Psychological functions of dedicated environments

Dedicated environments for different tasks serve as behavioral cues to retrieve relevant knowledge.

Seth Godin talks about this in his interview with Tim Ferris. He mentions that when he is on Typepad editor, it serves as a cue for him to write that day’s blog post, rain or shine. He also, mentions about a particular conference room in his University that he and his friend used to consistently brainstorm business ideas. Over time, the conference room served as a cue for them to come up with more business ideas whenever they go past it.

For the same reason, it helps to have a small home office that can help us put into the work mode. Similarly, it is good to keep your workspace and bedrooms devoid of any gadgets that can be a potential distraction for what you are intended to do in those spaces.

This particular article emphasizes on why it’s important to have dedicated environments for activities such as writing and sleeping.

The usefulness of a special space used solely for writing, cultivates an environment that cues the desired behavior.This phenomenon can be reinterpreted in terms of the cognitive concept of encoding specificity.Entering the environment serves as a retrieval cue for the relevant knowledge to enter the writer’s awareness.Particular features of the environment may serve as specific prompts for retrieving, creating, and thinking.Staring at the feature elicits knowledge representations bearing on the problem at hand.
This strategy is rather similar to the one most often recommended for treating insomnia — instituting a regular bedtime and using the bedroom as a space dedicated solely to sleep, in order to optimize the brain’s ability to enter rest mode upon going to bed and cue that behavior each night just by entering that environment.
The diversity in environments chosen by writers, from Proust’s cork-lined room to Sarraute’s Parisian cafe, suggests the flexibility of human thought. A person can think in any environment, though some locations become habitual for certain individuals. The key is to find an environment that allows concentrated absorption in the task and maximum exposure to retrieval cues that release relevant knowledge from long-term memory.

 

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