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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 January 2, 2019

Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

Stop focusing on the material objects

Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke[1] in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

Plan gifts in advance

We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

Suggest a better way

If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

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2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

Here’s what you can do:

Set a healthier pattern

For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

Get a fitness watch

Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Find a physical activity that you enjoy

Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

Try intermittent fasting

This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

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These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

Leave bigger intervals between meetings

If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

Plan time to relax

As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

Try to be a little pessimistic

We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

Try waking up earlier

Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

Plan your day the day before

Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

Binge-watching TV series

Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

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Running on coffee

Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[2]

As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

Procrastination

Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

5. Stop over-consuming

We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
  • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
  • Can I rent it?
  • Can I make it myself?
  • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

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But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.[3]

Set your phone on flight mode

When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

The Bottom Line

As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

But this year, promise yourself this:

Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com

Reference

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