In the months and years ahead I will showcase plenty of visual thinking techniques and strategies on this blog. These techniques will help you to think more creatively and solve problems more effectively. However, in order to become a highly productive visual thinker you will need to take into consideration your thinking environment. This is the place you will be spending most of your time thinking and solving your problems visually. Let’s call this your Thinking Space.
The purpose of this article is to help you optimize your Thinking Space; to help you raise your levels of productivity and create an environment that naturally supports your ability to think creatively and visually.
Before we move on, let’s take a look at your current home or office work environment. Ask yourself:
- Is my thinking space clean and uncluttered?
- Does my thinking space excite and inspire me?
- Does it provide me access to the tools I need to think visually?
- Does this thinking space encourage me to think visually?
- Does it make me feel happy and productive?
- Is everything I need easily within my reach?
- Is the thinking space clear of visual and auditory distractions?
- What can I do to make my thinking space a more enjoyable and productive place to spend my time?
Keep in mind that your thinking space isn’t just your desk, it’s a place you work, think, visualize and create. It could be a room, a study, a section of a bedroom or living room, it could be a cafe, a library or another place that allows you to work and think visually. Above-all-else it must be a place where you switch-off from everything else, and tune in to your creative visual problem solving ability.
Identify Your Thinking Space
Your first task is to identify a place where you will create your Thinking Space. This is a place where you will have the freedom to think visually and explore concepts and ideas clearly without distraction. Consider the following questions:
- Where do I think best?
- Do I need a window or can I do without one?
- Do I prefer the indoors or outdoors?
- Do I need plenty of space or can I work within a small area?
For the purpose of this article, let’s explore a Thinking Space you set-up in your office or home. Let’s create this thinking space within a single room where you have the flexibility and freedom to adjust your space as you see fit.
Your thinking space must be well-lit, have good ventilation, and be well spaced with adequate storage facilities to house all your visual thinking tools and accessories. In addition to this, your space must be flexible and customizable, meaning that you have the ability to easily move things around if required.
De-Cluttering Your Thinking Space
Before you dig deep into designing your ideal thinking space, consider your current environment and be merciless — making sure that it’s clutter and stress-free. Get rid of the stuff that you simply won’t need — the stuff that simply takes up space and nothing else. To help you with this task, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I really need this now?
- Will I need it in the future?
- Have I used this within the past year?
- Is this something that could help me to think visually?
- Does this have personal value?
- Could someone else need this more than me?
- Do I have more of this than I could possibly need?
- Will I miss this if I don’t have it?
- If I do need it in the future, can it easily be acquired?
Getting rid of the clutter will help you to begin anew with a clean canvas, which will allow room within your Thinking Space for the visual thinking tools and accessories we’ll discuss below. In the end it comes down to simplicity — simplify your environment, and thereby you will likewise free-up your mind to think more creatively and visually.
Your Visual Thinking Tools
Once you have decided where you will create your Thinking Space, you must now consider the kinds of tools you will need that will help you to brainstorm, create and solve problems visually. You must essentially have a mix of high and low-tech tools at your disposal.
Here’s a list of tools you might want to include within your thinking space:
Furniture and Accessories
- Computer desk
- Desk lamp
- Computer and/or Tablet
- Comfortable desk seat (or stand-up desk)
- Separate table (for laying stuff out)
- Internet access
- Drawers and storage compartments
- Access to fresh water
Physical Creation Tools
- Standing or wall mounted whiteboard
- Small hand-held whiteboard
- Colored whiteboard markers
- Whiteboard cleaner
- Sticky notes (Post-Its)
- Pens, pencils and erasers
- Loose colored paper
- Index cards
- Audio equipment
- Video equipment
- Cork board and pins
- Scissors and glue
- Magazines and cut-outs
- Write-On Cling Sheets: ideal when you don’t have space for a whiteboard
Software Creation Tools
- Mind mapping software, e.g. MindManager, iMindMap*, NovaMind*
- Other graphic mapping tools, e.g. SmartDraw
- iPad and Android apps for drawing, mapping and sketching
- Online drawing software and apps, e.g. Sketchbook Pro, DeviantArt Muro
- Goal setting software, e.g. Goalscape*
- Presentation software, e.g. Prezi, PowerPoint, Keynote, SlideRocket
- Teleconferencing software
- Project management software
- Inspirational photos
- Interesting artifacts, ornaments and statues
- Music played from computer or external speakers
- Plants (real or plastic)
- Zen garden
- Tabletop water fountain
- Lava lamp
- Colored lighting
- Lights that can be dimmed and brightened
- Comfortable sofa or couch
Within future article posts, I will explore how to utilize some of these visual thinking creation tools in detail. However, please don’t let this stop you from making use of these tools starting today. Each of them serves a purpose and will add tremendous value to your visual thinking space.
Within the next post we will discuss in detail how to organize your visual thinking environment in order to create the perfect Thinking Space that will allow you to maximize your capacity to think visually and creatively.