Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where's Your Best Space?

Research has indicated that there are three primary learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Everyone has one or two styles that is most effective for them, and each styles indicates how people most best process information . Personally, I am a very strong kinesthetic learner. This means that I learn by touching and doing things and I need to have direct experience of something. It also means I need to be physically active and engaged with things in order to stay focused.

Here’s some ways being a kinesthetic learner has shaped my life:

- All throughout college and grad school, I would rewrite all my lecture notes in order to be able to remember the information. After I had physically rewritten my notes once, I remembered the information.
- I have NEVER been able to listen to books on tape, and I generally don’t like to learn things via audio alone.
- In fact, I generally don’t retain new information when I hear it; I need to see something in order to retain it.
- When I designed my new home office, I covered the walls in white boards, so that I can physically write and draw things as I am working.
- I have rearranged the office furniture in every office I have ever worked.
- I much prefer to work in offices with other people, where there is physical interaction with other people. 

- I never follow the instructions for how to assemble products, I have to pick up the pieces to see how they fit together

Because I’m a very strong kinesthetic learner, I’m very sensitive to physical spaces. Houses, conference rooms, restaurants, stores - whatever the location, I’m always noticing how the space is laid out, and how I physically feel in each space. I hate when restaurants are poorly designed and I really hate when conference rooms are cluttered with tables and chairs that don’t enable genuine interactions between people. Physical spaces should always be designed for a specific purpose and it drives me crazy when rooms are cluttered with random furniture. After leaving a room, I will generally always remember how the room was laid out.

This also means that when it comes time for me to clear my head, or sort through a problem, or release stress, I need to be physically active. And I prefer to be physically active in spaces that inspires me. This is part of the reason why I love Tucson so much – because anywhere you are outside here you can see the mountains. Tucson is actually in the basin of four different mountain ranges so the mountains are always part of the landscape here. Whenever I run or bike or golf outside, I am aware of the physical landscape, and I love feeling that connection to the landscape. I love springtime because it means that I can run and bike in the morning before work and there will be some daylight. Here is a short photo tour of where I run with Charly in the mornings – this is where we start our day. 

These are some of the hills we run:

This road faces due north:

Facing northwest:

There's lots of little neighborhood roads around here that we love:

And here's our little neighborhood road where Charly and I run sprints:

We don't run on this road because of traffic, but here's where we bike down into Tucson:

In my writing throughout this blog, I ask people to think about a lot of questions. I try to provoke people like you to think intentionally about your life and your choices. And sometimes when it’s time to think about things, you need time AND you need space.

My recommendation to you is to be aware of the spaces where you think best. Be aware of the physical spaces, the visual stimulation, and the auditory stimulation that works best for you. Do you need quiet spaces or do you need auditory stimulation? Do you need to see things written down in order to sort them out? Or do you need to talk to someone to discuss the options on the table? Auditory learners process information differently from visual learners and kinesthetic learners. No one learning style is better than another. What’s useful is to KNOW your particular learning style so that you can organize your space around your own unique needs.

So take some time now to think about your spaces. And let me know where you think best, where you work best, where you feel most effective and most focused. Think about the spaces where you gravitate to, and the spaces you avoid. Think about the features of those spaces to figure out what they have in common. Generally, we all have choices about where we physically spend time. I say we should all spend more time in the spaces that inspire us and help us be productive. 

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