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Our World is optimized for productivity. Our alarms make sure we get to our appointments on time, our calendars help us organize our days, the GPS on our phones make sure we take the fastest route, and Spotify plays similar music so that I do not have to search for the next song. Productivity serves its purpose for business when trying to understand profits and losses. How can it help or hinder our ability to create? In this post, I will explore productivity as well as balancing procrastination as tools and traps for creative people.

Productivity boss and procrastination roommate

There is no problem with completing work. We operate under the conditions of limited time and work hours. We blame time for why we cannot work on that long overdue creative project. It is really how we view our time and the benefits of productivity and procrastination. Two opposing thoughts. The productivity boss and the procrastination roommate. Both can help you. Neither is your friend. When relying too much on one, you can wreak havoc on your creative energy. If you tap into the benefits of both at the right times, you can grow in the right places.

Feeding the productivity boss

The productivity boss is demanding. He is always looking for more efficiency in your work. If you completed a project in one month, he will ask you how you can do it in half the time. If you truly work to improve your efficiency, then you will learn how to accomplish the same work with the same quality in less time. The productivity boss will then want to cram in more work. Checking off items from a list fits into the needs of the productivity boss.

Balancing procrastination with taming the productivity boss

Balancing procrastination with taming the productivity boss

It does very little for solving more complex problems.

Balancing procrastination in a productivity dominant culture

We demonize procrastination. Yet, we (secretly) embrace it with our lives outside of work. We put off exercise, calling family, cleaning the house, and talking to a financial advisor. We also have a dusty notebook with our great idea. The project that will define our lives and change the World if we can only find the time to do it.

Procrastination as a creative tool

Procrastination exists for a reason. We do not jump completely into our passion projects because we still have to be responsible for our bills, family, and jobs. We can embrace that urge to not focus completely on a creative project. Spend more time thinking about the project you want to do.

Multitasking to think
When I am stuck on an idea, I use the opportunity to take a 10 to 15-minute break to go for a walk. If I am working from home, I use the time to walk the dog or throw in a load of laundry. These are simple tasks that I can do without clogging my brain. I can then let my brain explore the real problem that requires my creative abilities.

Rapid list making
Lists help put order to chaos. Creatives have the urge to make something amazing, but we often get overwhelmed with where to start. Just get those thoughts out on paper. Do not think about order or reason. The first list is to clear your thinking. The second list is to help you organize it into groups that make sense.

Here’s a great article from musician, Rohit Sharma, on how to use procrastination to boost creativity.

Balancing procrastination by using it as a tool for creativity

Balancing procrastination by using it as a tool for creativity

Hacks for leveraging both procrastination and productivity

Time stealing
I took care of the simple tasks in between meetings. An easy concept is to think about what can you do in 10 minutes. I work on a large team in an open office. So, anything over 10 minutes requires more work to protect.

You can use this for even outlining a creative project. For this post, I outlined it and refined it during the 10 minutes I had before lunch. Everyone was focusing on where to eat, I took the time to jot down these notes.

Time blocking
Anything that needs more time like writing out this post or illustrating the images for it, I blocked out time in the beginning and end of the day. Every morning at 4 AM, my time is not in high demand. So, I can focus on writing and drawing more complex ideas.

Want more tips on getting more creativity in your day? Check out Sam Bennett’s book, “Get it Done.”

Interested to learn more about creativity? Read more about the mind of the creative introvert.

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Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.