The current work culture demands us to be creative and productive at the same time. From the moment we begin school, we are trained to be productive. Although productivity can be measurable, creativity isn’t. What does it mean to be creative in a productive world?
When something as profound as a pandemic breaks out, the world demands us to increase our creativity plus productivity to overcome disruptions and grief. If surviving one year of COVID-19 lockdown has taught me anything – it’s that creativity often leads to productivity.
As Krishan Coupland wrote on New Rules, COVID-19 is “…a burst of creativity prompted by a problem that seemed intractable”.
In the “new normal”, we have to make sure we can sustain working from home (WFH) with the same, if not, more productivity. Our work also demands more creativity to solve problems, redefine business and communications strategies, and be innovative.
We need the best of both worlds to survive this pandemic and thrive.
While productivity is often measurable, creativity isn’t. Productivity deals with actionable things, managing to-do lists and organising our time. It’s about prioritising, focus and discipline.
On the other hand, our knowledge and personal experiences feed our creativity. It demands the freedom to observe, ask questions and make connections between different topics.
So, how can we be creative and productive at the same time?
Before we let our brains go numb from endless days of lockdown, try these simple steps to boost your creativity. They will also help us manage our creativity productively.
1. Learn something new every day
Creativity comes from our knowledge and personal experiences. We can only create something out of the box by learning about new things that are out of our box.
Now that you have extra time thanks to COVID lockdown, be productive and schedule a chunk of time during the day to learn something new. Even if you only have 15 minutes to spare, surprise yourself! Learn a new language, join an online course or read about a new topic for a few minutes a day.
Accumulate your new experiences by documenting what you’ve learnt. This is a great way to structure your knowledge productively. Review what you’ve learnt regularly and see if you can make any connections between each topic. The more you practice making connections, the more you’ll increase your creative energy.
2. Ask questions
“Why is the raven like a writing desk?” asked the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This classic riddle has inspired thousands of answers.
Sometimes, asking questions isn’t about arriving at the answers. Rather, it’s about coming up with new possibilities and identifying new opportunities. Why is the sky blue? What happens if you add X to Y? Can we put A and B together?
There’s no right or wrong to asking questions. It sparks curiosity and playfulness with our knowledge and ideas. This also allows us to develop critical and analytical thinking, helping us apply our knowledge in our areas of expertise. Again, document your questions and responses related to specific topics. Pay attention to where your questions lead your thoughts and document the connections you made. If it relates to your work, consider if it’s a feasible idea worth transforming into an actionable plan.
3. Do nothing
Ironically, in a world of many to-dos, sometimes doing nothing is the best way to stay creative. Often, our best ideas come when we’re doing something mundane, like taking a shower or nothing at all!
Aaron Sorkin, who wrote The West Wing and The Social Network, once told Bloomberg that he took up to eight showers a day just to keep coming up with new ideas!
When our mind is disengaged from work, we’re giving our mind the headspace to rest and reset. During this time, we involuntarily begin to re-organise our thoughts and ideas, and form new connections and ideas – hello auto-productivity!
This is especially important in the current WFH culture. Do your creativity and productivity a favour by giving yourself some headspace. Your razor-sharp focus won’t last 12 hours without taking a break either. That amazing idea isn’t going to jump out of your laptop after working for hours without a coffee break.
Creativity and productivity are like two ends of a balancing scale. It’s our job to find the balance. The three steps mentioned above are just a few examples to help us maximise the potential of our creativity and productivity. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution on how to be creative and productive. By leveraging the best of both sides, we can start transforming our ideas into realities.
What do you do to stay creative while managing your work productively? Share your tips in the comments to help others find that perfect balance.