Deep Thoughts

The importance of knowing how to use digital and human workspaces to boost creativity

This is a little thought that I picked up from fellow creative Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like a Artist and Show Your Work.

In today’s world, our attention span is probably shorter than your average goldfish. Plus, we’re constantly distracted by notification after notification. So, we have to constantly fight for periods of focus and moments to embrace our creativity.

Many of us do most of our work on some form of electronic device, mainly phones, laptops and tablets.

Although all of these technological innovations are amazing and have improved our lives, and ability to create in many ways. They’re also incredibly distracting when it comes to getting good work done.

It’s not as common these days to use the old whiteboard or piece of paper to sketch out ideas and build those first drafts. But, these tried and tested spaces for creativity might just be the best place to allow us to craft new ideas and find focus.

You see, it’s easy to be distracted when using devices that grant use access to the unlimited distractions that the world has to offer. Yet, it’s quite a different story when staring at a blank whiteboard or piece of paper – the distractions aren’t as easily in reach.

For the past 6 months I’ve been experimenting with creating rough ideas and building an environment for pure focus by doing 90% of my work on whiteboards and/or a notebook first. This means that everything you see on this blog or other channels I use, all started off on a blank sheet of board or paper with not a electronic device in sight.

So, what’s the point of this? why share this with you all? It’s simple. Experimenting with this approach has helped improve my focus and enable more creativity which in turn has allowed me to create even more content.

But don’t get it wrong, I’m not telling you to stop using tech devices for creativity – quite the opposite actually.

Of course, I do the final build of everything on my trusty devices and that’s how you see the final product now. Instead, what I am recommending is to build what I call human spaces for creative thinking and digital spaces for tasks.

Basically it works like this:

Human spaces – a place free of tech and distractions. This can be a desk or area with paper, notebooks, whiteboards or walls where you let your mind run free. I use a wall in my property, full of whiteboards and paper for such experiences.

Digital spaces – this is the area where all your tech devices live and where you’ll build the final product in a more task like fashion after you’ve indulged your creative juices in your human innovation space.

But why break down your creative process this way? what are the benefits for you? here are a few I can share from my own experimentation:

  • Build and let ideas run wild. Create chaos away from the digital world instead of trying to make everything perfect first time. Welcome and indulge moments of mind wandering (which I’ve found to be a powerful creative tool too).
  • Allow random thoughts to hit your page or whiteboard without judgement or over analysis.
  • Not being seduced by not only the distractions to moments of creativity and idea creation, but by the endless options to make everything look pretty right now.
  • You can control the distractions by only engaging with the digital world (bar researching) when it’s time to structure all those ideas and drafts, and make them look all pretty for public consumption.
  • Building separate spaces to let creativity flow and to complete the final task driven product enables less distractions, more focus and takes what could be a 5 hour task when staring at a screen to a 2 hour task when sitting in your creative palace.

No doubt, many more benefits exist. And, perhaps you’ll discover these yourself in your own experimentation and come back to share these with me here.

No matter your creative endeavour – time is the most precious resource that is non-renewable for us all. So, if we can create human spaces to let our creativity flow, find laser like focus and steer clear of the endless distractions the digital world has to offer – surely this is a time management strategy we all want to get more of?

No matter how you work now, give this approach a try. Experiment for yourself and see if separate spaces for thinking and doing can be your secret weapon in boosting your creativity.

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