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For Creatives, Being Present Is Better Than Being Productive

Armando Dela Cruz
March 24, 2020

How do you quantify creative work? As a creative, surely you’ve been bugged by this question, and as a result, almost pulled your hair out. You ask yourself: can you know for sure you’re doing great?

The answer, of course, is that you can’t.

But here’s the thing: you may be unable to quantify creativity, but you can quantify work. And so, you find yourself descending down the rabbit hole of chasing…productivity. What’s more, you find yourself spending thousands of pesos on task managers, note-taking apps, and expensive journals.

Also read: 3 Ways To Get Out Of A Creative Funk

The paradox of productive work

Look, productivity is overrated. If you Google “productivity”, you’ll find a whole army of “productivity gurus” who aim to help you do more work.

That premise sounds amazing, but not long after your work will be tethered to the number of tasks checked off your list. That makes you prolific, true, but also more enslaved to the desire of doing more.

What’s worse is when that desire overtakes quality. In your insistence to do more—and let’s face it, you will never do enough—you become far more concerned with the volume of work you accomplish than the impact they make in your progress.

So, if you can’t be completely proficient by being productive, what can you do?

Also read: Yes, You Need To Declutter Even If You’re A Creative Person

Presence is better than productivity

Many rightly raise their eyebrow at productivity.

Even if it gets you to batter your keyboard and power through your tasks, it also leaves you a narrow void that takes more as it gapes open wider. Even if you tick off every box in your project management tool, you still leave your work feeling strangely unsatisfied.

To accommodate productivity, you’ve had to make some compromises, like abandoning perfection. But that doesn’t mean you need to abandon your craft.

To make sure you don’t do so, don’t chase after productivity. Instead, strive to become more “present” in your work.

Be present to make your work better

Being “present” in your tasks allows you to make far better work.

Because you’re not leashed to the false idea of having more things done is the way to go, you’re able to nurture your ideas and they flourish more beautifully. You are completely there, instead of thinking about the next task. And the next. And then the next one.

However, this doesn’t mean you are to completely disregard productivity. You still need to analyze how to best work around your deliverables, perhaps more than before.

Here’s a list of steps you can take to be more “present” at work:

  • Embrace limitations and forgive yourself in advance: Understand that you can only do so much great work in a day. Don’t be too hard on yourself if and when you don’t hit your goals.
  • Use the Pomodoro technique: This has worked like a charm for me. Using a Pomodoro app, I set a timer for 40 minutes (traditionally, it’s 25 minutes) to completely devote to one task. This usually puts me in a state of flow and allows me to do great work and efficiently make progress with my projects.

In closing…

As creative professionals, it’s hard to find our way around productivity and work matters. It’s not like we can power through a balance sheet like a swift bookkeeper or a project manager can set up structures with impressive speed and precision.

What we have, however, is the ability to preserve creativity and make our work better.

Subscribe to the Crafters to learn more about creative work, freelancing, and more.


Armand is on a lifelong crusade to a creatively fulfilling life. He’s the co-founder of Alab.Media, a network of “passion sites,” including Unreel. When he’s not watching films, you’ll find him hunkered over a rustic table at the next third wave coffee shop working on a creative project. Follow him on Twitter: @armanddc.

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For Creatives, Being Present Is Better Than Being Productive

Armando Dela Cruz
March 24, 2020

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For Creatives, Being Present Is Better Than Being Productive

Armando Dela Cruz
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March 24, 2020

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