Productivity against Creativity?
“I try to stay focused on my creativity.” ~ Christina Aguilera
For some reason I do not quite understand, it seems that creative people are not very fond to seek greater productivity through better personal organization. There is the idea that, to be creative, one must not be subject to any rule or system that can stifle the freedom that creativity requires. You must unleash your imagination, intuition and intellectual curiosity.
This is probably because creativity comes from what is called divergent thinking (the one that generate ideas), while the to-do lists are the result of our convergent thinking (the one that analyzes and organizes our ideas to get the best outcome). The two types of thinking are important and complementary and, ideally, you should be able to switch between both of them when it is advisable.
Creativity at work is to contribute new ideas or concepts that create value, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity, today, is not limited to designers, architects, artists or scientists. We all have a job where quite a bit of creativity is needed. And if you do not have that kind of job, bad business. Jobs that do not require creativity are disappearing, either automated or outsourced to countries where labor is much cheaper.
So are creativity and productivity mutually exclusive?
Let’s see. There are several theories about the creative process, but one of the most accepted is that of Graham Wallas. After setting the parameters and constraints of the problem, you go through five stages:
- Preparation. You try to submerge and absorb all the information as possible to understand the problem, explore associations and prepare your brain for a possible answer.
- Incubation. You internalize the problem and give yourself time and space for ideas to flow.
- Intimation. You play with all the ideas that emerge. You make schemes, draw sketches, create prototypes, etc. Here you begin to feel that the solution is close.
- Illumination. Finally, the creative idea jumps into consciousness.
- Verification. The idea is being consciously verified, developed and applied.
Although the creative idea may appear at any time, to invent, your mind must be prepared beforehand, consciously or unconsciously. This is a thorough work that can be done better with a good organization: Search process, research, brainstorming, associating ideas, finding analogies, etc.
The verification of the idea involves getting things done, which means a high level of effort that requires planning, consistency and control.
Therefore, both at the beginning and at the end of the the creative process, you need some planning and organization. These are times when you have to switch to convergent thinking and establish clearly the path to take.
Personal productivity methods are tools that help you focus on what really matters, not a lock to your creativity. On the contrary, if you know on what you must focus at any time, it will be more difficult for your brain to get distracted by nonsense when it comes the time to be creative. It will also be much easier for you to get in the zone and flow.
Also, being creative does not mean you do not have to do mundane, repetitive tasks. Tasks that can generate crises and kill your creativity if you do not define and plan them properly. Automating repetitive tasks and having a task management system you trust, not only will let you have more time avaliable, but also your mind will have more room for creative thinking.
I consider myself pretty creative. Most of my work is to find simple solutions to complex problems. Sometimes a happy idea comes to me while I am taking a walk by the beach listening to music on my iPod, and sometimes I suddenly wake up at midnight with an idea to solve a problem I could not find when I was awake. But most of the time, great ideas come to me when I am working, as a result of my scheduled actions and a detailed investigation of the problem. As a result of my personal organization.
What do you think? “Creativity or Productivity” or "Creativity and Productivity?
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