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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Inspiration is a myth

All the inspiration exists and is equally distributed.

But the ubiquity of motivational quotes and rags to riches biographies can be sheer fodder. Instead of doing the work, we get caught in the cycle of disattention.

The role of the artist is the create a reality for themselves. We can’t expect to copy and paste someone else’s experience as our own.

Inspirational quotes exist to help is reflect, rewind, and then compel us to push us along. Our mood board is a visual impetus, not an excuse to procrastinate.

The environment is continually changing, with a priori information overwriting the old ways of doing things.

We can always expect our path to be messy, but with the right mentality, our bodies and minds equally resilient.

Scouring the internet for a hit of motivational dopamine is only temporary. It’s the perspiration that has to be permanent.

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Music Productivity & Work Writing

Want to focus? Seek ambient sound

One of the greatest myths of our time is that silence is golden. But complete silence will keep you from working effectively. It may even put you to sleep.

J. K. Rowling left the solitude of her own home to write the Harry Potter series in a coffee shop amid the cacophony of people chatting over grinding espresso machines.

The noisy environment inspired her to get to work. Studies show that just enough sound creates an ambient environment conducive to working by drowning out any other unpredictable racket in the background.

The power of music

Studies also show that learning to play an instrument makes it easier for children to learn how to read. Additionally, the “Mozart Effect” is said to improve concentration and study habits. Surgeons often use popular music during operations to relax both the patient and themselves. Muzak takes the awkward silence out of the elevator.

The right type of noise is critical to working effectively. In fact, many CEOs expect disruptions in the form of email and calls to ensure the business is actively operating. Silence is the antithesis of productivity.

In order to stay motivated and remain productive, we need perpetual sound rather than peace and quiet. Sound is productive. Rather, it is the silence between the notes that can be the most disruptive.

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Productivity & Work

The paradox of messiness

The paradox of messiness is that it can also describe someone who’s extremely productive.

For instance, your desk may be full of sticky notes, cords, and other office supplies and your computer desktop may be buried in a trail of untitled (and empty) folders. But all this frenzy could be a sign of busyness rather than laziness. 

In fact, clutter inspires creativity and it is an essential part of the making process.

We can choose to live uncomplicated lives by keeping it super-tight. But the messy stuff is so much more interesting.

Mark Bradford

This is not to say that creation provides an excuse to be messy. In fact, the act of cleaning up and editing can happen during work.

Figure out which ideas from the past are important and pursue those. Throw out the rest.

Greg McKeown

First, the artist creates disorder to spark further inventiveness — everything goes in the queue — then he or she simplifies their sources saving the most essential materials.

The tendency to hoard everything and do nothing with it is what really clutters the mind.

Like a DJ, one should feel free to remix their craft and sprinkle in new ingredients along the way.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

The two essential phases in the creative process

There are two essential phases in the creative process.

The spontaneous phase is where ideas sprout, unintentionally and seemingly out of nowhere. Everything interesting goes in the hopper, including the slightest observation, things seen, imagined, overheard, or misheard.

Whether it’s a notebook or your phone when you’re gathering string, the medium is less important than recording.

“I’m not writing it down to remember it later,
I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

Field Notes

The best notebook is the one you have with you. But seeing the world starts with being open to the repetition of arbitrary stimulus and its messy upshot: discovery.

The revision phase is where ideas get pieced together like a puzzle.

You go through all your notes, images, sketches, etc. for the purposes of synthesizing concepts and tossing away others.

When you start to piece together artifacts, revelations seems to arise out of epiphany. But there is no such thing as immediate discovery — such is the aggregation of everything we learned along the way.

The two-fold creative process never changes so it’ll always be there to fall back on if and when you feel stuck. First, we collect, and then we deduce.

The more you practice the creative process the better you get at connecting ideas and turning them into reality.

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Arts Productivity & Work Psychology Writing

There is a time for everything

giphy (48)
gif by John Corsi

The time you spend away from your task still qualifies as work. That includes doing the dishes, running errands, and taking care of the kids—whatever responsibilities you think to impede your central occupation contribute to its success.

British novelist Jon McGregor gives a good example of how he manages his writing despite making time for everything from Tweeting to taking care of his children.

“I rarely manage a whole unbroken day at the desk. And it can be frustrating, sometimes. Once or twice a year I manage to get away somewhere and live like a hermit for a week, eating and sleeping next to a desk and talking to no one and getting a lot of work done. Imagine if I could work like that all the time, I think, then. Think how productive I’d be! But if my life was always like that, I suspect I’d have very little to write about.”

Locking yourself away in isolation is a forlorn attempt to escape all that matters. Patterns can backfire, especially when it comes to creativity which thrives on observation and sudden randomness.

There is a time for everything

While productivity can be messy, time away from work is not squandered time. Instead, it is spent accumulating experiences and visualizing how the ideas you’re chewing on will all come to focus when you sit down in and commit to the day ahead.

The discipline of work is just as necessary as the chaotic daily tasks of life. In fact, the best things in life often disrupt it, forcing you to rethink priorities and see how it all connects.

Contrary to popular opinion, busyness is not a badge of honor. Life seeds all the ideas.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Active by default

gif via Tumblr

We sleep on it, take cold showers, and jog it out. We give the various ingredients time to simmer.

We are always working, whether it’s by gathering string or by waiting for the neurons and the synapses to wire and fire together.

The conscious mind applies the deliberate practice while the subconscious does the rest. Says writer and illustrator Maira Kalman, “wonderful things happen when your brain is empty.” That is the magic of thinking without thinking.

The kernel of an idea blooms within all the cerebral apps within. But that’s just the start.

Once one idea stops working, we go through the learning process all over again.

“It is amateurs who have one big bright beautiful idea that they can never abandon. Professionals know that they have to produce theory after theory before they are likely to hit the jackpot.”

Francis Crick
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Arts Creativity Productivity & Work Writing

Material to hone

It starts with something to play with. Then it builds into an enormous flower of connections and surprises.

The problem isn’t speeding up — it’s calming down the circuits of the brain that are overworked and over-wired.

A prompt here, a rough sentence there, stock phrases, we inject certainty onto the page. But the dominance comes later through the editing itself.

Once we loosen up the control and do the work, we realize that perfection never meets the maker with great exactness. Everything is at first messy, as it should be.

The hardest part is calming down enough to zoom in and see it out.

And then we get to it — we write.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

The value of pushy mothers

The extra push. It can come from within, but it also helps to hear it from outside influences.

Pushy moms are more likely to build a successful kid. Being annoyed is good for you.

It is later on that you’ll steer your own life and develop the habit of pushing yourself.

The lessons hatch in your head, inculcating an operating system that values independence and hope.

From parts to wholes and back again, the most important thing is to follow through in an effort to inspect the self and all the world’s knowledge.

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Productivity & Work

Fleeting motivation

Here today, gone tomorrow. Motivation is fickle.

But what if you promised yourself you’d get it done regardless of how you felt?

Going to the gym, doing homework, emailing the boss — there is no time like now time.

You’ll feel incentivized if, under no circumstance, you have to do it anyway.

Good habits are non-negotiable

The plethora of neurocognitive connections that empower your actions knows that you don’t always have to like what you do.

You just have to stay grounded in the experience, to avoid leaving the box unchecked. As Jerry Seinfeld encourages us, “Don’t break the chain.”

Productivity occurs when what you must do no longer needs to stay determined to complete it.

Through repetition, you can sculpt your brain to stave off the opposable mind.

PS. If you want to track your progress, consider the bullet journal system.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Quotes

The emotional journey of creating anything great

Why is it that every new idea begins with excitement but ends in the ‘dark swamp of despair?’

Writes Angela Duckworth in her book Grit

“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

Angela Duckworth

The key to achieving anything is not necessarily maintaining that excitement but pushing through all the CRAP (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure) while balancing a beginner’s mindset.

Of course, you’re likely to lose interest, energy, and emotional support from family and friends along the way. That’s why it’s equally important to have a vision of where you want to go and what you’d like to accomplish. Developing habits, a daily practice, also help fight the resistance.

The emotional journey of creating anything great
via tw

Good things are supposed to take time. Progress ebbs and flows.

It’s beneficial, almost necessary, to step away from the work and plan unscheduled time. Even when you’re not thinking, you’re thinking; the brain never turns off.

If innovation were easy, anybody would do it.