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10 Productivity Hacks for Creative People

10 Productivity Hacks for Creative People
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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 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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