Creating Consistent Mapping
What can we do in our environment to create the kinds of consistent mapping that we want to create when we're, um, engaging changes in behavior? Um, one of the things we want to do is to is to look at the environment itself and make sure that we can create some degree of consistency in the environment that we're in, and this is actually something that worries me in the modern work environment. So if you wanted that one of the trends over the last five or six years in offices has been this open office environment, which has two elements to it that our problematic one is that part of the opening office environment is thies half size cubicles that people get where everybody's out in a bullpen and in that environment, everyone at least has their own space, but but they are, but but they're sharing a larger space with everyone else. And then on top of that there's, another movement in which nobody even has their own desk. But but there's, just a workspace usually set up with these half have...
have high cubicles, and you basically pick a desk on a first come, first serve basis, okay, now, let's, start with that ladder version. I understand why companies have gone to that it is a cost savings if not everybody has to have their own desk because this way you only need to have a number of desks for the number of people who are likely to show up at work rather than for every single person who's employed. And so you might think, well, good, we've gotten a great cost savings that way. The problem is that that office environment really disrupts your ability to develop any habits because each of us creates an idiosyncratic workspace that influences our ability to do things by habit in our work environment even if our work environment isn't a desk right. So if you if you're bringing you know photographic equipment somewhere for example you organize it in the same way wherever you go right when I bring my saxophone to play uh, you know, at a gig I have all of the stuff in the same compartments of my of my saxophone case, so I know where everything is and I can more or less get set up while thinking about other things right? And at my desk I have everything set up in the same way, right? I have a little a little mug on my desk that has my pens and my scissors in it. One of the things I talked about it in the book smart thinking is that I, uh one of the things that I never had a consistent place for was my post it notes I need post it notes for bookmarks and things like that and I never had a particularly good place for them and so I made this conscious decision to stick my post it notes directly under the monitor of my computer and I just okay that's the that's the place for the post it notes and now that's where I go and if I need to post it notes and now uh before what happens I think I need a bookmark for something and then I'd start looking for it and in about thirty seconds later I'd find it then I'd be like what what was I could do it this post it note but now um now I know exactly where to reach and so I could just reach and put you know, put a post it note in something I'm reading without having to disrupt my chain of thought so I've created these kinds of consistent mapping now I'm able to do that because I am the master of my office space right? But if I am not the master my office base which is true in a lot of these new open office environments then I can't create these kinds of habits and I can I certainly can't do anything idiosyncratic that might help me with my work flow but wouldn't help everybody else with their own workflow and so I really feel like that that particular experiment of making people share desks has actually been a failure, because while it may have saved a little bit on the number of desks you need to get and perhaps even a little bit on the square footage, you need to get, uh, for your office space, it it doesn't really save in productivity because it actually forces people to sit at their desks and think about a whole bunch of things that they don't really want to be thinking about. So we want to create this kind of concern listen, see an organization, and I should point out that the open the open office environment in which people have these half high cubicles, that everywhere everybody's, sitting around creates other sets of problems means the wall I'm on this I always like to give people ammunition to be able to go to the, uh, not not literal ammunition from texas, so I'm a little bit sensitive to the literal uses of the word ammunition, but I like to give people some arguments that they can use with with management about about these cubical office spaces. And so I want to just I I just I don't like to digress too much on things, but I'm gonna take one small digression here. Because this came up in the chat room, I'll read a quick quote here that ties into I think what you're talking about, but valerie said that she started to fail when I was moved into an open office setting intended for creating innovation and creativity without changing the culture which did not encourage that at all so they wanted to know a little bit about your take on this so I'm glad you're getting perfect look at that, I just it was just it just it just came right? So so there's a few things to say one is one of the biggest problems with that open an office environment is actually phone conversations so there's a technical term now in the psychology literature called the half a log so normally when we converse with people we engage in dialogue, I say something you say something, we have a conversation that's a dialogue now there's also monologues, which is sort of what I'm doing that's me talking over and over and over again or what the arch villain does in any james bond movie but with cell phones you get something even worse, which is a half a log that is your hearing half the conversation now the problem with hearing half the conversation is that it's very difficult to tune out half the conversation, so if you're actually if there are two people next to you and you're and they're having a conversation, a dialogue, right? And you're and you're doing something else, you can actually tune them out, and the reason you could tune them out is because the rising and falling intonation of their voices gives you information about when the voice is going to change and when the other speaker is going to pick up. And so the flow of the conversation is actually predictable from your experience in having conversations when you're only listening to a half the conversation, though the speaker that you're hearing starts and stops in unpredictable ways, you don't know when they're going to come back in again because you can't hear the other person and then they stop sometimes unpredictably because the other person cuts them off and you don't hear that. And so actually there's there's evidence for this now, listening to half a conversation is far more distracting than listening to the whole conversation. So one of the reasons why people really complain about being in that environment that they're distracted by all the phone conversations, is that hearing phone hearing just one person on their end of a phone conversation is much, much, much worse than hearing a full conversation happening around you. So that's one thing that I just, you know, it's a it's a real problem and it's owen open office environments I really believe one of the things we need to do is to give people rooms that they can go to tow have either a room that they could go to tow, have their phone conversations or tow have plentiful rooms available for people to go to get some work done when they find themselves being completely distracted or when they find themselves sort of, you know, in the prairie dog environment because that's another thing that happens is you get you get people who sort of stand up at their cubicle and and, uh and and and they have something to tell you, right? Um so you you wanna you wanna find a way of being able to protect yourself from that a little bit, particularly when you have hard work to do so that's one issue I think another issue, though that that got raised by this question was thie issue of creating an environment that really is promotes innovation, right? So if I'm used to being in an environment in which people don't talk very much, then then I don't necessarily have really great structures for getting people together to talk more and this is an advertisement in the neck unit we're going to talk about how to restructure a company or any organization doesn't have to be a company, but to restructure an organization to help people be more effective at passing information and to really do that innovative thing more so I'm actually really glad that that question came in. It gives me a chance to point forward to what we're going to do in the last year in the last section of the afternoon. Awesome. All right, so we've now dissed the open office environment a little bit. But now you know, right? You really want to make sure that everyone gets their own workspace and has some also some space where they can really engage in the kind of private work that they need to do and that that's actually gonna make people mohr productive. So I think it's really important to give people that opportunity another kind of consistent mapping that we want to make sure that we create is consistency in time. So our bodies are very sensitive to a variety of aspect of the time of day. So how many of you feel this is good? You know, true for the people at home as well, how many of you feel like there's? A consistent time of day when you work best, right? Is it you know I mean some people don't some people are you know they never know what's gonna happen but for a lot of people some you know, it's their morning people of their afternoon people are their late night people you know? And if that's the kind of person that you are then you you need t create consistent routines that allow you to do particular things at particular times a day and to make sure that those consistent times that you create our times that are making use of that period of the day as effectively as possible so you know, the issue of checking your social media and checking your e mail first thing in the morning is really dangerous if you're a morning person because it means you're taking that best time of day and spending it on something that doesn't require your best effort in that situation I often often recommend you know, so I I work best first thing in the morning and one of the things I've tried to learn to do is to triage my email first thing in the morning so I'll often get to work and they'll be fifty emails easily that have come in overnight I can't if I if I dealt with all fifty males will take me an hour and I would have wasted one of my best hours of the day doing something where most of that didn't require very uh interesting thought and so now what I try to do is to just look through the emails and figure out what are the three most important emails that came in deal with those and then shut the email program off and get some work done and then come back to it okay so this way if there was something urgent if there was somebody wasn't gonna be ableto move forward with the project without hearing from me or whatever it was they get the information they need but everyone else who really could wait until noon or even the next day I can at least wait you know, a couple of hours while I got some work done so we want to create some amount of consistency in time because that's going to allow our habit learning system to engage you know one of the fortunate things for me when I looked at learn to play the saxophone was that by choosing to play the saxophone every day after dinner I was creating a consistent time for playing and there and as a result I was able to associate that environment the post dinner environment with the time to play the socks and so after you know, several weeks of doing that now that was simply my habit dinner ended clear the dinner dishes wash everything up go play the sax and so now that was just there was a natural progression to do that and if something stopped me from doing that that was when I kind of got the craving to play you know, there was a part of me that was going time to play it's time to play right and I really got pulled towards it and so make use of those consistencies in time if you're trying to establish a new routine, I tell this to people, for example, who want to start exercising right or if you want to exercise while you're on vacation, right, what can you do? Make sure you pick a consistent time to do it right? So if you if you exercise you know, make sure you exercise first thing in the morning or at the very end of the day or at lunch, stein, whatever it is that fits your schedule, but try and find a consistent time to do it because if you pick different times, if it's in the morning sometimes in the afternoon sometimes and in the evening, if the time always varys, then you're putting yourself in a situation in which there isn't that kind of consistency. You need to create the mapping that's going to allow you to develop a habit you're not doing the job of allowing your habit learning system to kick in and drive your behavior. And of course the last thing that you could dio is to try and create consistency and people right, so it would be great if there are people in your life that you can engage routinely in particular behaviors, and we're gonna talk about people maurine the next section, but think about the fact that people are a part of your environment, and so there are going to be people who you can begin to associate with particular activities all right, which could be good or bad, I guess, but you'd like to put yourself in a situation in which for the behaviors you're trying to create, that there are particular people that when you're with, um, this is when you engage in a behaviour that's important for your for the new habits that you're trying to create so recognized that the order of the organization of your environment, the physical structure of it, the times in which you do things and the people are all great variables for influencing the consistency of the mapping. When you're trying to create new habits in your environment, you can also disrupt map ings, okay on. We could do this in several ways, so I talked a little bit about disrupting the environment by reorganizing it, which is a great thing to do if you're trying to break habits, so the idea of changing around your kitchen of moving the dishes, moving the silverware and things like that is that now your routines no longer work you know, if you find yourself messing around on your smartphone too often on dh, you don't feel like, you know, doing something like, like logging out of your of the of the of some of your social media. Another thing you can do is to give your phone to a friend and give them permission to randomly reorganize all of the icons on your desktop, right, and notice that this actually this is another way of slowing you down and making it harder to log into stuff, because now you're like, wait, wait, wait, where's, where's facebook, I can't even find it, and by the time you find it, you're so frustrated you like, forget it and you move on and you do something else. So those kinds of reorganizations are making desirable behaviors. They're not making bizarre behaviours easy now what they're doing is making undesirable behaviors hard. Okay, so, um so that's a part of what we want to do a second thing that we want to do when we disrupt consistent mapping xyz actually tow block goals all together, so sometimes if you're having something that's really hard to do to stop doing, then just making it impossible to do in that environment is good. Right you know, I had a problem with ben and jerry's ice cream you know, I admitted that yesterday um can't eat an ice cream that isn't in your freezer right? So so if you don't buy the ice cream, you can eat it um if you're having trouble with checking your email too often and things like that and this is something I recommend to kids who are spending way too much time doing their homework because they're multitasking when they're doing their homework is, you know, clear out all the technology that's getting in your way you're spending too much time on your smartphone while you're supposed to be doing your homework then park your smart phone by the door all right? Um they have ap they have extensions on browsers now that allow you to block particular websites for certain amounts of time. I think that red it is one of the biggest time sucks for for a lot of people I like read it, I do I I use it toe post block entries and stuff like that sometimes, but you know what? If it's getting in the way of other stuff you need to do and set up an extension on your browser that block that allows you to block, read it for an hour and get some other stuff done, you know, so so really use the environment. A za way of stopping you from doing things that you want to do. Um, there's, there's. Ah, a lot of people who are habitual smokers who are trying to cut down on the number of cigarettes that they smoke. We'll switch from buying the cartons of ten packs to buying single packs, even though it's more expensive to do that. If you only buy one pack of cigarettes that limits the number of cigarettes that you can smoke in any time. But if you have ten packs of cigarettes sitting there in the house than it gives you a lot of opportunities to smoke a lot of stuff, um, so you know, again, you can block goals. Aziz was another way of disrupting the environment, and then sometimes you just need to change up your routine. Um, if you really feel like you're in a creative rut, so let's think about habits and creativity for second, because of course, habits and creativity sometimes lie at two different polls, so in particular there are conceptual routines that we get in all the time where we think about a problem in the same way all the time. I know that that when you know, as someone who plays music, there are times where I find myself playing the same run of notes all the time. Using the same rhythm all the time, I think that there are artists who do the same sort of thing where they set up a canvass in the same way or they take the same shot in, you know, over and over again, and so now what's happened is you've gotten into a routine that is influencing the way that you're doing your work I find this in science is, well, I will find myself thinking about problems in the same way over and over and over again. So in those situations, what can you do to keep yourself thinking about things in a fresh way rather than thinking about things in the same way over and over again in that environment? Sometimes it's helpful to actually just change the environ all together because sometimes it's a little bit difficult to isolate which element of the environment is affecting your overall, uh, thought process? And so there is value in getting people off site, you know, at companies moving, you know, going holding a meeting in a park somewhere or holding meeting a meeting at a hotel or in a different city getting out of that normal routine not permanently, but just for a couple of days and there are two values of getting people off site in a corporate sense one is that the environment itself doesn't support thinking about things the same old way which means that it might just get you out of one of those conceptual ruts and the other added advantage of doing something off site is that whenever you hold a big meeting for people on the corporate campus, whatever it is, even if it's just, you know, a single office building, what it does is it puts people in close proximity to their offices, which allows each person in the room to say, I'm gonna be here the whole day except I got to go out for about a half hour to take care care of something and then they go off to their office, right? And the problem is, if you've got ten people in the room and everybody leaves for a half hour, you have almost no time at which the entire group is actually all there at the same time. So by getting people off site nobody's got anywhere to go uh, one of my fair, I sometimes go to offsite meetings for companies to help them develop new ideas, and my favorite off site meeting everywhere was at a state park in indiana that was out of cell phone range of everything, so not on ly not on ly were we so far from people's offices that they couldn't possibly go back, but they couldn't even they couldn't even get cell service right? So we were all there and it was awesome it was really great so I I really do think that there's ah some value in changing up that routine every once in a while just to give yourself a fresh perspective on some of the things that might going on um conceptually in your life but do be aware right that when you change up routines if you change them up too much you are putting people in a situation in which you are forcing them to think about a whole bunch of things they don't normally think about um so you know that's the tradeoff if if you think that's a good thing to do in this situation you're in change up the environment any questions we actually have a lot of people in the chat room here who who either have home offices or work from home and kind of isolated we had a question come up about working in coffee shops and changing the environment and sort of the strategy there now this is in some situations it seems like the background noise helps be more productive when you get out of that silence and go to a coffee shop anything that you can provide any sort of feedback on why that coffee shop mentality helps people seem to be more productive or more creative yeah that's a great question so why is it that sometimes you know home office environments are actually some people thrive in a home office environment in some people do not and I think one of the reasons is that you're home is associated with lots of different behaviors um only some of which are work behaviors, right? I mean you're home is also the place where you sit and watch the tv it's the place where you take the dogs out for a walk it's the place where you cook your meals and so there are lots of different habits that are associated with spaces that are in your home and even if you're home office is something you only use while you're working it is still in close proximity to spaces you use for other stuff and so it there are a lot of other routines that call out to you and so that's one thing that can make a home office a little bit difficulty teo to engage with another thing is we behave differently when we're alone then we do when we're in public right that's just you know, I mentioned earlier people are more prone to just cheat on something if they're alone and if they're in public but they're just they're just generally speaking mohr prone to engage in in whatever idiosyncratic goals that they have when they're alone and when they're in public they tend to engage in behaviors that seem perfectly socially acceptable that may not be their own routine and so by sitting in a coffee shop when you're supposed to be working you know when you supposed be working your at home if you turned facebook on for twenty minutes it's like ems taking a little break but if you're working at a coffee shop and you just know there are all these people around and you've got the acute hints of work around you it's just harder to put facebook upright because now you realize everyone walking by you knows you're screwing around you know and so it focuses you a little bit right in ways that you don't necessarily focus at home so so being in that more public environment can actually make you feel a little bit more productive there's also an aspect of you know we are a social species it's very hard to be alone for long periods of time um I am a big fan of a lot of the coworking spaces that are growing up in lots of different areas again I'm from austin texas we have a number of different coworking spaces that have developed where which are places where somebody who's working either a sole practitioner or with a with a very small new organization can can get cem cem desk space fairly inexpensively in a place where other people are working and you know those kinds of working arrangements can sometimes be great partly because it just it gives you an opportunity to stand up and bump into somebody else and have a conversation that's work related but not you know to feel a little bit less isolated, to feel like you're in an environment in which other people are working. So I do feel like finding some of these alternatives. And relatively, innit, expensive alternatives. Teo, too. To the home office environment can can often be a real boost to productivity.