Please note that I am not taking any coaching clients at this time. My course is also temporarily paused until further notice. Thank-you :)

Creativity versus Productivity: How to Achieve Both at the Same Time


Creativity versus Productivity: How to Achieve Both at the Same Time  


Guest Post by: Trishna Patnaik 


"Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye" - Dorothy Parker

The imminent question, is it possible to be both creative and productive at the same time? Whenever we happen to think of anyone creative, we imagine them to be carefree and artsy people who refuse to be constrained by time limits and rules. On the other hand, we all know or are ourselves the productive type who is obsessed with results and running an operation at a maximum efficiency. Although creativity and productivity are often seen as qualities on opposite ends of a spectrum, there are actually superb ways we can harness both to achieve our goals.

Think of it this way: You cannot really have one without the other. Creativity is what gives rise to the visionary and ingenious, it forms the disruptive concepts that can change the way people work, play and live.

On the other hand, productivity is what is needed to take up a high-level concept and bring it down towards reality, many times under the less-than-ideal circumstances; it is the daily grind that is needed to put an idea into motion and make it sustainable and upheld in the long run.

Let us look at some of the ways you can harness your creativity and productivity, which are both increasingly demanding in today's fast-paced yet innovative work environments.

1. Always look for creative opportunities

Please make a note: There are no limits as to where your next big idea will come from. Just because your workday is over does not mean your creative pursuit will stop there. You can look for inspiration in anything and everything, from a TV commercial to a conversation you have overheard on the subway.

Connecting ideas that first sight might seem unrelated and looking for inspiration in the unlikeliest of places will allow you to extend your creative pursuits beyond your limited office space and even work schedule.

2. Please be obsessed with what you do

Passion is very essential to a truly creative process. Without passion, your pursuit is doomed either to a handful of lacklustre ideas or a long, drawn-out process that never leads to that light-bulb moment you have looking for.

To cultivate passion, be sure to dive headfirst into your subject matter: Learn as much as you can from prominent thinkers in your field; go on to read the latest news and findings in your industry; find out as much as you can about what your clients or even superiors are looking for; and glean insight from your peers and colleagues you respect and admire.

Another way you can cultivate passion is to find importance and the ultimate value in what you do. 

3. Read as much as you can

In line with the previous advice, absorb as much information as you can by going on to read industry news, books and magazines. Bear in mind even the most creative geniuses find their inspiration from others. After all, every idea is really an amalgamation of an infinite number of influences, authorities and converging thoughts. So, make sure that you actually have enough raw creative material inside you to allow your creative juices to flow.

4. Collect things that inspire and stimulate you

After every reading session, do make a note of all the ideas and examples that can inspire you. You may either bookmark them or, if possible, print them out and collect them in a box to refer back to them later on. You can also save some personal items such as postcards, pictures and unique, strange objects you have collected throughout the years.

Eventually, you will have your very own inspiration box or file full of things that you love and adore, which will save you time in the long run. 

If you are in a creative rut? Just pull out your inspiration box or the file to get yourself in a highly creative mood.

5. Engage and interact with all kinds of people

To be your most creative self even under dire time constraints, make the most of your encounters and experiences with other people. Do not limit and bound yourself to the usual conversations with the same people. Creativity can only thrive and develop when you step out of your comfort zone, so do not hesitate to strike up and make a conversation with strangers.

For instance: Do ask a taxi driver what their job is like or ask a child what they envision the world to be like 20 years from now.

6. Quickly shift gears

Please make a complete note that one of the reasons we lose so much time during the creative process is that we are very reluctant to shift gears even after realizing we have hit a dead end. Part of the very reasoning behind this is that after investing and propagating so much time into a specific idea, the most productive course of action would be to stick with it until the end come what may.

The best way to foster both creativity and productivity is to abandon an idea as soon as you realize it is not working in your favour. This defines the ability to refrain from marrying yourself to a specific concept or an idea that will prove productive in the long run, as it will give you the hardcore agility and intellectual acuity you do need to develop only the very best solutions.

7. Do find your unique recipe

Please note: depending on whether your business or profession thrives on volume or scale on one end and uniqueness plus differentiation on the other, your recipe for creativity and productivity will call for different proportions for each of them.

For example, if you are a painter, then the balance will most certainly tilt more towards creativity. However, if you are a marketing director, then your recipe might call for a much greater dose of productivity.

Now, the same goes for each of the individual projects you work on. Some projects may require a greater amount of out-of-the-box thinking than others, depending on the various needs of those you are serving.

8. Break down your various projects into steps

It is possible to break down every project into smaller steps. Each of these steps can then be categorized as requiring a greater amount of creativity or productivity. Please note just because a project requires creativity does not mean that its entire execution will go on to require you to constantly churn out original ideas.

Knowing which steps require your most creative effort or, alternatively, knowing that the productive self will help you organize your time better and plan according to the required mindset. For example, if you have completed the initial creative process of developing a design and are ready for the iteration stage, then you can prepare the time and place to be your most productive self as well. 

9. Disrupt your routine

Creativity is totally sparked by new experiences and even environments, so it is healthy to take a break from your routine once in a while. This will not only help you break away from the mould of your daily thinking process, it will also provide you with a brand-new external input to help kickstart your creativity.

Just make sure that you do disrupt your routine with a specific purpose and task in mind. While it is good to take breaks, do be beware of unwanted distractions. These will happen to hurt both your creativity and productivity and can ultimately take you and wave you out completely of your desired mindset.

10. Plan around your creative sessions

As creativity demands free thinking and is harder to force itself into a specific time slot, do try to plan your productive work around your hardcore creative sessions. In this positioned way, you can give free reign to your creative self without letting it affect the rest of your work schedule come what may.

For example, you can go on to start your creative sessions at the end of the work day, when you know you can spend a bit more time, if needed. Also, do make sure not to schedule any high-priority work right after your creative sessions as you may not be in the right mindset to be your most productive self.

11. Do apply the right kind of thinking

Understand the difference between convergent and divergent thinking. The latter has to do with an expansive form of thinking that generates new ideas, while the former is related to sorting and analysing these ideas to achieve the best possible result.

It is by knowing the difference between the two that you can apply the right thinking to each situation, thereby maximizing creativity and productivity. For example, if you are browsing interesting articles online to come up with new ideas, then you are probably practicing divergent thinking. On the other hand, if you are making a to-do list or editing a document, then you are probably applying more convergent thinking.

So, instead of trying to do both at the same time, consciously separate both of these. Do put on your divergent-thinking cap when brainstorming new ideas, but take it off and go to put on your convergent- thinking cap when it comes to converting your very idea into concrete steps.

12. Do apply lateral thinking

Another type of thinking that can get your creativity flowing under any form of pressure is called lateral thinking. This involves solving problems through unorthodox methods. Instead of thinking about a problem by using conventional patterns, you can go on to "move sideways" to find different perspectives and points of entry.

There are a few simple things you can do to get unstuck when you want to get those inspirational juices flowing.  Here are three examples:

13. Please do create a state of psychological distance

 Just as you come up with great ideas when you are not trying to come up with one, you would be in a better position to solve your thorny problem when you learn to remove yourself from the very problem. Try thinking about it from someone else’s perspective, read about how people have tackled the similar issues, or just do switch tasks completely and work on an easier project.

14. Please do schedule your deep work during your most productive hours 

That way, when your mind starts to get tired and begins to wander, you can let it do so without feeling guilty that it is interrupting your flow. Do schedule your mindless task when you know your brain will be in a less-than-productive state, so you can let your ideas incubate while also checking things off your to-do list.

15. Please do something unfamiliar

Sometimes all you need is a jolt of novelty to go on to refresh yourself. It does not need to be a big intimidating thing.  It could in fact be talking to that about a co-worker you walk past every day but have never talked to evidently, or it could be just ordering a different meal for lunch. Routines are certainly great for maintaining habits, but you do need to switch it up a bit if you want to inspire and encourage creativity.

Please do remember that failure that arises in the pursuit of new ideas must be celebrated. This encourages and propagates innovative thinking, and it is through these innovations that new productivity heights are realized. 

The deal is about achieving more and not doing more. Too often, even the relentless focus on productivity is seen as a barrier towards creativity.

In fact, let us look at the creativity versus productivity connection this way:

  • 75% of people think they are not living up to their creative potential
  • 80% of employees feel increasingly pressured to be more productive rather than been more creative
However, spending time being creative does not mean getting less done. As the advances in technology make us more efficient, the focus is always shifting from doing more to achieving more. Successful people build a culture where all  ideas thrive. It is about creating a culture where we are encouraged to bring out our whole selves in what we do. It starts with empowering people with the right tools.

    "If you turn up worrying about how you are going to perform, you have already lost." -  Usain Bolt

    About the Author

    Trishna Patnaik is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one on one basis in Mumbai. She holds a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realised that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, "It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to everyday." Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India. 

    Photo by Sidnei Maia

    Leave a comment

    Name .
    Message .

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published