with it could therefore help you see it more clearly and allow you to approach it from a different perspective more easily.

3. Go outside

Getting some fresh air can often help with giving you a new perspective. Consider having a break from your work by taking a walk. Even if it at that moment you may feel that you don’t have enough time, having a break is actually more likely to help you finish your work faster and more efficiently. You could make sure not to fall into a pattern by trying to always find new routes and different places to go.

In order to work better and more effectively, it is important to find a balance between periods of intense focus and productive breaks that will let your mind incubate, wander and come up with creative solutions. In order to keep your imagination and subconscious mind active, it is helpful to stimulate them by changing up your environment and daily routine more often.

If you would like to learn more about how to use space and interactions in order to boost your creativity, or if you would like help with redesigning your home to help you be more effective, then get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

5 easily applicable ideas to boost your productivity while working from home.

Working from home provides new opportunities for being creative. In fact, there is evidence that supports this claim: a study on the effects of remote work on productivity has shown that a less structured and less formal environment makes us more likely to perform better on tasks that require our creativity1.

The theory is, therefore, encouraging. However, you might be wondering how this manifests in practice when thinking of the way that a typical working from home day usually unfolds. We believe that our environment plays a part: our homes can also be designed in a way that will make it easier for us to feel creative.

Our environment plays a part: our homes can also be designed in a way that will make it easier for us to feel creative.

If you find yourself wondering whether your home would benefit from a makeover in that respect, we have a few easily applicable ideas to make it easier for you to rearrange it.

1. Surround yourself with things that inspire you

These can be books that inspire you, art, or quotes that make you think differently. Framed pictures could make the room feel more inspiring. Remember to change them every so often to preserve their effect on your creativity. On another note, plants have many benefits for a workspace, from making you feel inspired and boosting creativity, to reducing stress and cleaning the air2. You can learn more about how to choose plants for your working from home office here.

2. Embrace bright colors

These are guaranteed to keep our imagination active and stimulated. You could opt for different shades of yellow, orange, and green, as these are the colors known to promote creativity the most. Additionally, white has an equally positive effect, and it’s also a great choice if you want to create the feeling of a bright and open space3. Remember to also create contrast.

Plants have many benefits for a workspace, from making you feel inspired and boosting creativity, to reducing stress and cleaning the air.

purpose of architecture
3. Keep it simple

There always needs to be a balance between having elements that catch your attention and a really minimal design. For instance, where you have chosen more colorful decorations, you can leave these in the spotlight, and opt for rather simple furniture in neutral colors, such as white or beige, in order to counter the visual effect that they create. Simplicity can also make you feel like you’re starting work with a fresh mind, and making sure that you have plenty of storage will help keep your office clean and decluttered.

4. Find the right soundtrack

Music can really complement the effect that design has on a room, and choosing a suitable playlist can create an environment where creativity may flourish. When curating your playlist, try to pick songs that put you in a good mood, but that you also know would not captivate your entire attention and distract you. For this reason, music without lyrics is often a great choice to have as a background. You could go for instrumental and jazzy tunes, or classical music. You could also pick the ambient sounds that make you feel inspired, such as beach or rain sounds, or even coffee shop noise.

5. Take a break

When working from home, it’s important to remember that you might have days when you might not feel as inspired. In this case, taking a break can help your creative process. However, to ensure that your break will have the desired effects, make sure that it is a productive one. This means that you would first start thinking about the problem or task at hand, and if you notice that you are dealing with a creative block, then you can take a break by doing something that will refresh your mind. The key is to engage your hands and/or body and letting your mind free to wonder. This could be either going for a walk or a run, working out, meditating, or doing anything that will allow your subconscious brain to wonder and make new connections so that you can find inspiration more easily once facing the task again.

Creativity arises naturally. The best thing that we can do is to create an environment that encourages and sustains a creative mindset. When this does not work out the way that you wanted it to, it is not forcing it, but rather accepting the situation that will help you move on from a creative block the soonest. It might surprise you, but creativity sometimes comes when you least expect it.

If you would like to learn more about our ideas on adapting design to sustain creativity at home, or if you would like a professional opinion when it comes to redesigning your own home, then get in touch with us, we would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

How to renegotiate your relationship with the space in your home in times of Covid-19.

The past months have shown that the challenge of adapting our working dynamics to our home environment is not a one-off event, but rather a process that is constantly being redefined by changing conditions. It subsequently requires our constant adjustment and readjustment, according to the stage that we find ourselves in during the pandemic. This process is, however, essential, as its impact could be reflected in our routines, work performance, health, mental wellbeing, and daily social interactions.

Our interactions are defined by the context that they happen in. The sociologist Erving Goffman, for example, thinks of people as actors, and of their interactions as performances. These interactions are dominated by different values in different settings, and he distinguishes between ‘front stage’ and ‘back stage’ behaviour. He argues that an individual’s ‘front stage’ performance is shaped by the social expectations of the role they are currently fulfilling, while in the ‘back stage’, one can let go of them1. We can choose to think of this as the distinction between the ‘private’ and the ‘public’, and this is often defined by different spatial settings, as well as the actors present in them. Due to the current social-distancing restrictions, however, we can see these two becoming more and more intertwined, as we find ourselves needing to spend a considerable amount of our time in only one setting.

When considering this idea in relation to our current context, a number of issues might arise. This is mainly because more often than not, our houses were not designed with the intention of having to conduct such a variety of daily activities in them. As a result, many houses are small, and might not include a work-dedicated area. This becomes significant in the long run, when thinking of the consequences it might have for our work and life balance.

Αn individual’s ‘front stage’ performance is shaped by the social expectations of the role they are currently fulfilling, while in the ‘back stage’, one can let go of them.

The Workplace after Covid-19

In order to make working from home a sustainable practice – i.e. one we can sustain for the long term – we need to pay attention to different kinds of challenges that we might encounter, and to establish a plan to adapt the space in our homes. To help you get started with this process, we have put together a list of 3 ideas that you can easily keep in mind while adapting the space in your home to your daily routine.

1. Create a dedicated work area

The first and most effective way to enhance our working from home dynamic is to separate the spaces in our homes according to different purposes. Accordingly, the first clearly established division could be an office area. If you don’t have a separate room to turn into a home office, this could be created either by sharing space, or time.

Sharing space
Now, this may be a challenge for a lot of us, if our houses are not large enough. If you do not have an extra room in your house, your work dedicated space does not have to be a room, it can be an area. You could carve out some space in the bedroom, in the living room, or in the kitchen, depending on your personal situation. For decorating it, you could opt for plants, art, books, or an office lamp. Good light is essential for maintaining our focus and wellbeing while working from home. If you would like to learn more about how to improve your home office lighting, check out our article from last week.

Sharing time
If you don’t have enough space, you can create a work dedicated area based on timeshare. This means that at different times, you would be using the space differently. You could, for example, set up a desk in such a way that you could easily pack it up at the end of the day. For instance, you could pick an existing table in your house and use it for different purposes at different times, or you could share it with someone else. Another idea would be to invest in a flexible desk: either a foldable desk or a desk with wheels, both of which you could easily store away outside of work hours, making the most of the space available in this way.

Separate the spaces in our homes according to different purposes.

The Most Useful Workforce Planning Tools
2. Create a distinct leisure area

This area is just as important as the work one, and this is why it’s relevant to consider the distinction between the two when rearranging your home. So be sure not to compromise your leisure area, or give it up entirely to make room for your work area. Ideally, you want to have both, even if they are not large. An effective way to create a distinction in a small space is to decorate the areas differently. Consider decorating it by using colors that create a calming atmosphere, such as different shades of blue or pastel nuances2.

3. Establish clear boundaries

A key aspect for achieving an optimal work and life balance is having a clearly delineated boundary between the spaces with different functions, such as work, leisure, relaxation, eating and sleeping areas. However, having a spare room or extra space is not essential for creating a home environment that facilitates your wellbeing. Where the different areas cannot be separated by a wall, they can be in the same room. You could, for example, use a bookcase or any form of screen in between the different spaces to create the illusion of separation, while also maintaining the openness of the room.

The current situation has challenged us in many ways, and working from home is one of the central ones that many of us face. The layout and design of our homes is an aspect we start to take for granted a while after having moved in one place, but reconsidering it may give us a new, improved perspective on our lives. The space we live in has now become the main environment responsible for fostering our daily interactions, and choosing to reorganise it mindfully could be useful for our wellbeing during these times. To make this ongoing readjustment easier, consider creating boundaries based on time and space, according to the principles outlined in this article. In this way, we can maintain a distinction between our private and public selves, while facilitating better interactions with others.

If you would like to learn more about enhancing your home space while working from home, or if you are wondering how you can apply the ideas in this article to your own home situation, get in touch with us, we would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

1. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Doubleday.

2. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/stress-reducing-colors_n_3102683

The relationship between light and work performance.

During the past months, we have had to move our working habits to a completely different environment and we have had to quickly adapt to its new conditions. This has raised concerns about the health and productivity of our working from home, and has brought to the foreground a number of issues, such as the boundaries between work and personal life, time management and engagement.

According to a report on performance at work released by Philips1, the most useful way to think of productivity is in relation to our wellbeing. Their research findings suggest that the work environment has a significant impact in facilitating a productive state of mind. This reaffirms the importance of considering the design of your workspace, paying particular attention to aspects such as colour, materials and layout. A quintessential element of a work environment that ensures your wellbeing is lighting. 

In order to ensure that the light in your workspace is beneficial for optimal performance, it is important to find a balance between two types of light: artificial and natural. Artificial light is known to improve performance by increasing concentration and alertness. However, it may create less pleasant effects as well, such as causing eye strain and decreasing the production of melatonin in the evening2. Natural light, on the other hand, has been proved to be the most beneficial for employees, as research findings suggest that it improves performance by reducing stress and increasing satisfaction while working3.

However, as we are getting closer to the end of the year, the amount of natural light we benefit from during a workday is diminishing by the day. As the rate of Covid-19 infections is increasing and we are preparing to spend even more time indoors, you might be wondering how this might affect your own wellbeing, and whether it could be reflected in your work performance.

Natural light is the most beneficial for employees because it improves performance by reducing stress and increasing satisfaction while working.

If you find yourself wondering how to make the best out of a challenging situation, then you are likely to want to take a look at the 5 suggestions we propose for improving your natural and artificial light while working from home.

1. Change the layout of your furniture

The most important aspect to consider when arranging the layout of your working from home space is the balance between natural light and the shadow it creates. You may want to ensure that the position of your furniture facilitates the pertaining of as much natural light in the room as possible, and furniture can be of great help for this. Tall pieces of furniture should of course be placed away from the window, so as not to obstruct the light. You might want to place your desk close to the window, where the most natural light is guaranteed. In order to avoid the glare effect on your computer screen at particularly sunny times, you could position your desk in perpendicular to the window.

2. Make the most of the natural light available

The best way to create the illusion of a more illuminated space is by having as many elements that reflect the light in the room as possible. This can be done by choosing bright colors for walls and furniture, such as white or light yellow, but also by choosing materials and textures that are not matte, but glossy. Additionally, adding a big mirror can have a big impact in changing the feeling of the room. You want to aim to apply these tips specifically on the walls and areas that natural light is more likely to fall on.

Light is proven to be a key factor of a workspace that facilitates both.

5 tips to improve lighting while working at home
3. Windows that facilitate light

Windows can be of great help when attempting to increase the light available in a room as well. Because they have a direct impact on how much light is allowed in your workspace, you may consider replacing your windows and opting for bigger ones with thinner frames. Additionally, placing your workspace in a room with windows oriented towards the east is beneficial for increasing productivity in the early day. If you prefer working in the afternoon, then you may consider facing the west side instead.

4. Balancing natural and artificial light

During the summer, we are sometimes woken up by the sun in the early hours. As we are approaching winter, that becomes more and more rare, and, on most days, it is a struggle to get much light. Because a good start of the day is often essential in setting the tone for the rest of it, a helpful tip is to turn on the lights when waking up. Due to its effects on increasing alertness, artificial light can have a significant impact when it comes to putting you in the right state of mind for having a productive day with work. Depending on the amount of natural light available, you may also choose to combine the two during the day for optimal effects.

5. Balancing two types of artificial light

As warm and cool light tones affect our moods in different ways, it is important to invest in both and to consider the distinction between them when scheduling a day of work. You might only want to use cool tones, such as blue, during specific times of the day that require you to be highly focused, so as to avoid overworking. In order to ensure a good sleeping pattern, you might also want to use a warm color to illuminate your home in the evenings, such as yellow.

Working from home during the winter can be difficult and our capabilities to adjust to new environments may be tested, both in terms of maintaining our well-being and a good performance at work. Light is proven to be a key factor of a workspace that facilitates both. For this reason, knowing how to expand the benefits of natural light and how to incorporate artificial light is essential.

If you would like to learn more about our tips or if you are wondering how they can be applied to your own home situation, get in touch with us, we would be happy to help.

1. https://www.cass.city.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/363217/lighting-work-performance-cass.pdf

2. https://onlinemba.unc.edu/news/how-lighting-affects-productivity/

3. Leather, P., Pyrgas, M., Beale, D., and Lawrence, C. (1998). Windows in the workplace: Sunlight, view, and occupational stress. Environment & Behavior, 30, 739-762

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