As a kid, I was lucky enough to grow up in a beautiful environment that encouraged all kinds of artistic expression. I interacted with amazing people who gladly opened the door to the world of art and imagination to me. I was this one kid who would secretly read “Harry Potter” under the sheets past my bedtime or while going back home from the bus station, even when it was raining outside… As a total bookworm reading novels whenever I could, I came to understand the power of words and the nuances or intricacies of the human psyche.
I’d learn different ways of perceiving reality through acting classes which made me see the importance of empathy and vulnerability. Almost every single day, after lessons, I would hang out at the art studio in my school, and my incredible teacher would explain to me how to use clay and a potter’s wheel. At home, my father would share his love for music with me. I received piano lessons for many years. I’d spend hours illustrating my emotions with a touching melody, channelling them through the note sheet and into the outside world.
Throughout all these years of training my creativity muscle, I wasn’t really stressing out about school too much. I was able to memorise learning material fast. I’d come up with captivating ideas to write about without traction. I discovered a passion for interpreting paintings. I loved to focus on the mathematic equations and connect the dots in a surprising, non-obvious way.
All of that, in turn, sharpened my hunger to learn more, deepen my knowledge, and try different hobbies. I felt the expansion of my skill set, mainly consistency, self-discipline, ability to work hard and maintain profound focus. Only years after, I came to understand that phenomenon. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
There’s a global cult of productivity, and most of us (consciously or not) belong to it.
We engage in the never-ending work, looking for tips to do it all better, faster, longer primarily for the sake of… hustle itself! So we go from one day to another fixated on the idea of being productive, following our to-do lists, ticking off the boxes and finishing as many tasks as possible.
If you’re not careful, you can fall into the rabbit hole of losing touch with the real world, constantly working your booty off, optimising, upgrading and maximising everything.
The modern understanding of productivity is a bit twisted, though. Its biggest misconception is a limiting belief that being productive and being busy is the same thing.
That, in turn, leads to people putting busyness on a pedestal. We give in to the social pressure to always work, never “waste” a moment on resting or savouring life. Without realising it, we delight in saying: “I’m soooo busy“, wearing it proudly like a badge of honour.
The sad fact is that in order to feel good about ourselves, we need to stay busy. We cannot rest. We fill our time with all kinds of distractions, little tasks to tick off from our to-do lists, putting out content, bringing results and working like a machine. That’s just crazy, at least in my opinion.
Then we have creativity – something that most people refer to as the other side of the spectrum. There are just so many misconceptions about this topic that I barely know where to begin.
On the most basic level, it looks like we’ve discarded everything that does not bring tangible results and labelled it as a waste of time. Therefore, we got rid of creativity, pushing it to the bottom of our interests, denouncing it as irrelevant.
The most prominent preconceived notion about creativity views it as a completely unpredictable ‘Eureka effect’, a totally spontaneous flash of genius, a brief insight, a fleeting moment simply impossible to control.
Further limiting beliefs claim that creativity is a rare genetically inherited ability, exclusively belonging to a small amount of highly gifted or artistic individuals.
So, as usual, humans did not dig deeper, jumped to conclusions, and officially decided that the beloved productivity and useless creativity do not go together. After all, we can use productivity as a reliable and constant tool for making steady progress on a daily basis. On the other hand, when a wave of creative energy washes over us, we feel inclined to drop everything we were doing and focus on the new idea instead. It’s highly unpredictable, uneven, and disruptive to our workflow… right?
Yet, what if I told you that there’s nothing further from the truth?
Debunking the myths about creativity and productivity does not necessarily make these topics clearer. After taking a closer look, I’m here to share my research and dispel any uncertainties you might have.
While the mainstream understanding of productivity is equivalent to drowning in the sea of busyness, sleepless nights, and driving yourself to the verge of mental breakdown or burnout, I beg to differ. At Dwen-Day, we sincerely believe that it’s time to part our ways with this detrimental lifestyle. We invite you to join passion and productivity in a sustainable, meaningful way while prioritising self-care at the same time. Grab a drink or a snack and check out our article “Productivity in a Busy world” on the subject here.
According to Teresa Amabile, a psychologist and a professor at Harvard Business School, creativity can occur to all of us, under special circumstances.
This component means having the resource of knowledge, specific skills, and a pinch of talent in a particular domain that we focus our work on. Being equipped with theory relevant to our area of expertise and using it in practice prepares the ground for creative energy to take over.
The next thing might come across as a shocker…
A common misconception states that creativity occurs only out of the blue, when we’re in the shower or when we lay in bed wide awake at night. While I’m sure this situation has happened to many of us, creative ideas can also be generated systematically!
That’s because creativity loves structure. That’s because it works great with systems and a well-defined, clear methodology. Establishing a specific procedure to follow when solving a problem oils the wheels of our creativity. It supports a smooth and seamless cognitive process.
This, my friends, is crucial! When analysing Amabile’s componential theory, Bob Morris explains:
“Both expertise and creative methodology can be taught,
but their presence is irrelevant without the motivation to work“.
It boils down to your willingness to engage fully in a given task, project or challenge.
Creativity sparks the fire of passion, simultaneously investing us emotionally in whatever passion projects we’re working on. And it is our passion that constantly delivers an infinite pool of motivation. It is our willingness to push forward, to work harder, to step out of our comfort zone, try different solutions, fail at them, yet try again and keep moving forward that changes everything.
That is actually a perfect segway to the quintessence, to the cherry on top of today’s post!
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.– Pablo Picasso
Do I still have your attention?
Great! Because the best part is coming… a practical application of creativity into your workflow!
Often we might feel stuck with our work because of the limit we’ve imposed on ourselves. Schedule some time for a review of your SOPs (Standard Operation Procedures). See if there’s any room for improvement. Feel free to experiment a little with specific rules.
How would you work without some of the restrictions?
Is there a different system that you could introduce in your professional or personal life?
Try removing the stagnant energy by breaking out of your routine once in a while. See what happens, draw conclusions and act accordingly.
Think about those moments of genius you’ve experienced in the shower or laying in bed… We are not used to spending time in a peaceful, mindful manner. We fill our days with activities. The world is obsessed with the idea of being busy, always on the go. Don’t follow it blindly.
Choose to go upstream and engage in the intentional moments of stillness.
In his article for Entrepreneur, Tony Lopresti suggests dedicating 2 to 3 hours each week for the sole purpose of removing any distractions and creating an environment that fosters undivided attention and deep focus.
Give your brain a breather, an opportunity to slow down. The gift of freedom and space is the greatest luxury you can offer yourself. And so it happens that it significantly fosters creativity!
Maybe you already tried working with no distractions. I, for one, remember my first attempts to study at home, without any music, rather than going to a coffee shop. I would sit in silence and get this overwhelming feeling of deep discomfort. Random thoughts would barge in and totally shatter my focus and willpower.
Well, today, it does not really come as a surprise to me. After all, we don’t really expect ourselves to lift heavyweights on the first try or jump into a split when we’ve never stretched in our lives. The same goes for the ability to focus. Think of your attention as of a muscle. If you want to be good at dropping into deep focus, you need to train it, build resilience, get used to your strengths and weaknesses, and work with them.
Mindfulness is all about training our focus and maintaining awareness of the present moment without trying to change it. The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it will be for you to sit in silence, without forcing anything and letting your mind quiet down so that it makes space for creativity to occur.
If you’re feeling uninspired, if the reality of your 9-5 work is killing you slowly, don’t loose your hope just yet! We often think that the problem is located externally, that the matter is out of our control. We have so much to do, so much material to study, the deadlines constantly pile up… It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed.
If you’re struggling with mustering motivation to sit down at your desk and open your laptop, I’d like to share this final life hack that I’ve been testing out recently:
When approaching the end of the workday, we often rush through our last task just to close the loop and be able to cross it out of the to-do list. Try stopping your task in a non-obvious place instead. The next day, starting your work will feel so easy! Getting into the flow will mean just finishing up this one thing, and the rest of your responsibilities will follow after that. It will give you momentum to stay productive!
If there’s one thing I’d love you to take out of this post is that creativity leads to productivity.
So channel your inner creative genius that sleeps dormant in us all!
Believe in your abilities, skills and talent.
Set the daily intention of approaching your work and personal projects creatively.
And don’t forget to share your journey with our community group by clicking here.
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