Productivity has taken on a negative connotation recently as it is often mistaken for “being busy all the time” or “working 24/7.” When you look up the definition of the word “productive,” you find something along the lines of “achieving or producing a significant amount of results”. I would like to draw your attention to this definition and more specifically to the word “producing.” My favorite comedian/modern day philosopher of all time, George Carlin, once said that
“We think in language. The quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language.”
What I’ve come to realize is that by replacing the term “producing” with its synonym “creating” I finally uncovered the secret to unlimited productivity. If you also want to be productive all the time, make creativity the theme and the end goal of every single day. You are then creating a strong body when you exercise, you are creating a delicious meal when you are cooking, and you are creating a study guide when you are preparing for your exams. You know what that makes you? An artist, THE artist of your life.
With that in mind, here are 5 ways to increase your creativity and make every day your masterpiece.
1. Decision Fatigue
It was found that the average adult makes around 35 000 remotely conscious decisions each day. Think about it, how many questions go through your mind before you sit down to study?
What chapter was I at again?
How many pages do I have left to read?
Where did I download that guide?
Making decisions, no matter how small, requires a lot of mental energy. It’s like working out before working out, you WILL get hurt. By not taking preventative action, you overwhelm your brain, making it too tired to focus on the work that actually matters. And what happens when your brain becomes tired and stressed out? Our good old friend procrastination takes the lead to try and relieve some of that pressure by putting things off to another time.
To reduce the amount of choices your mind has to make, you need to create flow/momentum by scheduling similar tasks together to limit task switching or friction between activities. I would also encourage you to develop a study schedule or as I like to call it a GPS. That plan then becomes your roadmap, a visual representation of all your decisions laid out in front of you. All you have to do, is follow along.
2. What Gets Measured, Gets Managed
Creating a Tracker
Another way to promote flow is to create a tracker, which is a more detailed version of a plan. One of the most common productivity killers is that feeling of running in place. When you’ve been studying for days yet that pile of textbooks didn’t seem to shrink one bit. In fact, it appears larger than before! By breaking down your high level study plan into actionable, manageable tasks; you obtain a symbolic representation of progress and movement.
I’m not making this up, science has shown that goal tracking increases your chances of success: “monitoring goal progress is an effective self-regulation strategy, and that interventions that increase the frequency of progress monitoring are likely to promote behavior change.”
3. Making the Intangible, Tangible
Creating a Thing
Another demotivating aspect of being productive, in addition to not tracking your progress, is proof of completion. Some students use to-do lists as a way of seeing that the work has been done, but this method doesn’t work for everyone. A trick I have been using for the past 3 years is the thing strategy. Every time I have to accomplish something, I say to myself
“What do you have as proof? This thing!”
And I point at my empty desk. The end goal of every activity on my to-do list is to create something tangible that I can point at once I am finished. For example, if I read chapter 5, then my thing would be the two pages of chapter notes I took while reading.
4. Wasting Time
When it comes to wasting time, we often feel guilty about it. We think that playing video games or binge watching an anime series makes us lazy; when it couldn’t be further from the truth. As a creator, it is extremely important to schedule inspiration now and again to get our creative juices flowing. Even something as “unproductive” as daydreaming or deliberate mind wandering does miracles for our creativity, because we allow out thoughts to flow freely without judgement or harsh boundaries. Researchers found that “an increased individual tendency to mind wander was positively related to solving creative problems with a sudden insight (“aha”) experience.” And so, I encourage you to allow yourself to get inspired, to let your brain and body rest because inspiration can come from anywhere. If a show, a game, a sport or a hobby inspires you; if it sparks new ideas and different ways of thinking then by all means – go for it!
5. The Active Minute Habit
Looking back at the definition of productivity, “achieving or producing a significant amount of results,” one can’t help but notice that it implies action. The way I see it, being productive/creative means that you live an active life; that you want to do something, make something, and keep things moving. Even when relaxing or taking some time off you are not inert – you are forever growing and evolving.
Adopting this mindset, this lifestyle and truly embracing change will make you a productive person. Looking at every small task or at every minute as an opportunity to create and act is what leads to a productive and fulfilled life. Remember, it’s those simple daily disciplines that are repeated consistently over time that truly make the difference between failure and success.