Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Rules of Productivity

In my time as a procrastinator, I have become attracted to blogs and other websites devoted to the promotion of creativity. They offer boundless encouragement and guidance about how to go about tackling your next creative project. This is often delivered in the form of a list: "Top 5 Ways To...", "99 Excuses For..." and so on. All the relevant points are provided in bold text, so it's that much easier to run away with that positive message. In later times, I have been a bit skeptical of (but no less attracted to) these types of sites. I have recognised that I fit into their market of the creatively blocked. This disappoints me, as it would. Blockages are unpleasant.

What compelled me to write a piece in relation to these types of sites is one particular article I came across tonight: The 1-Step Plan For Super Productivity. In essence, the article maintains that the secret ingredient for productivity is getting up early. There are citations aplenty, from Ernest Hemingway to the Harvard Business Review, but how do 99% understand the nature of my productivity? I've maintained apparently dysfunctional sleeping hours for the best part of twelve years, what's to say I'll produce work of a higher quality if I go to sleep at 11pm, instead of 11am? I am unlikely to ever cease my consolidation naps, am I doomed to be creatively unfulfilled for ever, so help me gawd?

What these sites fail to acknowledge is that you, as a reader have developed your own individual coping mechanisms. Instead of encouraging you to understand and appreciate how you work, they offer rules. I appreciate the positivity of the message. I understand that they want their readers to go on to create wonderful work. The fact is that we place too great a reliance upon what they say, without acknowledging that we have solved it all before. We know what we have to do to be productive and it doesn't involve bookmarking a list of excuses. It's about a fundamental recognition: there is value in your expression.

So what the hell are you doing here? Get on with it. I'm going to bed.

Jan Pieńkowski's The First Christmas


  1. The one thing I've found is that you can always get up earlier.

    What does this mean? No idea. But I agree with you - blockages are unpleasant.

  2. I read that if you try and get up 30 minutes earlier each day it should work... but then just when I think I've reset my body clock for normal time, I go and wreck it all by sleeping for some excruciatingly long duration.

    I'm not really bothered to change the pattern or lack thereof, although I do feel like rubbish most of the time and my peeps are constantly on my back about it.

    Do you think your sleeping hours have much to do with your creative output, lil old me?

  3. For me: Timing? No. Quantity/quality? Yes. However, my creative urges died when I moved to my current job. Now all I do is whinge about work in a very uncreative way.

    It's a real talent, sleeping for long periods. I used to be good at it, then I started working full-time and that was the end of that.

    Part of me wishes it was as simple as getting up half an hour early.

    You know the standard body clock runs on a 25 hour day? I remember reading that when I was at uni...

  4. I feel reluctant to admit that these universal truths: full-time work kills creativity, early mornings are necessary for productivity... I find myself unwilling to change my habits, even though I have spent the last few days being unwell from what could only be described as my poor lifestyle.

    I will try to change things and report back to you with any results... and if I haven't said it before, thanks for reading :)

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  6. I like your writing - therefore I read. Hope you're feeling better soon...