It is no secret that your understanding of socially acceptable behavior is determined by where you are and who you are with. What we might be less conscious of though, is how our thoughts and ideas also follow a similar “socially acceptable behavior” rule. If you have ever tried coming up with ideas in a bland meeting room after having listened to a lengthy presentation about the importance of looming deadlines then you know its a wildly different experience than brainstorming amongst easily excitable friends in an elegantly designed open air naturally lit office.
I noticed this recently as I migrated from below freezing temperatures to the welcoming desert heat that is just starting to get hot. The transition from working bundled in sweaters and scarves with permanently scrunched shoulders to t-shirts and fresh freckles has led to a noticeable shift in how I perceive problems and approach ambiguity.
But even in minor ways our mind is influenced by the people and things surrounding us. Does having a notebook and colored pens encourage you to shut off your screen and brainstorm? Has that last email left you feeling defensive? Is your music distracting or motivating you? Could a ten minute walk actually increase your productivity?
We can never fully be certain how our surroundings are affecting us, but we can become more conscious of how certain variables influence us. Take a look around or reflect on what physical factors help and hurt your mental space. Can you control some of them? Invite your friends and colleagues to do the same – their productivity affects yours remember. Mention it at meetings. Or better yet, discuss optimal living and working conditions over a good meal. We’re all in this together after all.