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Science Proves That Disorganized People Are More Creative And Productive

Science Proves That Disorganized People Are More Creative And Productive

If you are like most people, you probably imagine people who are organized are more productive compared to disorganized people. Can’t blame you for thinking that way—that’s what society has led us all to believe. But, an increasing number of experts are now saying that’s not really true.

Apparently, people who are disorganized and messy aren’t necessarily less productive or lazy. They’re just bold and more spontaneous. Actually, messy people are more imaginative. Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman, authors of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder, explain:

“Mess isn’t necessarily the absence of order. A messy desk can be a highly effective prioritizing and accessing system.

On a messy desk, the more important, urgent work tends to stay close by and near the top of the clutter, while the safely ignorable stuff tends to get buried to the bottom or near the back, which makes perfect sense.”

In other words, a messy desk can boost efficiency, depending on the person. A study by Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management seems to concur. According to the study, a cluttered environment helps increase not just efficiency, but also creativity.

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In one experiment for the study, Vohs divided 48 participants into two groups and asked them to come up with new ways to use a ping pong ball. One half was placed in a messy room and the other half in a tidy room. Although both groups came up with the same number of ideas, a panel of independent judges determined the ideas produced by those in the messy room were far more innovative.

Vohs explained the finding thus:

“Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries and societies want more of: Creativity. Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

So, why are we so obsessed with being orderly?

From a young age, we are taught (more like coerced) to clean up our rooms and clean up after ourselves always. When we grow up, society tells us a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind. We are made to feel bad about ourselves for being disorganized or messy.

Society expects us to maintain order, in every sense of the word. Disorganized people are labeled as lazy and ill-bred. But the neat, orderly world we strive for is all an illusion. Organization is a cheat we use to fool ourselves that life isn’t the random, unstructured, chaotic mess we secretly know it to be.

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Think about it for a moment. In our attempts to establish order, we often create more disorder. When you buy new shoes and new clothes for every possible occasion and season in the year so that you appear socially appropriate or fashion conscious, your closet inevitably begins to overflow.

When you tidy up your desk so that you’re not accused of having an “uncluttered mind” at work, it slides into a mess. You clear out all those pesky piles of paperwork, pens, and clips so that your desk is tidy once again, and still, two weeks later the mess is back.

We’re all struggling to keep everything neat and orderly, and we’re all doomed to fail. No matter how hard we try to keep our space neat and tidy, everything will always fall back into disarray. You see, disorder has nothing to do with your organizing skills; it’s has to do with the universe’s tendencies.

Physicist Adam Frank explains:

“The hard truth is that the universe itself is dead-set against our long-term efforts to bring order to the chaos in our lives. That’s because the universe loves chaos.”

That chaos, that disorder, that messiness, that randomness—for physicists, it has a name: entropy.

The laws of entropy ensure disorder is restored

Scientists first discovered the laws of entropy back in the 1800s when they were trying to squeeze as much efficiency as possible from their shiny, new invention—the steam engine. They uncovered a radical, somewhat depressing cosmic principle: The universe always moves from order to disorder, from low entropy to higher entropy. That’s how it has always been and, in all likelihood, how it will always be.

So, while you might be able to reduce chaos and maintain a semblance of order in one small space you control, like your home, the activities you do to maintain that order create more mess for the rest of the universe. For example, that trash you throw away goes to a landfill and contributes to pollution. See?

Disorganized people might get a bad rap in society and be dubbed lazy, but they are not really lazy. They’ve just seen the light and decided to go with the flow instead of swimming against the current. They would rather fill the bulk of their limited time in this world with what they perceive as more meaningful tasks for them than spend time on tedious, recurring activities like tidying up.

Maybe we should all follow their lead and say “yes” to the messiness and the chaotic nature of the universe more often, instead of being dictated by properness. As Jim Morrison once said, “I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos… It seems to me to be the road toward freedom.”

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Freedom—at last!

Contrary to what conventional wisdom might tell us, the path toward creative freedom, freedom of the mind, is to embrace disorder. Once you embrace disorder, it can bring spontaneity and tremendous joy and satisfaction in your life because you are now living in harmony with the universe.

You might worry that you won’t be productive at work if you are messy and unorganized, but that is not necessarily true. Disorganization is often associated with genius. Many famous people, like JK Rowling, Roald Dahl, Alan Turing, and Albert Einstein, achieved greatness in spite of their messiness. We might even argue they achieved greatness because of their messiness.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being organized. It’s just that we also need to recognize there’s nothing wrong with being disorganized either. Being disorganized is the default state. It’s a beautiful thing.

Featured photo credit: melodramababs via flickr.com

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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