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Your Physical Space

Lesson 3 from: Design Systems That Fuel Your Creativity

Srinivas Rao

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Lesson Info

3. Your Physical Space

Lesson Info

Your Physical Space

The next piece that we talk about, really, is your physical space. So, as I said before, the setup of your physical space can have a profound impact on your behavior and your creativity, and by deliberately designing the space that you're actually working in, you start to make the behavior automatic. So, the author Stuart Wilde said that messy surroundings and an untidy life reflect a weakened metaphysical and psychological state and order helps you feel more confident. So, if you've ever gotten in your car after a car wash, how do you feel? 1,000 times better, right? Or if you've ever walked into your house after it's been cleaned, it's a totally different experience than what the house is like when it's a complete mess or what your car is like when it's a complete mess. So, the things that are included in your physical space are the desk that you work at, the chair that you use, the lighting, the equipment, laptops, phones, everything that we use. All of these things make up our phys...

ical space, and our physical space not only impacts our behavior, it has an impact on our energy and how we feel. So, the way that we use physical space to automate behavior and lead to behavior that is much more desirable is that we create what is effectively our best space. And so, we're gonna talk a little bit about how do you create the best physical space that you could possibly work in, one that inspires you, one that makes you more productive, and one that makes you more creative. So, the first thing you wanna do is you wanna get rid of anything that you don't love, and what most people don't realize is that every physical object in your environment has emotions and memories associated with it. So, think about the clothes that you're wearing right now or the shoes that you're wearing or whatever it is that you have in terms of jewelry or watches, whatever you have with you right now. Every one of those physical objects has some memory or emotion associated with it, and often, we're completely unaware of the memories and emotions that are associated with the physical objects that are in our physical environment. So, I'll tell you a couple of different stories. So, one of the first things I did after a breakup was I literally got rid of everything from that relationship. I didn't burn it, but I realized that as long as these things were in my physical space, it would be a perpetual reminder of something that was a really painful experience, and the way to change how I was feeling in that space was to get rid of those things. Another really crazy story. So, after I started to understand this whole idea of creating physical spaces that inspire you, I ended up reading a book that many of you have probably heard of. It's called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō, and I realized that that book was all about designing environments that actually fuel creativity and inspire you. So, the first place I started with that idea of the life-changing magic of tidying up was my bookshelf. I went to my bookshelf and I looked at all the books and I looked at the ones that didn't inspire me, most of which were about social media marketing and online marketing because my work had changed a lot since I had bought those books, and it was no longer a reflection of who I was and who I wanted to be. So, I got rid of all those books, I put them in a box, and I donated them to the library. Most of the books that were left on my shelf, the top shelf, were all published by Penguin. Two weeks later, I got an email from an editor at Penguin asking me if I wanted to write a book with them. After that, I was sold on the virtues of having a very deliberately designed physical space. So, the thing is that you want the environment to be something that you actually love being in, so why not fill it with things that you absolutely love? The other thing that you should do is you should clear out as much clutter from your space as possible because clutter makes it really difficult to focus. When you have clutter on your desk or in your physical space, you have all these different things that are competing for your attention which end up making it difficult to focus on the thing that matters most, which is whatever it is you're doing. I don't think it's a coincidence that if you look at very prolific writers or prolific creators, their spaces tend to be really tidy and very deliberate in terms of how they're set up. There are very rare exceptions to this. I was told once that Steve Jobs worked in a really messy space, but the funny thing is, the irony of that is that if you look at Apple products, they are the complete opposite of messy. So, when you clear out a lot of clutter, you end up being able to focus a lot more easily. It's amazing how much of an impact clutter has on your ability to concentrate just because you have all these different things competing for your attention. Another idea is something that's knows as environment math. Now, this is not a set in stone rule, but the idea basically is for every single thing that you bring into your environment, you should take something out because so often we accumulate possessions that we don't use. I wanted to have a picture of this, but I don't. My parents have a garage, and they've lived in the same house for 20 years, and every couple of years my mom gets on my dad's case and asks him to clean the garage. And we've done all sorts of things to clean this garage. We brought in shelves from Costco to shelve everything and put everything on the shelves, and I remember asking my dad one day, I said do you even know what any of this is? And he said no, I said well, why do you have it? And that really... They really should take this lesson of environment math to heart because when you are able to take one thing out for every single thing you bring in, you avoid cluttering your space with things that you don't need. Finally, visual reminders. Now, visual reminders are really powerful in a lot of different ways. They can include motivational posters, you may have heard of this idea of the don't break the chain calendar. If you have a particular habit that you want to adopt, when you have a visual reminder like the habit don't break the chain calendar, you're basically seeing your progress every single day, so, as a result, you're gonna be motivated to keep coming back. You can create your own shrine if you would like with goddesses of religions that are not your own. If you've ever scrolled through the Instagram feed of some New Age and spiritual teachers, you'll often see this. Crystals, candles, and really bizarre shrines, but ultimately, what matters here is that this is a space you've created for your own efforts that really sings to you. It's not a coincidence that the Creative Live offices have tons of inspiring artwork around here. The idea is that the environment fuels your creativity. So, one of the things that I've actually done at my home is I had a friend who... I had told her once, I said, you know, if I had a million dollar recording studio, I would hang up framed prints of all of the people that I've interviewed that I look up to. And she said honey, you don't need a million dollar recording studio for that. You need some Ikea picture frames and somebody to print the pictures, and I thought, well, that's a good point. So, I actually ordered Ikea picture frames and I have pictures on the wall of a lot of the people that I've interviewed because we have this really beautiful artwork. And so, I've created this space that really inspires me, and I think that Marie kind of really summed it up well. She says, 'the space that we live in should be reflective of the person that we're becoming, not the person we were in our past.' And so often, our physical spaces, because of the objects we have in them and all of the visual reminders we have in them, are reflective of who we once were not who we are becoming. Srini, we have a question from the internet if you're ready for that. Absolutely. So, this question is from Angie Powers, and she says, 'excited to be here,' and I was actually thinking this same question myself 'cause I have this same experience, 'how does this apply when you share space with people who have a hard time getting rid of things?' That is a really really good question. So, I think the thing here is that you really have to say okay, you know what? If you have a space that you're sharing with people who have a hard time getting rid of things or if you have a space that you're sharing period, you have to basically create an area that basically has a boundary around it. It could be your kitchen table, it could literally be something as simple as okay, this half of the kitchen table is mine. It's about making whatever adjustments you can to make that space possible because I share an apartment with somebody, so there are parts of my space that I don't have complete control over. So, it's really about looking at what parts of your space do you have complete control over because there are small parts of everybody's space that they have control over, and that might mean going to another space if that's the case. Cool, and ready for one more? That was from Angie Powers, by the way. Great, thank you, Angie. You have another question from Gundarz who says really quickly, can you give us some of your best decluttering tips? Absolutely. So, one of my favorite tools for decluttering is something that The Container Store sells. It's called the Perch Urbio, and I remember looking at this thing and I fell in love with it. So, the Perch Urbio is... Basically what it is, it's a wall-mounted plate that you put on your wall, and it has the cup holders and pen holders and you can basically... They mount onto the plate magnetically, so now all these things that would normally be on your desk are in a place that's completely hidden, and you could mount it to the wall in front of your desk. So, that's one of my first sort of pieces of decluttering advice. The other thing that I recommend people do is to look at your space at the end of every single day because this isn't something that you're going to do once, it's something that you want to make a daily habit. You wanna be looking at your physical space, the space in which you create, and you wanna actually optimize it and set it up every single day for what you want your day to be like the very next day. So, that's a big one. I think that, again, we go back to environment math. I think you should get rid of something for everything that you bring in, but ultimately, the easiest way to keep your space from being cluttered is simply not to acquire a lot of stuff, which a couple months ago, a couple years ago, I was staying at my mom's house for a couple of months and she was getting irritated that the closet wasn't as clean as she would like it to be, and I said gimme a second. And so, I went upstairs and I got a garbage bag and I threw half the clothes in the garbage bag, and she said that's not what I was talking about. I was expecting you to fold the clothes and wear them. I said well, look, I don't wear any of these anyways, and now you have nothing to clean. So, if you limit the number of things that you have, it becomes much easier to maintain a very clean and clear physical space. So, I have, I think, a total of five black t-shirts, a couple of dress shirts, one of which I'm wearing now, and two pairs of jeans. That makes it super easy to keep your physical space clean. Cool, thank you. Yeah. Any questions from you guys about physical space? How long have you been doing this daily practice of decluttering? Well, we're gonna talk a little bit about where I got exposed to this idea in one of the next modules, but at this point, I think it's been close to two or three years. Once I saw... Once I had that experience with the Penguin book, I was sold for good on the value of this, and I've made it a point to take the same approach to my car, to my house. Don't get me wrong, my spaces get messy just like everybody else's. I'm not immune to many of the things that I'm saying that nobody should do. I still make a lot of these mistakes. There are days when I wake up and I think oh, wow, this is a real mess, but I've noticed that without a doubt, if I make it a point to wipe down my desk before, put out everything I need the night before, and really set up the environment, it makes everything 1,000 times better. You just think clearer, you just wake up in a very different state when your physical space is set up the way you want it to be, when it's inspiring, when it's clean, when it's clear. And I think I've seen this pattern consistently across so many people. Anything else? I'd be curious, actually, to hear about some of your physical spaces. Yeah. I'll be happy to share because I'm very gulty of having a lot of clutter around me. So, that's one of the things that I'm really trying to focus on now as I branch out into more creative work and social media and, you know, working with my clients and creating more creative ideas for them and their wellness solutions. And I've found that recently I feel more flustered 'cause I'm in a really busy time in my life right now, I'm growing the business, I'm competing in bodybuilding, which takes a lot of time, so I feel like this is just what I needed to hear right now. I know so much of my block has just been the mental frustration of seeing chaos around me. So, I'll actually share one other story with you from the book. There's a woman named Courtney Carver who runs a blog called Be More With Less, and she was in the minimalism documentary which you can find on Netflix. And she got diagnosed with, I think, if I remember, it was MS, at some point, and as a part of dealing with her MS diagnosis, she and her husband decided to basically declutter their house and become a complete minimalist, and since that happened, she has had no relapses, the symptoms were drastically alleviated. I think that when you have physical clutter, it can tend to cause a lot of mental anxiety, it can tend to cause a lot of stress, whereas when you have a space that's very neat and tidy, it reduces your stress and anxiety dramatically. I'm a clutter magnet, and I have been since I was a little girl, and four years ago... I'm an artist, and my studio was so cluttered I thought I would never be able to tackle it, and I finally realized that what I needed was community support around it. So, I created a course to... Basically, I got paid to clutter bust my studio and I called it The Great Clutter Bust, and I ran it like four times and I finally managed to completely declutter my studio. Well, completely, that's not entirely true. It's like peeling layers off an onion, right? But got the downstairs of our home, now it looks so great, and I'm still peeling layers off the onion of the studio because we have no garage or anything. So, when we overhauled and did a kitchen remodel, everything that had to be moved form the downstairs got stuck and the studio became the garage. But anyway, what was so interesting to me is every time I ran that program of The Great Clutter Bust, the same words came out of people's mouths of I feel so free, I can breathe again, I can think again, and that's, you know, everybody and I feel the same way. Every time I peel another layer off the onion, I feel that same sense of ability to think, ability to breathe, ability to create again. The more my space is freed of that clutter and orderly and tidy, it just, it opens up everything. And it's that, like what you said, it's that habit, which that's where I struggle, is sticking with that habit of ordering everything again. That's where that I need to really get into. Well, I think you bring up a really good point about peeling an onion. One of the things that often happens, not just in terms of physical space, and we'll talk a little bit about this in some of the other modules, but when we try to make any change, people often try to make really big, sweeping changes all at once, and as a result, none of the changes stick. And if you take this one section at a time, for example, you start with your desk, which is the smallest possible space. In fact, that's what I would say is look at the smallest possible circle of control that you can actually go do this in and then basically tackle one section at a time. So, you start with your desk, you go to your bookshelf, you go to your kitchen, you can go to your closet, and you could basically tackle one area of your physical space every single day, and by the end of the week, you effectively peeled all the layers that Melissa was talking about.

Ratings and Reviews

Melissa Dinwiddie

What a fabulous class! Srini covered one actionable idea after another that can be implemented immediately to fuel creativity right out of the gate. And the beautiful thing is that each tactic builds on all the others, so every little step you take will improve your overall systems. I loved the stories from his podcast and the guest speakers, too. My only complaint was that some of the slides had a lot of text on them -- too much to read. Other than that, it was well-organized, thoughtful, and super useful. I've already recommended it to several people in passing.

Kathryn Kilner

This is a great course for anyone pursuing creative work. It is easy to get distracted in the modern world and Srinivas provides practical insights and tested systems for empowering creatives to focus and get more done. Although I've read a lot about how to optimize my habits, I was challenged in this course to think differently about how I structure my time and my work space. The changes I've made have helped me be more productive.

a Creativelive Student

I've watched many CreativeLive courses. While I find many interesting, there are only a handful that capture my attention from beginning to end. This was one of those. The speaker mentioned countless gems that were applicable not only to creativity and productivity, but to how one lives daily life. There were multiple "deep thoughts" and several practical ways to alter one's environments (including physical and mental) in order to enhance productivity and general well-being. I've already implemented a few suggestions, and am anxious to revisit my notes on this course repeatedly.

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