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How to be both productive and creative while avoiding mental indigestion

Design Thinking

May 20, 2014

Do you have lots of ideas? Are you creative? Are you rubbish at getting things done? Sometimes ideas people are rubbish at making progress - great at start ups but rubbish at ongoing management. Some people struggle through their apparent daily grind, wilting with their perceived lack of creative opportunities. However, the most productive creative people are still super creative while getting heaps of stuff done. There are a bunch of secrets to that success and this is one of them.

The biggest secret of all to being both creative and productive is this: capture your ideas. That's it. If you don't capture them then your head stays full of the potential each idea represents and how much fun it would be exploring them all. Soon enough though, those ideas are replaced with the next ones and you are abuzz with potential all over again. It's a bit like sugar overload and the accompanying highs. Idea generation can be a trap, especially if there is no end to it – just more and more ideas, no outcomes.

The secret to being both creative and productive is this: capture your ideas
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If you capture those creative ideas so that you have them to refer to later on you can clear your head for the work required to get to the finish post with the idea you have already started on.

Need proof? Here's Joan Rivers and her joke archive – love her, hate her, I don't care, but pay attention to her thoroughness.

Here's Scott Belsky talking about the idea generation trap.

If you don't like using card files to capture ideas there are heaps of tools available. I read this article on Medium about having a Spark File to drop ideas into – brilliant, I thought and set one up straight away. I had just the tool waiting for a good use to put it to and that tool is Journal with Evernote. Journal is an app that allows you to make daily notes and it posts them to your Evernote account. Evernote is a brilliant app available for both mobile and desktop that allows you to create notes and keep them in folders. The notes can contain pics, video, lists, webpages etc and they can be cross referenced with tags allowing you to search for everything tagged as chicken, if you so tag them. Journal is simply a lined page that you jot notes onto. All the notes for each day are listed on a single dated page and filed in Evernote. I have a folder called Spark File and into that goes all of those annoying bright ideas that clutter up my head.

Idea generation can be a trap, especially if there is no end to it
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After the clear headedness that comes from dumping ideas into a file, comes the delight in reading back over them later on. That's the time to work out which ones are truly bright ideas and which are just mental indigestion.