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10 Productivity Hacks for Creative People

10 Productivity Hacks for Creative People

While we are all familiar with the concept of creativity, few appreciate the psychological and scientific pillars that underpin this. This means that while there has been considerable research into how creativity works from a scientific perspective, all we really know is that it continues to drive innovation and enables human society to progress.

There is a considerable number of facts and theories about creativity; however, each of which offer understanding into how the creative mind works. This information is invaluable to those with a creative bent, as it enables them to fully achieve their potential and remain productive in their chosen field.

With this in mind, let’s consider the following 10 productivity hacks for creative people and the challenges that they help to surmount.

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1. Take regular breaks from creative work.

One of the most widely accepted elements of creativity is that it is facilitated by “psychological distance.” This suggests that creative individuals should step away from their work when they begin to feel overwhelmed, or even schedule regular breaks that enable them to consider their efforts from a distant and objective viewpoint. By putting space between original perspectives and newer ones, you can encourage abstract thinking and optimize the originality of your work. To put this into practice, be sure to step away from your creative project as you complete certain elements and take a 20 or 30 minute break. Then return with a fresh perspective, even considering the work from alternative angles if appropriate.

2. Schedule work to capitalize on productive working hours.

Whether you work as an independent creative, for an agency or simply embark on projects during your own time, you will have a working schedule that accounts for specific hours in the day. It is important to tailor and personalize this schedule as much as possible, however, as we are all more productive at different junctures of the day and evening. To identify your most productive working hours, monitor your progress over the course of a typical week and record your efforts in a dairy. You should then create daily or weekly run-sheets based on this data, ensuring that you maximize working hours during your productive hours and take breaks when you are less motivated.

3. Use mobile apps to manage and channel your creativity.

Growth in the mobile app market has been pronounced in recent times, with a staggering 1.55 millions titles currently available in the Google Play store alone. Many of these are focused on productivity, and there are a number of apps that can help creative individuals to manage their time and optimize their output. One of the best examples is the RescueTime application, which enables you to track your daily habits in detail and identify any areas where you are being unproductive. This type of feature is crucial for creative individuals, as this demographic can easily lose focus or become distracted by sources of inspiration.

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4. Maintain an active lifestyle to optimize creativity.

According to numerous studies, moderate levels of aerobic exercise have the potential to clear cluttered minds and aid the creative-thinking process. This was supported by one particular study conducted in 2005, where college students from Rhode Island used the renowned Torrance Test of Creative Thinking to determine that individuals who embarked on strenuous exercise were more mentally fertile for a two hour period afterwards. So simply by taking regular breaks during projects to enjoy some aerobic exercise, you can optimize your creativity and productivity over time while also maintaining a good level of physical fitness.

5. Maintain perspective and a sense of fun in your work.

Creativity relies on instinct and abandon, and it can be easily stifled by pressure. This has been explored through a number of studies, including one from 1987 which was conducted on Brandeis University students who were pursuing a qualification in creative writing. The results were telling, as the prevailing levels of motivation and creative output dwindled when they were offered rewards for their efforts. In fact, they approached poetry with a diminished sense of excitement, while their ability to focus on channeling their creativity also waned. This underlines the importance of maintaining perspective when working creatively for a living, as this helps you to retain a sense of fun and humility that eases the process of completing individual projects. If you do find yourself feeling pressurized or demotivated by rewards, take time out to regain your focus and tap back into your initial source of inspiration.

6. Develop stress management skills.

On a similar note, the concept of working in a creative capacity is different to completing recreational projects. More specifically, those who work creatively do so for a living, which changes your focus as an individual and can cause you to become preoccupied with acquiring work and being remunerated rather than sustaining a high quality of output. It can also lead to stress, which is known to kill creative expression and your ability to maintain productivity over a prolonged period of time. With this in mind, it makes sense to be proactive and develop viable stress management skills as a creative individual, initially by being honest with clients and avoiding the pressure caused by unrealistic deadlines or rigid project criteria.

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7. Learn another language.

This may sound strange, but researchers have uncovered evidence which suggests that bilingualism and multilingualism have the potential to improve creative skills and their application. Although the link remains tenuous, individuals who are capable of speaking more than one language are renowned for displaying more competent multitasking skills and superior cognition. These are critical components of successfully harnessing and channeling creativity, which is one of the biggest challenges facing those with a fertile and active imagination. So if you are serious about managing your creativity and driving enhanced productivity, learning a new language could equip you with the skills to work more efficiently and process multiple thought processes simultaneously.

8. Do not be easily influenced by conventional thinking.

Independence of thought is pivotal for creatives, as this enables them to follow their instinct and abstract muses to develop truly original work. Those who lack confidence in their ability can become all too easily influenced by more assured, intelligent and conventional individuals, despite the core differences that exist between these two entities. Interestingly, the left frontal cortex is known to experience slower activity during creative moments, whereas intelligence in its most conventional form triggers quicker thought processes. Creativity also encourages more abstract and novelty thoughts processes, which may be alien to those who have high levels of intelligence and a significant degree of book learning. Keep this in mind when your work is challenged, as it is crucial that understand the fundamental workings of the human mind and the differences between creativity and intelligence to avoid self-doubt.

9. Create a musical playlist to aid your creative output.

The relationship between creativity and music is well known, to the point where there are calls for the latter to be integrated into early childhood education. Not only does music stimulate creative thought processes, but it also helps to develop a more imaginative and curious mind. Even the great Albert Einstein utilized music to aid his creative processes, as he eschewed logic and mathematical equations for images, feeling and distinctly musical structures. Given that music can also improve mood and help you to maintain higher levels of productivity, it is crucial that you develop a preferred playlist and incorporate this into your working day. Try to use songs that resonate with you on a personal level rather than prioritizing generic, upbeat tunes, and measure the impact of specific music genres on your creative output.

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10. Unwind and relax your mind during sleep.

Creative people are known to be particularly emotional and passionate about their work, which means that it can become consuming over time. Even if you enjoy your work, this can occasionally overwhelm the human brain and heighten the risk of burnout or developing stress related conditions. To avoid this, you should strive to relax your mind for a 30 minute to one-hour period before you sleep, as this will enable you to unwind and take a mental break from your workload. Whether you enjoy your favorite television show or simply spend the time mindlessly reading or completing puzzles, this will also ease you into a deeper sleep and allow you to approach your projects from a refreshed perspective the following day.

Featured photo credit: Stokpic – Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on September 22, 2020

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

You have probably heard the success stories about people who wake up early. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle all talk about the positive impact of waking up early on their lives.

Even though many assign a portion of their success to waking up early, many find it difficult to make the switch. While most people know what needs to happen to change their life, they find then difficult to implement consistently. To understand how to wake up early, you need to tap into the wisdom of those already doing it.

Here are the 6 things early risers do:

1. Stop Procrastinating

The first thing you need to do when you want to learn how to wake up early is to go to sleep earlier. Stop procrastinating. You will find it much easier to wake up when you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Set a bedtime that allows you to get 8-hours of sleep and hold yourself accountable.

The problem most of you will have at first is how tired you will feel. If you are someone who goes to sleep after midnight, waking up by 6 a.m. will not be easy. The reason you need to push through that initial difficulty is that you are going to be very tired at the end of the day. Realistically, you probably would fall asleep at your desk or doze off on your lunch break. Either way, waking up early no matter how you feel will motivate you to go sleep at the proper time that night.

Think of it as someone who procrastinated until the night before their project was due. Having done this myself, you do what you need to do to complete the project, whether that means working all night or cutting some corners because you don’t have time to triple-check your work.

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After you turn in your project, you feel both exhaustion and jubilation. After you make it through the workday and crash at home, you promise yourself you’ll never wait until the last minute again. This same feeling will happen when you force yourself to wake up early no matter what time you went to sleep. You are going to promise yourself you will go to bed at the right time.

Most people don’t go to bed when they should because they know they will ultimately make it up in the morning.

2. Pace Yourself

If you want to start waking up a couple of hours earlier each day, you may not be able to make that change all at once. It stands to reason the more drastic the shift, the more difficult it will be.

So, instead of trying to adjust your sleep pattern by several hours, start in 15-minute or 30-minute intervals.[1] If you wake up 30 minutes earlier each week, you will be a morning person by the end of the month. This may feel like you are drawing out your goal but in reality, you are accomplishing it much quicker than most. Most people who are naturally night owls find it difficult to completely change their sleep habits overnight.

Think of it as someone who is trying to quit drinking coffee. Outside of the fact you may enjoy the taste of coffee, your body is used to operating with a certain amount of caffeine and sugar. Some will be able to quit overnight and their body will adjust accordingly. And if you are one of those people, then do what works for you.

However, if you were to take an incremental approach, then you may first start drinking your coffee black. Then, you could switch to decaf before slowly lowering the amount of coffee you drink each day. As you can see, this approach will help minimize the feeling of withdrawal while getting the results you want.

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3. Watch Your Lighting

Light reduces your body’s production of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone. In practical terms, your body naturally wants to be awake when the sun is up and go to sleep when the sun is down. This is called your circadian rhythm.

In the technology-driven world we currently live in, you likely look at a screen or two before bed. Studies show television and phone screens trick your body into thinking the sun is up. As a result, your body starts producing less melatonin. To help you fall asleep, you should stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed.

This can also mean that if you want to wake up before the sun, looking at your screen when you wake up can help you to stay awake.

Peter Balyta, the President of Education Technology for Texas Instruments says he wakes up at 5:20 a.m. and scans his emails before starting his day. This is also true for M.I.T. president L. Rafael Rief. He wakes up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and checks his phone for anything urgent.[2]

4. Make It Worth Your Time

Have you ever woken up early but went back to sleep because you didn’t have a reason to stay up? To put it another way, have you ever fallen asleep because you didn’t have anything better to do?

If you want to be excited about going to sleep and waking up early, then you need to give yourself a reason to be excited. You can accomplish this by listing the three things you want to accomplish the next morning. Notice I said “want” and not “need” to accomplish. You don’t want to be dragging yourself into the next morning kicking and screaming.

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Your list should not only include what you want to accomplish but also why you want to accomplish it. If you want to take it a step further, list the consequences of not waking up early.

People who have figured out how to wake up early are shown to be more successful, persistent, and proactive in their life. They tend to be happier and handle stress better. It is also shown that people who wake up early procrastinate less.[3] If you find any of these benefits something you want to add in your life, then waking up early is shown to help.

5. Avoid Binging

There is a difference between sleeping and getting a good night’s sleep. Sure, you can drink alcohol and fall asleep, but you will not be getting quality rest. You will wake up feeling as though you slept for only a couple hours.

It is best to stop drinking at least 4 hours before bedtime. Binge drinking is known to impact your sleep-inducing melatonin hormone levels for up to a week. The same holds true with eating a large meal right before bed. It is not that your body can’t process food and sleep at the same time. The main concern has more to do with the possibility of indigestion or heartburn than anything else.

If you find yourself dealing with either of these symptoms, then you may want to stop eating at least two hours before bed.

6. Get the Blood Flowing

Those who have mastered the technique of how to wake up early tend to start each morning with movement.

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Your first movement is to get out of bed. To help you get out of bed, have your alarm far enough away that you need to get up and turn it off. Before you allow yourself to contemplate going back to sleep, take a moment, and do 10 push-ups or 10 jumping jacks. Think of each exercise as you taking one step further from being able to go back to sleep.

Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning. She starts each day by exercising. Her exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and cycling.

You decide for yourself how you want to get your blood flowing. Whether you want to go on a walk, workout at the gym, or do something at home, make sure you are scheduling time to exercise.

Final Thoughts

The key to understanding how to wake up early is to recognize that it is heavily driven by the actions you take the night before. You will wake up early if you go to bed at a good time and get the proper amount of sleep.

By taking the time to prepare yourself both mentally and physically each night, you can ensure you are positioned for success the next morning. Once you have taken the proper actions the night before, make sure you use that momentum to start your day, on time.

The goal is to make the actions you want to take as easy as possible. The key to changing your life is to discover a way to have the wind at your back, going in the direction you want.

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Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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