Creativity & Productivity- Is it possible to balance both?
What is creativity?
Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing.
If you are lucky enough to be described as creative, this means you have the ability to see hidden patterns, make connections between things that aren’t normally related and regularly come up with new ideas to implement.
Business owners and managers worldwide are always looking for creative individuals to join their company, no matter what industry they may be a part of. Implementing creativity within your business and having creative employees gives your business that competitive edge. As a result of this, companies are actively fostering creative thinking, to enable them to outperform their rivals in revenue growth and other key areas.
Let’s start with looking at some creativity methods…
1. Flex your creativity muscle every day
In order to foster creativity, treat it like a muscle – one that needs to be regularly worked out. Just as though you were going to the gym, set yourself an hour every day to be creative. This could be anything from writing, drawing, watching a tutorial or listening to a podcast. Make sure you use this time to be creative, perhaps step away from your desk and open your mind to new areas of possibilities.
2.Discover your time of day
New research has shown that UK employees feel at their most creative in the morning, with exactly 11:05am being the peak time for productivity.
Whenever your ‘time of day is’ make sure you make the most of it, listen to some music that keeps you in a productive mood, grab a coffee before you start and start cranking out your best ideas. There is a whole science to it and you need to be increasingly selective and disciplined about where and when your focus is invested each day.
3. Recognise when ” circuit breakers” impede your energy.
When you are in a creative mode, “circuit breakers” can creep up and divert your thinking. These circuit breakers may be defined as doubt, conflict, fear, stress and clutter. A number of these circuit breakers may occur if you feel like you are working under pressure or to a tight deadline. One practical way to remain focused is to build a distraction-free environment.
For example if you want to focus on your writing, turn off your phone and tidy your desk before you sit down. You could also strategically place material by writers you admire the most on your desk and pin inspirational quotes up where you’ll see them if that helps you to remain focused. If you stop giving yourself the chance to get distracted, the less likely circuit breakers will affect your creative activities.
Additionally, you could build in your distractions as a reward then you are taking breaks off your own terms. By taking control and deciding after half an hour’s work, you’ll spend 15 minutes making a coffee and listening to a podcast you stop yourself from becoming unwittingly distracted during your creative time.
Six thinking hats technique
This popular technique was developed by Edward de Bono in the early 80s; it is now used in many businesses all over the world. The technique involves putting on a selection of metaphorical hats when it comes to making a decision; each hat represents a different direction of thinking. This allows you and your team members to learn how to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each different thinking role is identified with a coloured symbolic hat. By mentally wearing and switching your hats around, you can focus, redirect thoughts, the conversation or take control of a meeting agenda.
The advantages of using this technique is that your whole team can be focusing on the same thing at the same time, which we understand in a creative agency can be a rare moment. Therefore, you can have a variation of ways to approach the situation from every individual in the team.
- White Hat– Facts
- Red Hat – Emotions
- Black Hat – Judgement, Caution
- Yellow Hat – Logic
- Green Hat – Creativity
- Blue Hat – Control
What is productivity?
Another main trait employers search for in their staff is productivity, which is defined as the efficient use of resources, labour, capital, land and information in the production of various goods and services. Higher productivity means accomplishing more with the same amount of resources and time. Therefore, productivity benefits are obvious and widely felt when implemented in any business environment. An increase in productivity can result in an increase in profitability, optimising resources, seizing opportunities for growth, improving engagement and morale, enhancing employee well-being.
So, now we have covered a few creative hacks and methods we thought it would only be fair to discuss a few productivity methods.
Firstly, Kaizen translates roughly to “good change” and it is a Japanese productivity philosophy that helps you organise everything you do to be more productive. In short, it means “constant, continuous improvement” and is a mindset you can apply anywhere in any job.
The Kaizen technique can be broken down into six steps:
- Standardise – Come up with a process for a specific activity that’s repeatable and organised.
- Measure – Examine whether the process is efficient using quantifiable data, like time to complete, hours spent on the work, etc.
- Compare – Now it is time to compare this new method, does this process save time? Or is it the opposite, does it take too much time?
- Innovate – It is always important to search for new, better ways to do your daily task. Look for smarter, more efficient routes to the same end goal but make sure they boost productivity.
- Standardise – Create repeatable, defined processes for those new methods you have created making sure they are more efficient activities which links to being more productive.
- Repeat – Go back to step one and start the process again.
The Kaizen technique is largely associated with the Toyota Production System, as they use the Kaizen technique as one of their main business principles. Any worker on a Toyota assembly line could stop the line at any time to address a problem in production, correct an error, or suggest to management a better way to do things which could reduce waste or improve productivity.
How to implement the Kaizen technique in your workplace
Kaizen is easy to implement as it is a mental philosophy more than an actual structure methodology. Therefore, there are no tools to buy, resources to spend on or apps to download – it simply just means changing your teams approach to their work.
Advantages of using Kaizen
Worthy targets – Kaizen recognises and rewards the efforts of employees, by so doing it gives them a sense of worth in the organisation. This means it is not only beneficial to the business but also beneficial to self-development and the organisation as a whole.
Improves teamwork – The Kaizen method is driven by teamwork, it does not benefit only a selected few, but everyone involved in the business process. Employees are able to work together with a fresh perspective. Furthermore, teamwork can help build cross-functional collaborations, combining employees across different departments combining their skills and helping to improve the efficiency of the company.
Builds leadership skills – Every Kaizen team must have a team leader, responsible for organising and coordinating implementation. This does not mean that this person has to be in a management role to qualify as a team leader. It gives the employee the chance to present an opportunity for employees to take on leadership roles.
Improves efficiency – The major Kaizen advantage is that it improves efficiency, for example Toyota Motoring Company employs Kaizen in its production process, they deploy muscle-memory training to train their employees on how to assemble a car.
Waste reduction – Kaizen reduces waste in the business process. Management and staff are responsible by implementing constant changes; the business can determine the root cause of wastage and help fix the problem. This method of continuous improvement applied in Kaizen helps businesses to achieve great success and easily recognise areas of improvement.
Disadvantages of using Kaizen
As soon as Kaizen is implemented in an organisation, it becomes very difficult to return to old management systems. It can be a very difficult task to change the entire management system of a business and get everybody on board with this new form of management. Employees may feel like because they are given a management role and can make decisions within the Kaizen approach, that they deserve a promotion or an official management title.
Training requirement – A disadvantage of implementing the Kaizen method is the time that is needed to be spent on training the workforce. As a result employees will need to take time out from work to undergo this training. More so, the time allocated for training may not be sufficient for employees to grasp the entire concept of Kaizen. As such, employees may not be willing or may struggle to understand this new productivity concept.
Few bad eggs could ruin the whole batch – even if some departments stick to the changes that have been implemented, if one employee or a whole department doesn’t agree with the new way of doing things, the whole output could be ruined.
Getting things done (GTD method)
GTD is a method for organising your to-dos, priorities and your schedule in a way that makes them all manageable. One of GTD’s biggest benefits is that it makes it easy to see what you have on your plate and choose what to work on next. It also has a strong emphasis on getting your to-dos out of your head and into a system you can refer to. This clears your mind of any mental distractions that will keep you from working efficiently.
GTD stands on five pillars or steps to getting and staying organised:
1. Capture everything.
Your to-dos, your ideas, your recurring tasks, everything. Put it in a pen-and-paper notebook, a to-do app, a planner, whatever you prefer to use to get organised. GTD doesn’t say to use a specific tool, but whatever you use has to fit into your normal flow. The barrier to using it should be so low that there’s never a reason for you to say “I’ll add it to my list later”. You want to capture everything as soon as it happens so you don’t have to think about it again until it’s time to do it.
2. Clarify the things you have to do.
Don’t just write down ‘Plan vacation’, break it down into actionable steps so there’s no barrier to just doing the task. If there’s anything you can do right away and have time to do, get it done. If there’s anything you can delegate, delegate it. 3.
3. Organise those actionable items by category and priority.
Assign due dates where you can, and set reminders so you follow up on them. Pay special attention to each item’s priority, as well. You’re not actually doing any of the items on your list right now, you’re just making sure they’re in the right buckets for later, and your reminders are set. In short, this is quality time with your to-do list, inbox, and calendar.
4. Reflect on your to-do list.
First, look over your to-dos to see what your next action should be. This is where the clarifying step pays off; because you should be able to pick something you have the time and the energy to do right away. If you see something that’s so vague that you know you won’t be able to just pick up and run with it, break it down. Second, give your to-do list an in-depth review periodically to see where you’re making progress, where you need to adjust your priorities, and determine how the system is working for you.
5. Engage and get to work.
Choose your next action and get to it. Your system is, as this point, set up to make figuring that out easy. Your to-dos are organised by priority and placed in categories. You know what to work on, and when. They’re broken into manageable, bite-sized chunks that are easy to start. It’s time to get to work.
Reduces stress – GTD is different from a method that tells you how to organise and manage your tasks, its fundamental principles aim to help you face your personal and daily challenges in a calm way. Capturing and clarifying what you have to do and removing uncertainty knowing that everything is under control.
Meaning – GTD makes you question what you do and allows you to define what is important and what is not. You must do what allows you to fulfil your areas of responsibility and make you move towards achieving your goals.
Time – The GTD method is designed to help you save time and complete the tasks that are the most important to complete, overall freeing up time for your personal life. GTD does not distinguish one between the other; it eliminates distraction, frees you from anxiety of trying to achieve and helps you maintain the balance between work and personal life.
Creativity – When you free your mind from all worries, you can think more about other things, create new projects, imagine, come up with new things and you have room to be much more creative within your day to day tasks.
The GTD method requires a lot of mental discipline to follow the principle rigorously as it was designed to organise to-do lists and schedules, it didn’t factor into the method of emails, internal distractions or control a loss over your time.
Too late – Unlearning old habits and learning new ones is hard for all of us, the GTD method tries to change a lot of habits in a workplace all at once; the results from this can be predictably disappointing.
It is not an instant, one-size-fits-all solution –There is no magic solution everyone should use, you must craft a combination of habits and methods which work across a diverse range of employee skill sets. At the end of the day, everybody works differently, is motivated by different factors and works towards different goals.
The Pomodoro technique can help you power through distractions, hyper-focus, and get things done in short bursts, while taking frequent breaks to come up for air and relax. Best of all, it’s easy. If you have a busy job where you’re expected to produce a lot of creative content, it’s a great way to get through your tasks. Let’s break it down and see how you can apply it to your work.
The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the early 90s by developer, entrepreneur, and author Francesco Cirillo. He named the system “Pomodoro” after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student. The methodology is simple: when faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This way of working trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines and be more productive. The regular breaks can also help to boost your motivation and keep you in a creative mindset.
So how does it work?
- Choose a task to be accomplished.
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- Every four Pomodoros take a longer break
However, we completely understand that sometime it is hard to sit for 25 minutes without any distraction in any office environment. Therefore, if you’re distracted halfway through by a co-worker, customer, phone call or meeting you should either end the Pomodoro there, or postpone the distraction until the Pomodoro is complete.
- Inform the other (distracting) party that you’re working on something right now.
- Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner.
- Schedule that follow-up immediately.
- Call back the other party when your Pomodoro is complete and you’re ready to tackle their issue.
This particular productivity technique is often recommended by developers, designers and other people who work within the creative industry. Essentially, people who have to turn out regular packages of creative work that has to be reviewed by others can benefit from the breaks this technique offers.
Manages distraction and controls your time – Pomodoro empowers you to take control of your own time; however we understand that some internal distractions cannot be put off. Therefore writing them down and pushing those through to the end of your Pomodoro can help you be more productive than stopping the task in hand.
Increases accountability – At the end of each Pomodoro takes a minute to write down everything you have accomplished. By keeping a record of your work this will allow you to give a good impression and productivity report to your managers and further motivate yourself by being able to see everything you have achieved within a short time?
Decrease mental fatigue – This technique requires you to take regular breaks, walk around the office, grab a snack, and fill up your water bottle. It’s time to stretch your legs allowing your mind to wander for a few minutes and reduce workday burnout. As a result when you feel mentally good you can get more done.
Maintain motivation – As you approach the end of a Pomodoro and your work is almost done, it becomes an exciting race against the clock to finish before you run out of time. The excitement motivates you to work faster even when you would normally start slowing down. These short bursts of motivation add up over time and will increase the amount of work you get done.
Disadvantages of Pomodoro
Working against the clock can cause stress – Working against the clock and having a short deadline can sometimes hinder ones productivity. Furthermore, instead of preventing interruptions it may become the distraction itself, as you may become curious as to how long is left on the time. For example, some people just prefer to sit and crack on with work for a good few hours, which means they don’t understand the point in stopping for a break as they think it just makes the task in hand longer. The Pomodoro technique can lead to the individual just focusing on the upcoming break instead of the task in hand, as they want to prepare for when it will occur.
Constant breaks are not always practical – Within particular industries it is very important to remain at your desk during set periods of times. For example, anyone who works in a call centre or needs to communicate with customers will not be able to leave their desk every 25 minutes. The timer may also be a loud distraction for other employees and even customers on the phone. Additionally, some management employees may not see the benefit of the short breaks and this may cause some frustration within the office environment.
Some believe creativity and productivity work against each other.
Creativity and productivity are often seen as opposing forces battling for your time. But working longer and harder isn’t the only way to be productive. Rumours suggest that creative individuals sometimes lack productivity skills. This comment has been made as it is said that a productive routine may hinder the freedom of a creative mindset.
There is a fundamental tension between the two and some managers believe that you either have a creative mindset or a more systematic, productive mindset. Productive people move through the tasks they have to accomplish in a systematic way, which means they make steady and measurable progress toward their goals. Apparently, creative people don’t; creativity needs time and space to grow. Although we can systematically engage in activities that are related to creativity, it is hard to monitor creativity itself.
What we believe
Creativity does not hinder productivity; it drives it.Media Village
If the challenges you deal with every day involve creative work like design, marketing or writing; consciously separating and making time to participate in both creative and productive tasks can maximise your brainpower and fuel both. If you take a look at your schedule and most days you are “getting things done”, ticking that to-do list off and clearing your desk then you may feel at the end of the day that you have accomplished something; however you should schedule some time to be creative too.
So, whether you are a solely creative individual that could benefit from being more productive, or vice versa, there are a variety of hacks, theories and methods which have been implemented by many businesses and individuals over the years as we’ve discussed earlier.
So, how do you balance both creativity and productivity?
Plan your creative sessions – Since creativity demands free thinking and is harder to force into a specific time slot, try to plan your productive work around your creative sessions. In this way, you can give free reign to your creative self without letting it affect the rest of your work schedule.
For example, you can start your creative sessions at the end of the work day, when you know you can spend a bit more time if needed. Also, 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.
Read – In line with the previous advice; absorb as much information as you can by reading industry news, books and magazines. Even the most creative geniuses find their inspiration from others. Make sure that you have enough raw creative material in you to allow your creative juices to flow.
Break down your projects into steps – Every project can be broken down into smaller steps. Each of these steps, in turn, can be categorised as requiring a greater amount of creativity or productivity. Just because a project requires creativity doesn’t mean that its entire execution will require you to constantly churn out original ideas.
Knowing which steps requires you’re most creative or, alternatively, productive self will help you organise your time better and plan according to the required mindset. For example, if you’ve 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.
To conclude in order to balance both creativity and productivity, we feel that it is important to remember to ‘switch gears’ from time to time. Therefore, allowing yourself some time to factor in creativity and productivity activities daily can help you feel more accomplished.
It is possible to be both creative and productive at the same time, being a `productive designer’ is a thing. It is important to remember although you are ticking off your to do list and feeling major productive, always remember to make room for creative activities no matter how ‘small’ you may perceive them to be. Even just sitting and reading a book or watching a design tutorial on YouTube can help you switch gears smoothly and overall be more productive.