Environment Hacking, Mental Models & The Creative Mess

The newsletter which curates & delivers the best mind hacks, mental health tips & high performance strategies to you every single week.

🚀 PERFORMANCE HACK

'Environment Hacking'... (Or, How To Leverage Your Physical Surrounding To Boost Motivation, Get More Done & Achieve Better Results!)

In criminology (the study of crime, order & criminal justice), there’s a concept known as the, “the broken windows theory”...

…which helps us understand how our physical environment impacts, not just crime, but all of human behavior (including your very own productivity, focus & results in life!)

The ‘broken windows theory’ states:

“visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime & disorder, including serious crimes”

The reason it’s called “broken windows” is because, in the initial publication, the following example is provided:

“Consider a building with a few broken windows...

If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows...

Eventually, they may even break into the building & if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside...

Or consider the pavement…

Some litter accumulates...

Soon, more litter accumulates...

Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.”

Now, why are we talking about this?

Well, whether you realize it consciously or not, our physical surroundings/environment affects our behavior (including our motivation to do certain things or to avoid others)...

More accurately, what our physical environment does is it sets an expectation for what we should or should not be motivated to do right now… 

There are unwritten rules to each ‘environment’ that affect our decision-making, motivation & behavior!

For example...

When you're laying on the couch with a bowl of potato chips, watching TV... what type of behavior do you think you are being guided towards in this environment?

Not much, right?

How about when you're in an office space?

Or a coffee shop?

Or at the gym?

Or in a nightclub?

Think back...

Do you feel, act & behave a little differently in each environment?

Do you walk differently?

Dress differently?

Speak a little differently?

How about the way you feel (as well as what you do?)

Part of this comes from the people you're spending time with (which is something you'll also want to consider when it comes to leveling up your motivation & success in life)... but it's also the physical surroundings as well!

Understanding this… a stupidly-simple, yet very effective motivation, productivity & performance 'hack' is to better

1) “match” &

2) “switch” 

…up your environment during the day / week / month / etc…

…as we’ll explore in this newsletter.

Let’s begin…

1. Environment “Matching” 🧩

By learning to better “match” your work with a physical environment that's more conducive to that type of work, making great progress will be much, much easier...

For example, for reflective, introspective, or creative work, one example of a great physical environment is nature(research proves this!)

Go to a park, or a forest...

Go sit by a lake, or by a river...

(or, whatever nature you have nearby!)

That physical environment will not only help you be more motivated to continue this activity, but will also get you into a better mental & emotional state, which is likely to help you produce better insights while you reflect or try to solve creative problems!

For focused work, ideally, you want some place that’s quiet, free from distraction or interruptionthat’s important to high-quality, focused work done!

(this includes making sure that your workspace is optimized for the type of work you're doing at the time — which isn't always tidiness, as we'll cover later in week’s newsletter!)

Meanwhile, for collaborative work, you want a physical environment that promotes openness, sharing & overall collaboration...

When it comes to habits like meditation, physical exercise, reading & learning — it’s best to do these away from where you work...

For meditation, a chair in the living room, a recliner, a sofa, on your patio, on your balcony, in your garden — those are usually great places for your morning meditation.

For rest & recovery time — for example, taking breaks during the workday — it’s far more effective to not stay at your desk & take a break there... but rather, to actually physically best to get up & go to a different place...

For example, for a walk, go for lunch, or just sit elsewhere...

Essentially, always look to “match” up the task that you're focused on right now, with the best physical environment that's going to help you perfect optimally at that task...

Then, there's the 2nd part, which is...

2. Environment “Switching” 🔁

Whether we do things the same way, or we’re in the same physical environment for any length of time, what our mind does is it starts to get into a groove/rhythm of sorts...

This is great at first… it helps us to narrow in & focus (& any change to this groove, this setup, actually distracts us at the start)…

However, over time, this can lead us to tune out & get disengaged during our work…

Our brain basically gets bored of what we’re experiencing in this moment, right now...

Now, most people interpret this as boredom for the task itself; the activity they are doing; the work they are doing!

And so, they stop working on the task at hand…

But, that is not necessarily what your mind is asking for when it gives us that impulse…

It doesn’t want to stop working (or whatever you’re doing) necessarily...

It just wants something new, something different, a different groove, a different setup... so that your mind (specifically, your subconscious mind here) can focus again!

And this can be accomplished by simply “switching” your physical environment (& other key modalities) a little bit...

For example, moving from working at your desk, to a different workspace in the office & continuing your work there…

Or, going from working at a desk, to then working from the kitchen table...

Or going to the chair, or sofa, in your living room...

Or going to a coffee shop & continuing your work from there...

And then "switching" back in your living room afterwards...

Then, again “switch” back to the desk...

Basically... “switching” the environment during the day!

Now, we know that this sounds incredibly simple (stupidly-simple in fact!) but it really, really works incredibly well...

Why?

It's because about 90% - 95% of what we’re seeing, feeling, hearing, experiencing we don’t even pay conscious attention to.

Our subconscious mind handles that for us...

For example... when you’re sitting at a desk, it’s not just the laptop screen in front of you, there’s a background (that consciously, you’re not paying attention to, but your subconscious mind is), there are other visual elements…

There’s the feel of the chair… the position you’re sitting in… the feel of that, perhaps any sounds around you, such as maybe music or white noise you’re listening to while you work...

^ All of these things together are like a groove, a pattern, a setup for your mind & your experience in this moment!

Again, at first, it’s important to have this groove & keep all the modalities the same...

When you first sit down to work, you do not want these modalities changing… you want them to stay the same so your conscious mind can basically tune them out, pass the buck over to the subconscious mind… & it can narrow down focus on work.

But, then, over time...

Let’s say 25, or 30, or 60 minutes, an hour, 2 hours later...

When you’re still in the same place, with the same visual elements around you, the same chair you’re sitting in, same feel, same temperature in the room, same auditory elements…

(for example, the same playing through your headphones, or at least the same type of music, same melody)...

Now, your mind gets bored & it wants some change…

And so, it gives you that impulse...

Again, most people interpret this impulse as a sign that it’s time to stop working...

Or, it’s time to go for a lunch break...

But, this sign is just that it wants some change...

It doesn’t have to be a change of work, or the activity you’re doing at the time… you can hack this by “switching” your physical environment & other modalities instead.

For example, you might do 60 - 90 minutes of highly focused work in 1 physical environment...

Then, you'll get out of that...

Stand up...

Walk around...

Maybe drink some water...

For a few minutes...

Then, you'll find a different “physical environment” & create a new setup/groove...

For example, you might move from the desk to the kitchen table, or to the chair in the living room & you'll sit down with your laptop there...

Maybe you would change the playlist you're listening to as well; a different type of music...

And you'll do another 60 - 90 minutes of focused work on the same task (e.g. writing a new book, finishing the report, or completing that important project you were working on)...

So, that's how you use your environment to achieve better results — be sure to put this into practice 😎 

‎‍ RECOMMENDATION

In case you missed the update, we recently announced our newest, companion newsletter (when you subscibe you’ll get 2X more amazing content for free!), which is titled:

As part of it, we’re doing the heavy lifting of researching, studying & curating the best ideas, insights, concepts, frameworks & mental models to help you make more intelligent decisions & get ahead in life... & sending those to you (in simple terms, easy to implement) every single week…

…ultimately, helping you to achieve more of the results, the success, happiness & wellbeing you truly deserve in this life!

💭 QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

‎‍💡 CREATIVITY HACK

Harnessing The ‘Creative Mess’… (Or, How Tidiness May Be Killing Your Creativity & What To Do Instead!)

Let's talk about something that might challenge (even frustrate) that neat, tidy, OCD part of you… & that is the value & power of the ‘creative mess’.

Yes, you read that right — sometimes a bit of chaos can actually be a catalyst for groundbreaking, highly-creative ideas...

Now, we feel like we should pre-frame this 'hack' a little...

Don't get us wrong; keeping your space tidy & having an organized system in place is crucial...

It saves time, sharpens focus & can help clear our mental clutter...

But there's a point (or context) in which this pursuit of order can cross into the realm of excessive control & actually kill creativity...

To start, here are a few examples...

Many of the world's most creative individuals throughout history, here's what their desks looked like:

Albert Einstein:

Mark Twain:

Steve Jobs:

What's more, in more recent years, researchers at the University of Minnesota studied this idea (& their findings might also surprise you!)

In an experiment… students working in messy, chaotic environments churned out just as many ideas as their ultra-organized peers... however, these ideas were consistently rated as more intriguing and creative by evaluators!

So, what's the advice?

Well, we're not suggesting you let your workspace spiral into complete disorder & utter disarray…

We agree that establishing systems & maintaining a certain level of cleanliness is important… however, be cautious not to fall into the ‘cleanliness obsession’ trap.

And, most importantly, the environment has to “match” the task you’re working on at the top (as covered in the first part of this week’s newsletter)

And when you're doing highly creative work specifically… better ideas can be birthed by either allowing some chaos & messiness to transpireor even by purposefully seeking out more chaotic physical environments!

Put another way: if creativity is your goal, a 'creative mess' can actually be your friend, so treat it as much 😃 

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Ignore the following text. It’s random & only here to improve delivery. It helped her understand all of the little things I do for her that I thought she was too young to notice. But now she says "thank you" more often, which really brings a smile to my face. I already know that this book is going to help her grow up to be a kind, grateful young lady." Thanks again for this book and I hope you can share this message with other mothers like me so they can read it to their kids." - Jenny Now, that's an incredible story! A Mother's Love is certainly one of my favorites, too, because of all the messages I get like this one. Click the button below to take a look inside A Mother's Love: It's about an interesting creature... a lonely Yeti, who's living in the snowy mountains all by herself, hoping for some company... Here goes: "If you're looking for some fun, or maybe even a friend, go up to the mountain to the path's end. There you'll find the Yeti, who lives all alone. She'll make you feel welcome in her snow-covered home. So pack up your gear, go slow and steady, the fun's just begun because the Yeti is ready!" This fun poem is from a new book called The Yeti Is Ready... And it's given my kids a new perspective on friendship & acceptance!" Click the red button below to take a look inside The Yeti Is Ready: You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my sister of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking. I am already far north of London, and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is for ever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour. There—for with your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators—there snow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe. Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle and may regulate a thousand celestial observations that require only this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent for ever. I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river. But supposing all these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind, to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which, if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine. These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven, for nothing contributes so much to tranquillise the mind as a steady purpose—a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye. This expedition has been the favourite dream of my early years. I have read with ardour the accounts of the various voyages which have been made in the prospect of arriving at the North Pacific Ocean through the seas which surround the pole. You may remember that a history of all the voyages made for purposes of discovery composed the whole of our good Uncle Thomas’ library. My education was neglected, yet I was passionately fond of reading. These volumes were my study day and night, and my familiarity with them increased that regret which I had felt, as a child, on learning that my father’s dying injunction had forbidden my uncle to allow me to embark in a seafaring life. These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poets whose effusions entranced my soul and lifted it to heaven. I also became a poet and for one year lived in a paradise of my own creation; I imagined that I also might obtain a niche in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are consecrated. You are well acquainted with my failure and how heavily I bore the disappointment. But just at that time I inherited the fortune of my cousin, and my thoughts were turned into the channel of their earlier bent. Six years have passed since I resolved on my present undertaking. I can, even now, remember the hour from which I dedicated myself to this great enterprise. I commenced by inuring my body to hardship. I accompanied the whale-fishers on several expeditions to the North Sea; I voluntarily endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep; I often worked harder than the common sailors during the day and devoted my nights to the study of mathematics, the theory of medicine, and those branches of physical science from which a naval adventurer might derive the greatest practical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself as an under-mate in a Greenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration. I must own I felt a little proud when my captain offered me the second dignity in the vessel and entreated me to remain with the greatest earnestness, so valuable did he consider my services. And now, Margaret, do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose? My life might have been passed in ease and luxury, but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path. Oh, that some encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative! My courage and my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate, and my spirits are often depressed. I am about to proceed on a long and difficult voyage, the emergencies of which will demand all my fortitude: I am required not only to raise the spirits of others, but sometimes to sustain my own, when theirs are failing. This is the most favourable period for travelling in Russia. They fly quickly over the snow in their sledges; the motion is pleasant, and, in my opinion, far more agreeable than that of an English stagecoach. The cold is not excessive, if you are wrapped in furs—a dress which I have already adopted, for there is a great difference between walking the deck and remaining seated motionless for hours, when no exercise prevents the blood from actually freezing in your veins. I have no ambition to lose my life on the post-road between St. Petersburgh and Archangel. I shall depart for the latter town in a fortnight or three weeks; and my intention is to hire a ship there, which can easily be done by paying the insurance for the owner, and to engage as many sailors as I think necessary among those who are accustomed to the whale-fishing. I do not intend to sail until the month of June; and when shall I return? Ah, sister, how can I answer this question? If I succeed, many, many months, perhaps years, will pass before you and I may meet. If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never. Farewell, my, excellent Margaret. Heaven shower down blessings on you, and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude for all your love and kindness.

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