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Messy Environment Can Breed Creativity And Productivity

Messy Environment Can Breed Creativity And Productivity

“A cluttered room is a cluttered mind.”

This sounds like something a mom would say as she wags her finger at her child’s bedroom. It’s four in the afternoon, and there’re more books and laundry on the floor than there are filed alphabetically on the shelf or hanging in the closet. The remote is long gone and if it weren’t for Find My Phone, that iPhone would be lost for good, too. Is neatness the equivalent of productivity? Sure, it is. But it isn’t the only equivalent.

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There’s order to the chaos

Oftentimes, someone living in a messy apartment or has a pile mounting on their desk will have a little voice echo in their heads saying, “I should clean my room.” It sounds like a great idea. Cleaning can be a great way to release some tension, stress, and ultimately, increase pleasant endorphins that may lead to even more productivity. But that’s when the problem comes up – where did I put that book? Or, I can’t find that letter, and where in the world did I put my wallet? Trying to find things that typically are not put in a specific place is like trying to find Carmen Sandiego – a long journey in futility.

Cleaning a mess takes time

When you’re a creative person, you might not have time to clean and organize everything. A creative spends much of their time doing just that: being creative. Neatness certainly has its benefits, but it also has its cons. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Eric Abrahamson, co-author of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder, argued that “there’s an optimal level of mess and disorder. Since people think order is good they tend to overinvest in it. If you spend 20 hours cleaning up your desk, are you going to get 20 hours back of greater efficiency? If you don’t, maybe you only spend five hours and you get it to a decent state and that’s when you’re going to get a return.”

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It’s not about being lazy

For creative people, it is not an issue of being lazy. Where someone puts their things is just a flicker in a moment in time. As random as it may seem to put your headphones on top of the microwave, that person is much more likely to remember where they put something last as opposed to where it’s always supposed to be. Who needs a bowl for keys by the door when they can just keep it in the pair of jeans they typically wear? Just remember to take the keys out from those jeans when you decide to wear your trousers or that sundress (whoo, pockets!) if you don’t want to be locked out of your messy apartment.

There’s organization in the mess, and it’s tied to our memory and the proximity of things. Abrahamson goes further into detail in his book, claiming that, “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.”

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Neatness is great, but…

Neatness does have its conventions. It promotes positive social behavior, according to a report by Kathleen Vohs, a psychological scientist at University of Michigan. Her studies, published in Psychological Science (a journal for the Association for Psychological Science), dig deep into past research. “Prior work has found that a clean setting leads people to do good things: Not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity.” However, her conclusions are not without comparisons to the messy types. She explains that “disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

Trying to find a place for all the material things in life is already taxing enough when you don’t even know where you belong in the world. Using a chaotic environment as a muse is a viable way to encourage creativity, free-thinking, and new ideas. Who knows, that pile of blouses could be the sight you need to cue inspiration for another painting to add to the collection already hanging on your walls.

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Kyle Hiller

Author, Writer

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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