What You See Can Help You Win: How Visual Cues Make You Work Smarter

The Things You Surround Yourself Have A Powerful Impact On Your Workday

Have you ever wondered why your workplace has all kinds of visual decorations? Or, if you work from home, you might have strategically placed posters or sticky notes with motivational quotes that are next to your computer?

Whatever it may be, these visual cues actually play a bigger role in productivity and motivation than we think.

In this blog post, you’ll find out the science behind visual cues’ effectiveness, as well as 3 ways to use them to your advantage during a workday.

The Impact of Visual Cues - A Scientific View

A visual cue is any object, layout, or visual element found in a given space, which causes a sensory experience. It usually exists to express a message, especially if we’re talking about a workspace or a space in which you work.

Visual cues are used for a variety of purposes - from learning more complex information to enhancing our ability to build habits or be productive.

Studies show that visual representations are often more powerful than verbal ones. The human brain responds better to visual cues because it perceives them as being more coherent and easy to follow.

Prof. Haig Kouyoumdjian, in an article in Psychology Today, backs up this assertion confirming that, based on his research and his experience with students, the effective use of visuals can decrease learning time, improve comprehension, enhance retrieval, and increase retention.

To give you a better understanding of how we interpret visuals, think about arrows. When you see a series of arrows, you automatically follow an arrow wherever it’s placed within a space. No one has to write out instructions or tell you to follow the arrows, your brain will just figure it out. For people with limited visual capacity, the brain uses visual cues to fill in the blanks so you are able to see what your eyes can't.

The bottom line is that what you see and focus on everyday can impact in a big way what you get done so it is important to train your sight on things that get you growing.


The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

— WB Yeats

3 Simple Ways to Incorporate Visual Cues in Your Workday

1. Surround Yourself With Visuals That Break Your Routine and Make You Happy

Whether that’s a poster, a funny mug, or desktop wallpaper, identify a few items that make you feel good when you look at them.

A good idea would be to allow yourself to take your eyes off of your work and direct your attention to one of these items. It’ll help you enter a state of relaxation and take a break, which can later increase motivation and productivity.

However, don’t go too far towards the extreme of having visually stimulating items around you. Keep your space as decluttered as possible. Too many visual cues around you will distract you from your work, so it’s best to only keep the visual elements that enhance your mood or benefit your work processes.

2. Translate Your To-Do List into Visuals

Sometimes a doodle on a cute sticky note works better than a planner.

If you have the time to do this, it will drastically increase your processing ability and memory.

Turn your tasks or essential knowledge into visual, maybe even fun representations to get a better understanding of what you’ll have to do, as well as sharpen the focus on the specific task.

An added bonus of translating your daily to-dos into fun visuals is that you can tap into all of that left-right brain synergy that drawing creates.

So go ahead and pull out those sticky notes or notepad and draw away - it might just be the thing that keeps you more productive than ever!


Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The Sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus

— Alexander Graham Bell

3. Use Visuals to Make Your New Habits Stick For Good

Habit formation is not easy because human beings evolved to make habits something we just do without too much thinking. Therefore creating new habits forces your brain to pay attention to those all of those little things you do throughout your day, which can draining and hart to do long-term, which is why success rates can be hit or miss.

If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ll probably have to admit that you wanted to build all kinds of habits, but you never stuck with them long enough for them to actually become habits. That’s totally normal, but we are here to tell you that visual cues can help habits stick in new and exciting ways.

For instance, habits are actually created in the brain through a looping process that involves a cue that leads to a routine behavior that provides a reward.

First, choose a visual cue that reminds you you have to do something and keep it within sight. Then, slowly integrate that habit into your daily routines. be patient with yourself because this takes time.

James Clear talks about how you can use things as tiny as paper clips to build the long-lasting habit you’ve been trying to start. It’s all about the visual proof of your progress - when you get visual cues that you’re doing something right, your motivation increases, which enables you to keep going.

Every time you stick to your habit, pat yourself on the back (literally and figuratively) because you killing the game girl! Celebrate all of those small wins that add up to lasting big transformation.

Pulling It All Together

Our visual abilities have an underrated impact on our lives. Even though our vision is still influenced by our own biases and expectations, our visual sense provides information that is closest to an objective point of view as it gets. Moreover, once you understand that visual representations of things that make you feel good can help you have a more effective and productive workday, it’s easier to implement beneficial visual cues.

Filling your workspace with visual cues that inspire action, deep thought, and overwhelming gratitude is THE cheat code for getting more done each day. What you see can be the difference between working so hard that you burn out vs. working smarter so you have more day left at the end of your work to get more out of work.

Remember: the next time you are feeling in a slump or like you can't get work done, look around at the things you are surrounding yourself with in your workspace and find ways to enhance it so you cultivate work life harmony.

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