“Bad” work habits are good for insight

To continue the theme from my last post, I’ve been noticing more and more psychological research that supports my “bad” (not really bad, you’ll find) work habits.

1. A messy desk. This is a big one. It’s official; a messy desk has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt to encourage creativity. In a paper in Psychological Science, researchers have shown that a “disorderly environment” makes people more creative and leads them to be drawn to things labeled as “new.” You can see for yourself here.

The research also found that people with tidy desks are boring and uptight. Ok, it didn’t really. It found that ordered environments encourage “healthy choices, generosity, and conventionality.” Time to start using two desks I think.

2. Doodling. It’s been shown to increase memory retention, problem solving ability, and concentration. Watch Sunni Brown’s talk “Doodlers, unite!” here.

3. Sitting in the dark. When I work late I don’t turn on the lights. I sit in the dark with a small desk lamp on. Darkness has also been shown to improve creative performance. A paper in the Journal of Environmental Psychology theorizes that darkness helps people feel “freedom from constraints, enabling a global and explorative processing style, which in turn facilitates creativity.”

So there you have it: sitting at a messy desk in the dark doodling away may very well lead you to your next killer insight, and it’s good for the environment too. You’re welcome.

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