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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 July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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