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Arts Creativity Productivity & Work Writing

Writing all the time

Some of us ”sweat the night into words,” the poet Bernard Spencer wrote in his poem “Night-Time: Starting to Write.”

Morning or night, day time or lunchtime, it really doesn’t matter when you write. A note, a recording, a scribble — we write it down to remember it now and for later.

Early morning, lunch break, on the train, late at night — it doesn’t matter. Find the extra hour, go to the same place, shut the door. No exceptions, no excuses.

John Grisham

Everything goes in the hopper

The writer often feels compelled to notice and the readiness to do too much. But being ‘always-on’ is part of the scribe’s professionalism, to remain curious and connected to the tone of social mores, forever stuck in a perpetual now and the now of yesterday.

Writers are collectors, not hoarders. They snatch ideas to remix into something else, a type of innovation of words.

Why write? To make something”

Claude Simon

It is in the prose the writer plunges and finds themselves.

The pen is an addiction, a duty, and a stress outlet, and pure enjoyment. It shatters the notion of work and life, swaddled into the need of an aliveness.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Visualizing the practice

Visualize the practice, not the result.

Actions have goals built into them, giving you a better chance at achieving what you want.

Success happens to the idea, not at the force of aim. Because it’s all about the sustained head work and heart work it takes to get there.

“Don’t aim at success-the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greaterthan oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Effort necessitates results. It is a trigger for experiences.

“As you travel through life, let this be our goal: keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole.”— Steven Pressfield

Everything is practice.

art via giphy

Categories
Apps Music Productivity & Work

The best music to help you focus

This post contains affiliate links. Please see the disclosure for more info.

Music is a performance-enhancement drug. There’s a reason athletes listen to songs on repeat to pump them up before games. But music’s effect on studying, writing, or doing office work is equally profound.

Music is known to increase your productivity by sharpening your focus and putting your brain into a flow state. However, it takes the right type of sound to help get concentrate on your studies and work.

Always do your best work

Focus@Will offers over 20 channels and thousands of hours of music scientifically optimized to help you focus and get stuff done.

Seriously, the app has some serious studies to prove it.

“We ask our users to rate their productivity during each session, and we’ve found that the average productivity in a one-hour focus@will session is 75% – this is far above the productivity most people report in an hour without focus@will.”

I use the Uptempo channel at work when I need to filter out distractions and help push me through reading hundreds of emails. However, I turn on the Ambient playlist with medium intensity when I want to get into a contemplative state to journal or blog.

You’ll be amazed at how a little hum of music can make you more productive. I’m listening to the Cafe Focus channel now as I type this post!

Pick your focus channel to hear a sample

Music = neurological focus power

“Music is part of being human,” Oliver Sacks wrote in Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. And the right music, customized to supercharge your happy work creativity, can make a huge difference in your workday!

I recommend that you give Focus@Will a try on the computer first since it seems to work best when you can toggle between focus channels to find one that fits your work habits. But the complimentary app works just as well.

You can sign up to Focus@Will today and get two free weeks. If you see the increased focus you’re looking for, level up with the annual subscription since it’s ultimately cheaper than month-to-month.

So get stuff done while making better use of your time. Reduce distractions. Be more creative. Always do your best work. And give your mind the boost it needs.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work Psychology

Thinking without thinking 🤔

Work is the practice of gathering string. But it is the empty mind that weaves experience, knowledge, and ideas altogether.

The apple may have hit Newton’s head, but his insights into gravity were brewing all along.

There is no such thing as Eureka, just the gradual harmonization of distilled moments that become apparent when we least expect them to.

Thinking Without Thinking
gif via reddit

We think to get rid of thoughts just like “the blues is played to get rid of the blues.” But we can’t think our way to innovation.

We think most effectively when we turn off the monkey mind and permit creativity to break through the hush of silence. Off is on.

Even when we are not thinking — when we’re relaxed in the shower or doing the dishes — we’re thinking. We are always chewing on context, bringing excitement to the habitual self.

Categories
Arts Productivity & Work

Hokusai’s great wave: a lesson in persistence

Can we improve our craft over time?

The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) seemed to think so.

“Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.”

He only lived until 89, but he proved his theory of incremental improvement. He finished his most famous work, The Great Wave, at the age of 71. Van Gogh, an artist that only sold one painting during his lifetime–to this brother– remarked: “These waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it.”

Hokusai's great wave: a lesson in persistence

Hokusai’s other works also revolve around Mount Fuji in series that became to be called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. 

Hokusai's great wave: a lesson in persistence

Story short: age is but a number.

Life is about continuity. You may have more energy to practice when you’re younger, but the only difference between you and others will be how long you’re willing to stick with it. Hokusai played the long-game, acting like a professional with pertinacity.

You can check out the Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave exhibit at the British Museum, London, until August 13th.

Categories
Books Creativity Productivity & Work

Famous artists and their recipes for good luck

Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People

Creatives obsess with how other successful creators do their work. Witness the 2013 bestseller Daily Rituals by Mason Currey.

But instead of focusing on the productive habits of successful artists, author Ellen Weinstein highlights their oddities.

Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People

Her book Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People contains some fascinating and funny habits.

  • Thom Yorke prepares for live concerts with a headstand ritual
  • NASA engineers eat peanuts before every launch as a lucky charm
  • Picasso held on to his fingernail clippings to maintain his spiritual “essence”
  • Frida Kahlo painted plants and flowers from her desk, looking over her garden
Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People
Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People

Creative people can be a bit superstitious, to say the least. As Seth Godin likes to say, “we’re all weird.”

Whatever you do to keep your edge, do it.

All images courtesy Chronicle Books

Categories
Culture Productivity & Work

The design of the classroom from 1750 to today

The design of the classroom from 1750 to today
The design of the classroom from 1750 to today
The design of the classroom from 1750 to today
The design of the classroom from 1750 to today
The design of the classroom from 1750 to today
The design of the classroom from 1750 to today

The design of the classroom is a technology, and you can interpret that in a lot of different ways. Architects can make that look more, and less, typical. But the point is the instruction, the interaction in the classroom, not that it looks more like a circle or more like a square or whatever else.

The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids by Alexandra Lange 

(via NPR)

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work

Is adult playtime over?

Adults can’t handle free time — unstructured activity makes them anxious.

From high school on, all people are trained to do is work. So they forget how to play.

Yet, children always seem to find a creative outlet. They have no problem building something out of Legos or using their imagination to draw.

On the contrary, the adult version of playtime usually consists of material consumption. We work to buy things we can enjoy when we are not working. Americans cling to purchases as a substitute for boredom.

When we get bored at our jobs, we procrastinate and chase down the nearest source of dopamine. We check email and social media to appear “busy” at work.

Office environments can inspire a cycle of procrastination:

We live to work, and we work to live. We feel meaningless without a title and a checklist.

But what if the office was like a jungle gym or a treehouse where workers would want to play again?

Playtime may be over but it that doesn’t mean the crayons need to end.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work Writing

Everything starts on paper 

Whether you are using post-it notes or loose leaf, paper is ideal for getting down thoughts and mapping out ideas quickly.

Everything starts on paper.

Whether you are using post-it notes or loose leaf, paper is ideal for getting down thoughts and mapping out ideas quickly. In fact, some Google employees prohibit phones and use paper exclusively to brainstorm. The magic of writing in analog is a controlled speed, flexibility, and focus.

“Everyone can write words, draw boxes, and express his or her ideas with the same clarity.”

If computers are a bicycle for the mind, as Steve Jobs once proclaimed, then writing on paper is like taking a walk. Paper jogs the mind, it is slow yet methodical, allowing it to connect the dots between disparate things.

“As with music, so with thought: when you want clarity, you seek out paper. Paper is the slow food of thought.”

As much as technology facilitates creativity, it can also distract it. Various studies show that taking notes by hand helps students remember more. Physical books, like vinyl, are also still hanging around despite the popularity of e-readers. Meanwhile, handwritten letters are considered more meaningful because of the perceived effort it went into writing and mailing them.

Digital abundance drives up the value of scarce objects like paper. Paper is proving its longevity not just as a nostalgic medium but also because it benefits the process of thinking and planning.

“As long as everyone is thinking and writing stuff on paper, you’re on the golden path.”

Read The Google Guys Use Paper

Categories
Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Progress is a mindset 

The fear of messing up (FOMU) is precisely what holds people back from getting what they want. 

But if you treat mistakes like an experiment, they become lessons in disguise and teach you how to tweak your approach. 

To err is human, they say. Maybe they should instead say that to err is to learn. As Miles Davis once said, “If you’re not making a mistake, you’re making a mistake.”

If you’re not making a mistake, you’re making a mistake.

Miles Davis

It’s not for a lack of trying; it’s our interpretation of endeavor that either makes or breaks the future. Perfection is a false expectation that stymies progress. 

We can plan all we want but the doing is why there’s knowing.