Productivity is a powerful metric in today's workplaces. It's also something we incessantly strive for. There are myriad articles, tools, and even startups designed to help us optimize every moment of our working, and waking, day. But productivity isn't the only marker of a day well spent. In fact, sometimes being overly productive can lead to major gaps in how you think and work. The most commonly identified gap? Creativity and everything related to it.
There's More to Life (and Work) than Hustle
We all want to be seen as being productive. Productivity is associated with being diligent, professional, and having a consistent, high-quality output. According to the cult of productivity, the more you can pack into a day, the better. However, scheduling every moment of the day with meetings and tasks leaves little room for some of the other elements that are essential for workplace success. These include creativity, collaboration, and seeing the bigger picture, the only things our future AI overlords will never be able to replicate.
Allowing space in the day for your brain to "breathe" is vital if you want to remain on top of your game. Creative epiphanies are most likely to happen in moments of downtime (such as Aaron Sorkin's 6 daily showers), not after you've spent twelve straight hours chained to your desk. Similarly, chatting with colleagues, reading something interesting, or simply taking a step back to consider how your work ties into an overarching brand vision can be invaluable, even if you can't measure its immediate ROI on the documents provided by HR.
Creating the Conditions for Creativity
Humans are innately creative. But our days are typically set up in ways that favor our methodical, analytical left brain while leaving little room for our creative right brain to thrive. Here's how to foster creativity within your workday.
Schedule downtime. Just as you pencil in time for a run or for daily chores, set aside time to do nothing. Use this time to take a walk, kick back at your desk, or just stare out the window. If moments of downtime present themselves during the day, relish them instead of turning them into opportunities to "do more."
Go with the flow. If a brainwave strikes or you're in the creative zone, go with the flow. Meetings can be rescheduled or to-do list items postponed if needed. Methodical tasks can be picked up again later, whereas creativity can be harder to hit the resume button on.
Read, draw, and daydream. Tech luminary Steve Jobs famously said that creativity is just connecting things. You can foster these connections by reading widely, exploring art and design, and trying your hand at your own creative projects. These can be as simple as doodling in a journal or writing down quotes from a book or article. Over time, you'll have a huge pool of creative "dots" to connect and turn into something invaluable.
Collaborate with other creatives. Creativity can, but doesn't usually, happen in a vacuum. Ensure that you're taking time to meet, chat, and brainstorm with others in your office or field. They'll become a sounding board to help you flesh out ideas, offer new perspectives, or potentially become partners in a grand new innovation.
Take a step back. Success famously breeds overwork. It seems contradictory, but the more you're able to get done, the more you'll end up with to do. This can result in a crippling workload that results in burnout - and certainly does no wonders for your creativity. Say "no" when possible, avoid multitasking, and step away from the incessant dings and notifications of the workplace. You'll spend far less time juggling admin and much more time channeling valuable creativity into things that matter.
Creativity Means Better Productivity
Being productive doesn't have to mean doing away with creativity, and vice versa. Giving your creative side room to explore and ideate can work wonders for your productivity while being meaningfully productive can free up time for creativity.
It may seem scary at first, but try doing away with those rigid schedules, metrics, and expectations, and see what happens. Contrary to what all the "lifehack" articles say, optimizing your time doesn't mean squeezing every last drop of productivity from your daily calendar. It's about getting more from your day - and better personal and professional outcomes as a result.