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How to Boost Your Creative Output

How to Boost Your Creative Output
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    Working productively can be broken down into several key skills: time management, organization and controlling your attention and energy. One of the often neglected but most important factors is your creative output. Successful people tend to have an unusually high creative output and I’d like to offer some tips for how you can boost yours.

    What is Creativity?

    Creativity is often compared with originality. When you see someone who can come up with unique ideas, you say they are “creative”. Picasso was creative because of his unique painting style. J.R.R. Tolkien was creative for writing The Lord of the Rings. Linus Torvalds is creative for starting Linux.

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    There is another way of viewing creativity. The root word of creativity is create. Creativity can be seen not just on how original your ideas are, but how many of them you can produce. Creative output is a measure of your ability to churn out creations.

    Thomas Edison held over a thousand patents in his name. Leonardo da Vinci was an astronomer, painter, engineer, inventor, poet and writer. Although both had unique ideas, there creative output dwarfed most of their colleagues.

    Why Does Creative Output Matter?

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    Isn’t quality supposed to be more important than quantity? The problem is that with creative output, quality and quantity are completely independent. A few people have gotten the wrong idea about creative output. The myth that having a higher output will somehow reduce the quality of the ideas you create.

    Having a high quantity of ideas doesn’t reduce the quality of ideas; quantity enhances quality.

    I write for several sites as well as my own. A couple fellow bloggers disagreed with this strategy. Won’t you be giving away your best ideas so other websites will profit off them? This assumes that each idea I create reduces the total ideas available to write about. This is ridiculous.

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    Ideas are not zero-sum. Having one idea doesn’t reduce the amount of ideas you are able to produce. Boosting your creative output requires changing how you channel attention. It has nothing to do with depleting an imaginary idea-bank inside your brain.

    How to Boost Your Output

    The most important way you can boost your output is to get rid of the zero-sum assumption. If you feel that each idea created limits your ability to create new ideas, you’re output will be only a trickle. The best writers, programmers, designers and idea-generators I know believe that the supply of ideas is endless, you only need to know how to turn on the flow.

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    Here are some tips to get you started:

    1. Churn Without Judgment. If you stress about the quality of work you are outputting, then the flow will be cut off. Writers block is a symptom of perfectionism. Churn first, judge later.
    2. Idea Breeding. Use past ideas to generate new ideas. I’ve written close to 500 articles in the past two years. If I ever get stuck, all I need to do is search through past articles. Almost always they leave unanswered questions that can be tackled with a new article.
    3. Creative Input. Feed your brain with books. I read about 50-70 books a year. The most creative people I know can read over a 100. By devouring knowledge you add to the variety of ideas you can produce.
    4. Be Patient. It can take awhile for your brain to get into the right flow. I can write 1500 words in an hour when I’m in the right mental state. But that state often requires waiting through twenty minutes where I type no more than a sentence. Take the time to accelerate your creative flow.
    5. Use Large Time Chunks. Since it takes time to warm up your creative muscles, you can’t expect to go fast if you are constantly stopping. Use large chunks of time where you can build up speed and work for a few hours before taking a break.
    6. Publish Garbage. If you are starting out in a new pursuit, you have only one goal: boost creative output. This often means publishing junk until you train yourself to do a better job. Feedback from the world (not self-judgement) is the fastest way to hone your creative flow.
    7. Set a Quota. Give yourself a certain output criteria for each day, week or month. This will build up a high creative output that can later be refined. Instead of just creating when you feel like it, set a high goal. Sometimes you’ll produce garbage. But you’ll also produce a lot more winners than by being a perfectionist.
    8. Hit the Challenge Zone. If you set too few standards for quality, you won’t improve. But if you set too high standards, your creative output will plummet. The challenge zone is the area where you have enough challenge to improve yourself but not so much that you can’t perform.
    9. Aim With Your Challenge Zone. There is a tendency to use external factors to define your standards. For example, you want to become a musician, so you decide to set your standards to one of your favorite bands. This is a mistake. By setting the challenge zone to external criteria you kill your creative output or kill your quality. You only need to compete with yourself, don’t judge yourself by other standards.
    10. Nuke Those Assumptions. If you assume that your creative output is fixed, it will be. Give yourself a high quota and aim within your challenge zone. You’ll probably be surprised at how much more you can produce if you force yourself to. More importantly, you’ll probably be surprised that quality doesn’t usually suffer when you boost creative output.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

    15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Right Now 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick 18 Tips for Killer Presentations

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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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