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Productivity vs. Creativity?

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Brain Left Right Hemispheres

Are productivity and creativity mutually exclusive, or can they play nice and work together? Can you use the left side of your brain (the one that governs logic and structure) to engage more with the creative, right side of your brain and boost your creative output? And vice versa: can you use the right side of your brain to come up ways to streamline your productivity?

I recently attended a productivity workshop, because (please select one):
a) I’d never been to a productivity workshop or seminar before
b) I was curious to find out if I’m missing some ‘key ingredient’ in life
c) I’m too lazy to buy the book and read it
d) all of the above.

If you answered d, you are correct!

Workshops like these are not a natural fit for me. I’m much happier taking a painting or beading class and letting the left side of my brain zone out while the right side engages in imagination and play.

So, taking notes on things like Responsibilities, Chores and Lists felt more like work than fun. But I did learn some tips on organizing and prioritizing tasks, and keeping things ‘on track’, which I’m happy to share. Here are a few I found helpful …

Assess your tasks, responsibilities and goals. Take stock. Where does the bulk of your time go during your working hours? At home? Write everything down. Include things you’d like to achieve, whether it’s learning how to cook a new kind of cuisine, or work toward a major milestone like a degree, or rebuilding your front porch.

What drains you? Are there strategies you can employ to help you minimize these negative aspects of work or life? I find emptying my inbox of unsolicited email draining. We all do. I even subscribed to a service that was supposed to take those emails and filter them out for me… it worked for a while. I hit ‘unsubscribe’ a lot. I don’t know, but I seem to be getting more of those crap emails now. It’s exhausting. Maybe you can think of ways to disengage from the dislikes? There are only so many hours in a week. Can you get/hire help? Are there new devices or apps that can lessen the load?

Make lists and keep your calendar updated. Duh, right? But so crucial!

Focus vs distraction. We all have our distractions, and there are so many in this tech-laden world of ours. What are yours? Checking email? Texts? Social media? IMs? 24 hour news? A talkative coworker? (Hint: try headphones!)

Do you have strategies to minimize these distractions during your work hours, such as turning off alerts? I am spending less and less time online during my evenings / weekends, and find I’m much calmer and happier. What have you found helpful?

Timed focus sessions. I haven’t tried this yet, but it could be a game-changer: set a timer, whether it’s for 15 minutes or an hour…whatever works. Keep the distracting beeps and alerts away. Focus on what you need to do for the designated time allowed. Repeat as necessary.

Prioritize. What needs immediate action, what can wait a few hours or a few days? Your lists and calendar will help keep track.

So, where does creativity come in to play? Isn’t daydreaming the polar opposite of rigorous structure? I think successful creatives will tell you this: build time for imaginative play into your day or week, and keep at it! If you are a musician or in a band, do you practice weekly? Are you a visual artist? Do you write? If it helps to keep a notebook or journal handy, keep one. Some people use their smart phones as notepads. I prefer old-school pen and paper for sketching, cartooning and jotting down ideas. Everyone’s got tools that work for them.

Set aside time regular times to focus on your art. Get yourself some dedicated space. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or even that much space. For example, when I’m working on a particularly elaborate beadweaving project, I have a special place on my couch that includes task lighting, my beading tray, and an extra pillow for my lap so the beadwork is closer and I don’t have to strain to see what I’m doing… all while watching shows on Netflix. I find I’m more comfortable this way than sitting at a table, and that giving my eyes needed breaks (ie looking up from my work and following the show on TV) actually enables me to bead longer with less fatigue. So yes, in this instance, I came up with a creative approach to boost my beading productivity.

So, how do you fit in time for important projects at home or at play? How to you stay focused and on task at your job? Have you thought of a productive way to keep your creative process alive? I’d love to hear what works (or doesn’t work) for you!