315 tips to improve Productivity & Creativity
This is an extremely useful list found through one of my friend Angela Kan’s Facebook note, would love to keep this as reference to check back from time to time, and of course sharing it to everyone who might also find it useful.
Great hacks from Merlin Mann of 43 Folders
- Talk to a monkey. Explain what you’re really trying to say to a stuffed animal.
- Do something important that’s very easy.
- Try free writing.
- Take a shower; change clothes. Give yourself a truly clean start.
- Write from a persona. Lend your voice to a writing personality who isn’t you.
- Get away from the computer. Take pen and notebook, and go somewhere new.
- Quit beating yourself up. You can’t create when you feel ass-whipped.
- Stop visualizing catastrophes, and focus on positive outcomes.
- Stretch. Maybe try vacuuming your lungs.
- Add one ritual behavior. Get a glass of water exactly every 20 minutes. Do push-ups. Eat a Tootsie Roll every paragraph. Add physical structure.
- Listen to new music. Try something instrumental and rhythmic that you’ve never heard before.
- Write crap.
- Finish something.
- Write the middle. Stop whining over a perfect lead, and write the next part or the part after that.
- Do one chore. Sweep the ﬂoor or take out the recycling. Try something lightly physical to remind you that you know how to do things.
- Make a pointless rule. You can’t end sentences with words that begin with a vowel. Limits create focus and change your perspective.
- Work on the title. Quickly make up ﬁve distinctly different titles. Meditate on them. What bugs you about the one you like least?
- Write ﬁve words. Literally. Put ﬁve completely random words on a piece of paper. Write ﬁve more. Try a sentence. Could be about anything. A block ends when you start making words on a page. Rejuvenating Tips from Joel at Lifehack
- Surround yourself with creative people.
- Develop a morning ritual.
- Do an info-dump so your head is clear enough to create instead of worry.
- If you’re a crime writer, read fantasy. If you’re a productivity writer, read something about slacking off.
- Imitate the real world.
- Drink too much coffee.
- Play chess. Go outside. Sing in the shower.
- Don’t be too precious about your work. If the doctor and the garbage man can do their jobs every day, then those in a creative line of work can too.
- Consume information by the bucket load. The more you know, the more you can create from that knowledge.
- Meet new people from different walks of life. Strike up a conversation on the bus.
- Shut out the world. Instead of sucking in new information, sit quietly.
- Creativity is a muscle. Exercise it daily.
- Carry a notebook everywhere.
- Write down a list of ideas and draw random arrows between them.
- If you’re not on a tight deadline, walk away and do something completely unrelated.
- Create a framework. Instead of trying to rely on pure inspiration, think within the box you create for yourself.
- Remove obstacles to creativity. That friend who calls to complain about their life can wait until you can afford to get stressed about their problems.
- Don’t judge your ideas until you have plenty to judge.
- Keep a journal. It can get your mind working.
- Stop telling yourself you’re not creative.
- Don’t be a workaholic. Take breaks.
- Experiment randomly.
- If one thing isn’t working, try a new strategy.
- Choose a topic and write about it as wonderfully or badly as you possibly can.
- Trash what you’re working on. Start again.
- Exercise every day, before you sit down to be creative.
- Spend time with your children. Or someone else’s. Tips from Amy Ng of Pikaland
- Experience sights, sounds and smells. Sitting still won’t bring new ideas in; experimenting and trying new things will.
- Maintain a certain pattern to the day. A morning bath can start your work with a fresh mind and spirit.
- Jot down notes every night before bed and actively place worries onto paper.
- Keep a box labeled for each project. Toss everything in the box, and don’t worry about misplacing things or ideas.
- Keep a different sketchbook for different topics and ideas.
- Try and find the pattern between things, and connect the dots between random things just for fun.
- Practice, practice, practice. Dan Goodwin’s Wakeful Ways at A Big Creative Yes
- Let your mind wander and come up with whatever it wants to.
- Wake up ten minutes early, then go back to sleep and dream.
- Focusing entirely on one sense. Creative stimulation comes through our senses.
- Imagine waking up somewhere distant and exotic.
- Recall your creative triumphs. It means you can create something equally wonderful, if not more so, again. In fact you can go out and create it today.
- Count your blessings. As well as feeling happier, it will inevitably help you be more creative too.
- Choose just one creative aim for the day. What one creative project can you begin/continue/finish today? A few rules from Steve Pavlina
- Define a clear purpose. Vague intentions don’t trigger the flow state.
- Identify a compelling motive. You need a reason to be creative.
- Architect a worthy challenge. If a task is too easy, you don’t need to be particularly creative, so your creative self will simply say, “You can manage this one without me.”
- Provide a conducive environment. The optimal environment varies from person to person, so you’ll need to experiment to find what works best for you.
- Allocate a committed block of time.
- Prevent interruptions and distractions.
- Master your tools. Creating a tangible piece of creative work requires tools such as a computer, guitar, or pencil. You must achieve basic competency. Old Fashioned Advice from Mirko of Designer Daily
- Clean up your working space. Even if you are not a cleaning addict, a tidy desk helps to create a fresh start.
- Go jogging. Running is a great way to refresh your brain. The effort will also bring satisfaction. Self-esteem is good for creativity.
- Drink a beer with your buddies. Being happy will make you more productive. It will also give you greater enthusiasm. Creative encouragement from Jacob Cass at Just Creative Design
- Mindmap. Whether you use key words, images, colours, a hierarchy system, numbers, outlines, circles or random words, mindmapping gets your creative juices flowing.
- Finding inspiration in what other people have done and what has succeeded (or failed) is a great way to get your feet off the ground again.
- Take a moment to do something that makes you happy; that brings you joy; that you love; that centers you.
- Give gratitude. Thinking about all the things you are grateful for produces a positive energy flow and vibration.
- Be in the moment. Athletes call this ‘being in the zone‘. Give full attention to whatever you are doing: eating, washing dishes, making your bed.
- Flip through a book containing thought provoking images.
- Go to an art gallery.
- Practice asking yourself how to do something differently.
- Be Open. Never shut down or judge any idea that comes your way.
- Think on Paper. With a bunch of loose paper, start jotting ideas down. Artistic techniques from Karen Daniels at Write to Done
- Get some crayons and warm-up your creativity. Get a piece of paper and draw a totally useless picture of nothing at all.
- When you feel done, use a crayon to proudly sign the picture. Now, put your picture in a special frame and hang it on the wall.
- Name the colors in a box of crayons. Name them with abandon, using words like squashed-pea-green, severed-arm-blood-red, or dancing-fairy-silver.
- Next time your writing gets stuck, pull out your crayons and look at the colors. Remember the names. Write a few silly sentences. Then keep going. Inspiration from Jennifer Moline on Fuel Your Creativity
- Take it outdoors. The best inspiration is often free. Go for a hike. Take your laptop to a park. Look all around you. Soak up your surroundings.
- Head to a café. There’s a reason home-office folks don’t always work from home; they crave other humans. A change in surroundings can recharge your brain.
- Get some training. Not only could you learn something new, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to network.
- Volunteer. Getting your hands dirty for a good cause can be the source of more inspiration than you’d ever imagine. Guidance from Alison Motluk on New Scientist
- Embrace your inner grouch. Discontent may just be a vast, untapped source of creativity.
- Let your mind wander. A wandering mind may allow your brain to search more widely for connections that could trigger a “eureka” moment.
- Play an instrument. It may help you to think with both sides of your brain at once.
- Colour your world blue. It may be nothing more than an association with big skies and the open seas, but beholding the colour blue makes you more creative.
- Seek out creative company. The best ideas are forged not in moments of solitary genius, but during exchanges with trusted colleagues.
- Be more playful. Horsing around may be better in the long run than hunkering down.
- Raise a glass. Many of the most creative pursuits – jazz, for instance, and poetry – are associated with heavy boozing, but can a dram or two really help? The dirt from Joel Reyes on Design Revive
- Aim at being unique, not ordinary. Go right past the dull.
- Cataloging your ideas is productive because it allows you to go back and take a second gander while viewing your ideas on much larger scale.
- Use visual structuring. Getting your paper and pencil out not only lets you see your ideas on a physical level, but it will make you feel like a kid again.
- If all else fails, keep working. Some individuals work better as they reach their breaking point, they excel and take flight in the hardest of times. Perfect insights from Diggy on Goodlife Zen
- Stop being (other people’s) perfect. The expectation of making something perfect uses up emotional energy that you could put to much better use being creative and artistic.
- Ask yourself if you’re doing it for the right reasons. Even if you are not the best in the world at something, if you are really passionate about it, your passion can be an inspiration and motivation for others. How-to’s from Mark McGuinness of Lateral Action
- Don’t plan. Plans are good for buildings, savings, exercise. But there comes a point when it’s time to face the stage, the page, the canvas or the blank screen.
- Let go. You heard me. Let go!
- Start fooling around. Splash the paint on. Scribble the words down. Sing.
- Notice when you surprise yourself. Keep playing around with that one good riff until you find the next one growing out of it.
- Get good amazing feedback. Don’t settle for everyday compliments.
- Enjoy not knowing. Isn’t it nice to have one small corner of your life where you don’t know what you’re going to do, or what’s going to happen? A little advice from Julia M. Lindsay of Our Little Books
- Have clearly defined goals. This will help direct your attention to a purposeful outcome.
- Have balance between your skills and challenges. Too easy, you’ll be bored. Too hard, you may feel frustrated.
- Avoid multi-tasking. It is impossible to get immersed in an activity if you are not totally focused on it.
- Set aside a time to do non-productive tasks. Activities such as reading your e-mail, tweeting and making phone calls should be done at a defined time.
- Before you start, clean your desk, make sure you have the equipment you need, adjust the temperature and make sure the noise level is optimal.
- Adjust your goals as your skills increase.
- Avoid engaging in mindless tasks such as TV. Mindless activities are usually passive and decrease flow experiences. One trick from James Chartrand of Men with Pens
- Just say screw it. What I do know is that everyone gets jammed sometimes, even the pro writers you look up to. And when that jam happens, it’s important to remember that no one forgets how to write well. It doesn’t disappear. It’ll always be there. And maybe… maybe you just have to say screw it and stop looking for it so hard. Unblockers from Brian Clark of Copyblogger
- Avoid logical thinking. It’s often the enemy of truly innovative thoughts.
- Break the rules. Look at creative thinking as a destructive force. You’re tearing away the often arbitrary rules that others have set for you.
- Stop being practical. Practicality stifles innovative ideas before they can properly blossom.
- Allow your mind to be at play. You’ve heard the expression “work hard and play hard.” They’re the same thing to a creative thinker.
- View yourself as an explorer. In an era of hyper-specialization, it’s those who happily explore completely unrelated areas of life and knowledge who best see that everything is related.
- Give yourself permission to turn everything that’s accepted upside down and shake out the illusions.
- Give yourself permission to be a fool and see things for what they really are.
- Reject the false comfort of clarity. Ambiguity is your friend if you’re looking to innovate.
- Free yourself to make mistakes. Just try out your ideas. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen if I’m wrong?
- Strip away all of your delusions and acknowledge that you’re inherently creative, and then start tearing down the other barriers you’ve allowed to be created in your mind. Motherly advice from Michelle Mitton of Scribbit
- Practice thinking. Think about things and formulate some opinions. They may be right, they may be wrong, but I bet they’ll be interesting.
- Use life markers for ideas. Old photos, family stories, a journal entry, a souvenir from a trip, a collection you love or a piece of clothing–if you’ve saved it for a reason there is most likely a story there.
- Look at your life as if you’re a stranger. Good writing is made up of details so learn to see the details of your own life.
- Look at what inspires other people’s creativity and then put your own personal spin on it. But whatever you do make it your own and bring your own life and talents to the task.
- Make lists. What are your favorites? Foods, colors, flowers, cars, games, habits? What are your pet peeves, your thrills or your favorite vacation spots? Use lists to spark an idea and run with it. Dos and Don’ts from Paul Indigo of Beyond the Obvious
- Don’t sit and write lists of ideas. All you’re doing is intellectual foreplay and pussyfooting around the problem. You’re not dealing with it head on.
- Don’t give up and sit sulking in the corner. Sooner or later you’re going to have to come out. You’re just prolonging the pain.
- Don’t compare your work to other peoples’. Everyone is unique. You have to find your own creative voice.
- Don’t choose the company of doubters and negative people. They will just pull you down.
- Do pick up your camera (or you pen) and start taking pictures (or writing) of anything and everything. One idea will lead to another.
- Do set yourself an achievable target.
- Do challenge conventions and the norm. Challenge everything you’ve learnt.
- Do think in terms of opposites, conflicts and interesting juxtapositions.
- Do realize and remember that all creatives feel the same as you do from time to time and some of the most successful are driven forward by tremendous self doubt. Turn the negative feelings into positive self motivation.
- Do surround yourself with people that believe in you and want you to succeed. This kind of support makes a world of difference. An abundance of ways from Marelisa Fábrega of Abundance Blog
- Stop second-guessing yourself.
- Experiment with different media: music, photography, writing or drawing.
- Read one page of the dictionary every day and write down any words that catch your attention.
- Show up even if you’re not feeling creative.
- Immerse yourself in the task at hand: do your research, read everything you can about your subject, attend seminars, ask experts for their input, and so on.
- Be curious about everything.
- Exercise during your lunch break.
- Go to the playground. Play hopscotch, jump rope, climb on the swings, and climb on the jungle gyms.
- Awaken your sense of wonder. Take yourself on some small festive adventure.
- Think of something routine you do on a daily basis and find a way to give it a little more pizzazz.
- Let your body contribute to your creative process by blaring the music and dancing around the room.
- Surround yourself with inspirational props, whether it’s books on creativity, images you find inspiring, or creativity quotes. Food for thought from Kristen Fischer on Freelance Switch
- Set aside a day. By making time to devote one day to your project of choice, you may be able to unblock everything by focusing on just one task.
- Alter your atmosphere. Try putting up some new art, rearranging the furniture or clearing out some clutter.
- Battle the blabber. Examining the psychology of feeling blocked may help you to unblock, and yes, writing about it can help you to untangle some knots inside and be able to finally, finally create. Some juicy tips from Tom Walker on RobsWebTips
- Hypnosis. Although some people may be skeptics, hypnosis and other forms of meditation can be perfect for relaxing the mind and body and getting your creative juices to running freely.
- Timer challenge. It might be useful to time yourself when you are working using an online timer. This will show you how productive you are being, and often when we are timed, we simply keep going and going.
- Identify your creative times. Choose those times when you know you will be the most creative.
- Don’t Force It. Stop. Do something else. When you get back you will feel far more refreshed and ready to get started. Positive thoughts from Henrik Edberg of The Positivity Blog
- Generate a boatload of ideas.
- Take a trip outside your personal bubble.
- Criticize later, or some part of your mind may feel threatened and shut up and withdraw.
- Build it. Like so many things in life creativity is a bit like lifting weights. If you train, over time you’ll build your creative muscles.
- Sleep less. When I feel a little groggy and sleepy, the words start flowing out of my fingers when I sit down to write. Black and white tips from Jody Cleghorn at Write Anything
- Arrive late and leave early. Get straight to the heart of the narrative.
- Learn to say no/no way/go f*ck yourself because no one else will stand up for your work.
- Go out and live your life. Do not allow yourself to become stuck in a hole of your own creativity.
- Make up the rules for what you want to produce.
- Work on several projects. This keeps you energized and working creatively even when one project isn’t firing.
- Try to write every day, even if just for a few minutes.
- Write simply and vividly.
- Don’t hold back and don’t protect yourself. Say things no one else has said before.
- Collaborate with new people.
- Cultivate a community of writers. Writing can be a lonely enterprise, but it doesn’t need to be – other writers understand where you are, what you’re thinking and feeling. Simple advice from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits
- Don’t consume and create at the same time — separate the processes.
- Shut out the outside world.
- Reflect on your life and work daily.
- Look for inspiration all around you, in the smallest places.
- Start small.
- Just get it out, no matter how crappy that first draft.
- Don’t try for perfect. Just get it out there, asap, and get feedback.
- Constantly make it better.
- Ignore the naysayers.
- But let criticism help you grow.
- Teach and you’ll learn.
- Shake things up, see things in new ways.
- Apply things in other fields to your field, in ways not done before.
- Drink ridiculous amounts of coffee.
- Write all ideas down immediately.
- Read wildly different things. Especially stuff you disagree with.
- Get lots of rest. Overwork kills creativity.
- Don’t force it. Relax, play, it will start to flow.
- Allow your mind to wander. Allow distractions, when you’re looking for inspiration.
- Then shut them off when you’re going to create.
- Do it when you’re excited.
- When you’re not, find something else to be excited about.
- Don’t be afraid to be stupid and silly.
- Small ideas are good. You don’t need to change the world — just change one thing.
- When something is killing your creativity, kill it.
- Stop reading creativity advice, clear away everything, and just create.
- Most of all, have fun doing it.
~This Creativity List, via Alison Dyer
OBLIQUE STRATEGIES by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt
Abandon normal instruments
A line has two sides
Allow an easement (an easement is the abandonment of a stricture)
Are there sections? Consider transitions
Ask people to work against their better judgement
Ask your body
Assemble some of the instruments in a group and treat the group
Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle
Breathe more deeply
Bridges -build -burn
Change instrument roles
Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency
Children’s voices -speaking -singing
Consider different fading systems
Consult other sources -promising -unpromising
Convert a melodic element into a rhythmic element
Cut a vital connection
Define an area as ‘safe’ and use it as an anchor
Destroy -nothing -the most important thing
Discard an axiom
Disconnect from desire
Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them
Do nothing for as long as possible
Don’t be afraid of things because they’re easy to do
Don’t be frightened of cliches
Don’t be frightened to display your talents
Don’t break the silence
Don’t stress one thing more than another
Do something boring
Do the washing up
Do the words need changing?
Do we need holes?
Emphasise the flaws
Faced with a choice, do both (given by Dieter Rot)
Feedback recordings into an acoustic situation
Fill every beat with something
Get your neck massaged
Give the game away
Give way to your worst impulse
Go slowly all the way round the outside
Honor thy error as a hidden intention
How would you have done it?
Humanise something free of error
Imagine the music as a moving chain or caterpillar
Imagine the music as a set of disconnected events
Intentions -credibility of -nobility of -humility of
Into the impossible
Is it finished?
Is there something missing?
Is the tuning appropriate?
Just carry on
Left channel, right channel, centre channel
Listen in total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly
Listen to the quiet voice
Look at a very small object, look at its centre
Look at the order in which you do things
Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them
Lowest common denominator check -single beat -single note -single riff
Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame
Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last thing on the list
Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action; incorporate
Mechanicalise something idiosyncratic
Mute and continue
Only one element of each kind
Overtly resist change
Put in earplugs
Remember .those quiet evenings
Remove ambiguities and convert to specifics
Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities
Repetition is a form of change
Short circuit (example; a man eating peas with the idea that they will improve his virility shovels them straight into his lap)
Shut the door and listen from outside
Take a break
Take away the elements in order of apparent non-importance
Tape your mouth
The inconsistency principle
The tape is now the music
Think of the radio
Trust in the you of now
Turn it upside down
Twist the spine
Use an old idea
Use an unacceptable colour
Use fewer notes
Use ‘unqualified’ people
What are you really thinking about just now? Incorporate
What is the reality of the situation?
What mistakes did you make last time?
What would your closest friend do?
What wouldn’t you do?
Work at a different speed
You are an engineer
You can only make one dot at a time
You don’t have to be ashamed of using your own ideas
~This Bonus List, via Rina “Pants” Espiritu