Mark Kelly
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A Quartet of Creativity and Productivity

A Quartet of Creativity and Productivity

Oct 08, 2023

I listened to an episode from ‘The Art of Manliness’ podcast recently, a podcast I heartily recommend that aims to enhance men's lives. Each week, a new guest is featured, broadening the discussion on various topics ranging from fitness, philosophy, and relationships to productivity - making it a rich source of insights for any man wanting to improve their lot. 

This particular episode had Dr Srini Pillay as the guest, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and a brain-imaging researcher (you can learn more about him at As they delved into different but connected subjects, a segment specifically piqued my interest - a section about amplifying creativity and productivity by adopting certain practices.

For most of us, daily life often adheres to structured routines, so nurturing creativity, even simply finding space for it, might appear daunting. Yet, the following scientifically endorsed methods are hidden in the crevices of the unconventional, ready to be unearthed by those bold enough to veer off the beaten path.

Doodling: The Mind’s Absorbent Canvas

Imagine a dry sponge - hard and unyielding - it’s not very useful until it gets wet and malleable. Similarly, doodling can help loosen the rigid structures of conventional thinking, turning your mind into a soft sponge ready to soak up creativity. Research has highlighted that doodling aids in better information retention after a lecture or meeting. It acts as a tool for self-expression, easing the tight knots of structured thought and gently nudging you towards a realm where creativity flows more freely.

Napping: A Brief Voyage to the Realm of Clarity

In the world in which I live - ie. In the West - busyness is often confused with productivity, and napping is almost seen as lazy. To take a nap means you are wasting away your day. However, research has shown that even a brief 5 to 10-minute nap can unlock 1 to 3 hours of enhanced mental clarity, making the path to creativity and productivity less foggy! 

In fact, the same research suggests that a longer 90-minute nap could further enhance your creative abilities by helping you complete an entire sleep cycle, providing a fresh perspective and rejuvenating energy for problem-solving and creative thought. (As an aside, my wife will love this one as she is a massive advocate for the afternoon nap if it ever becomes available!)

Booster Breaks: Your 15-minute Passport to a Stress-free Mind

During a hectic day, a 15-minute booster break filled with physical activity can relieve stress, promoting a fresh wave of creativity and productivity. Whether it’s a mini workout session, a brisk walk, or a stretching routine, these brief yet effective breaks can mitigate the unfavourable consequences of prolonged sitting. Research indicates that such breaks also help foster social interaction, particularly if there is a communal aspect of the workout, making the break less lonely and even more enjoyable.

Adopting a Creative Identity: Unleashing the Inner Inventor (or, as Dr Pillay calls it, Psychological Halloweenism!)

Embracing a creative identity isn’t about impersonation; it’s about freeing yourself from self-imposed limitations and embracing a persona that encourages innovative thinking. And yes, this really is about thinking of someone successful, creative, inventive or productive (the list goes on) and ‘becoming that person’ for a short time. This practice encourages you to think about how you perceive them to think and work through creative blockages or problems how they might work through them. In the podcast episode, Dr Pillay makes this powerful statement, “A big problem to lack of creativity is not how we think but how we think we are.” It’s about changing the narrative from “I can’t” to “Let’s see how I can,” fostering a mindset that welcomes creative exploration and innovative solutions.

Creativity and learning to be more productive aren’t rare gifts but are indeed skills waiting to be honed by each of us. With a mix of playful doodling, restful napping, energizing booster breaks, and a change in perspective through briefly adopting an external persona, the path to a creatively fulfilling life becomes an engaging and achievable journey. 

So, whenever routine threatens to stifle your creativity, remember a more imaginative world is just a doodle, a nap, a booster break, or a change in perspective away!

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