The new year just started so you can find people left and right trying to do better. I won’t judge anyone for their new year’s resolution… Nor for not sticking to them. Each to their own. I personally quit those a long time ago and started doing things differently when they come to my mind as an issue to solve.
Wait a moment, I said different, not better. Did you notice that? Great, because I did it on purpose. As with many things — especially in the area of productivity — you have to try a few things before you find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
With that in mind, I hope you read the following article with an open mind and as one possible way, not the Holy Grail or something like that.
“Remove the clutter but keep an island of creativity.”
I’m an organised messy person. I love clean spaces, I make spreadsheets with lots of tabs and formulas, I do a yearly review of our finances, I sort my Skittles before eating them… But my desk is messy most of the time and don’t ask me what's happening next week if I don’t have my smart device around and it’s been like that as long as I can remember.
I‘m fully aware that I'm way more productive with a clean desk — there has been lot’s of talk about it — but nevertheless after a few weeks, stuff starts piling on and from a certain point onwards, the couch is a much more inviting workspace than my desk. That’s why, when I need to sort my mind, I start by sorting my stuff and cleaning my desk. It’s an endless cycle.
As soon as I bundled all the cables, scrubbed the surface clean and removed those old Post-it’s (which were by now probably useless anyway), sketchbooks, mugs and other junk that had accumulated, I sit down and reach for my “stuff-drawer” to create a small corner with a bob-head Yoda, a poo emoji figure and anything else that comes to mind. Next month it might be a bunch of magnet pebbles, a clicker toy and a pop figurine or a Murloc. Currently, there’s also a miniature Zen Garden I bought at Don Quijote in Tokyo and a piece of calligraphy I made during another of those useless meetings we all love so much…
No matter how clean my desk is, there is always a small island of creativity and that’s the way it works best for me. I need clean but not boring.
The same goes for people going into super productivity mode… Respect and godspeed. I couldn’t do that. I love my job and I can spend days on end experimenting, coding, testing and writing. Even regular client work and my day job are things I love doing. But doing that all day every day, getting up earlier and getting rid of all toys, games and distractions to maximise my productive output?
I need to play games or binge-watch the odd series on Netflix regularly to reload my creative batteries. I watch cute cat videos and browse stupid memes and stuff. I know that some people work really well in this non-stop overdrive mode and I’m sure there’s more than one study about how super productivity makes you high and happy or something but that’s not me.
I never really thought about this habit of mine until I talked with a friend and designer a few years back. She told me, before going on an extended vacation, that her creative energy had been drained by her 9-to-5 job. She packed her things and went to Thailand, Korea and Vietnam to get the maximum possible contrast in people, culture and rhythm to her regular routine. When she came back, she was refreshed and full of positive energy as well as lots of funny stories about the plethora of people she met on her “soul trip”.
Reflecting on what we talked about in regards to creativity and how she needs regular creative breaks and small gadgets around her at all times, I could relate to most of what she said and started thinking about what I did and why.
This advice can be taken even a bit further. If your work environment is unfriendly, competitive and full of negativity, create a small island of positivity around your own desk. Shine brighter than anyone can overshadow you and try to keep your sanity and positivity intact.
If you can’t create a physical island, maybe you can create an immaterial one. Find a place for a regular 15min breathing meditation, create your own coffee/tea ritual (maybe with your favourite colleague), go for a walk, catch some Pokémon… Whatever floats your boat. Break the boring routine, try something new.
Recharge your batteries.
Some words about me:
If you want to read more of my articles, feel free to check out my author page. I’m usually writing about my experience as an IT Senior, tutorials for React web/native and my open-source projects paired with the occasional emotional outbursts about work and work-life related subjects like this article.