I remember every spring in elementary school, pleading with teachers to let us have class outside, to no avail. It is quite likely that getting 25, 8 year-olds to focus on spelling words while distracted by playground equipment and fresh air would have been near impossible BUT as adults we are all too complacent about our physical work spaces.
Certainly, some things need to get done while sitting in front of a computer, but when its time to get thinking, your desk is the least creative place you can be. The purpose of this month’s #CreativeSprint challenge is to explore how the physical relationship to your working environment changes your creative energy. The tasks we gave are designed to show how a small change in environment can create perspective shifts and open you up to new possibilities.
At ALR, we practice what we preach, so we held our monthly NYC meeting on the terrace of the Whitney Museum of American Art, instead of our usual office meeting room. We also took on the challenge individually.
WHAT WE DID
NOAH: One morning I had a meeting at a coffee shop and then stayed to work on my laptop rather than rushing back to my office. After an hour I realized that none of the work I had to do actually required me to be in my studio, so I just moved along to another coffee shop and stayed out of my office for the rest of the day.
MICA: I took breaks to go outside and draw clouds and other natural forms. This was challenging at first because I was trying to hard to make the drawing look like something and really moving too fast, but eventually I was able to focus on observing and not trying to recreate reality. I had to slow down a lot to allow my hand to keep up capturing what I was seeing.
AMY: I was on my way to facilitate a workshop and running a few minutes early. I walked by a park and found a seat at a weather-worn checkers table. Normally when I'm early, I'll use my phone to work on documents or check the news. Instead, I took a deep breath and simply observed the world around me. It was cloudy and grey, so I was inspired to use colored markers to create a sun!
WHAT WE LEARNED
NOAH: It allowed me to enjoy a beautiful day on my bicycle that I would've entirely missed staying indoors, I connected with several people who I wouldn't have run into otherwise, and I still got all my work done.
MICA: After doing this for a few days in a row, I noticed was getting into a focused mindset faster, each time. I started to really look forward to my outdoor drawing break. It is a good reminder of how simple it can be to give myself new perspective; by taking the time to step away from my computer and observe what is around me without judgment.
AMY: I left the checkers table feeling refreshed and walked into my workshop with a clear and focused mind.
HOW WE'LL USE IT
NOAH: Even though I know that I solve my biggest creative problems when I'm not at my desk it really took this challenge to force me to make it back into a daily habit. Spending just an hour of my day working outside of the office has created an entirely different working experience for me. I've been more relaxed and more productive at the same time!
MICA: I am going to make 5-10 minutes of nature drawing a regular work-day practice to help me refocus and get my head clear. It’s like a smoke, coffee or candy break with no negative side-effects!
AMY: Sometimes, especially in a city like New York, I get caught up in the hustle and bustle. I will be early to workshops in the future and find a place like the park to observe, sit, and simply breathe.
Check out some of the great posts from other people who took on the May #CreativeSprint challenge...
When was the last time you took a meeting outdoors? Went on a photo hunt instead of a coffee break? Or intentionally got your head in the clouds? Do you have other techniques for getting out of your environment at work?
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