Making The Most of Inspiration Without Forcing Productivity

I have been working from my home office for nearly eight years—five of which I’ve also been juggling the chaos of motherhood. When I left a job at a magazine to work for myself, I was still very much programmed by the 9-to-5 way of thinking. Even though I wasn’t required to work a set number of hours I tried to stick to a fairly rigid schedule: sitting down at my desk in the morning and forcing myself to “be productive” for as long as possible.

It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t working for me.

By 3 p.m. I’d feel completely drained. I would write ‘to-do’ lists then feel guilty when I didn’t cross enough items off. I was stressed out most of the time: when things were slow, I worried I wouldn’t be successful, and when work was flowing in, I worried that I wouldn’t get it all done. I was a perfectionist and with each new assignment I worried that I wouldn’t live up to the client or editor’s expectations. I was sucking all the fun and freedom out of my new way of working.


Fortunately I began working with a life coach (who happened to be my dad) and he helped me realize that it didn’t have to be this way. As he explained it, productivity is a left-brain ‘activity’ that is all about doing. Creativity, on the other hand, comes from the right-brain and is more about being. If you want the creativity to flow, you need to stimulate the right side of your brain. To do so, you need to let go of the need to produce and redefine what productivity looks like. This was my opportunity to change the way I had always done things.

I could embrace my unconventional work life and find a balance that actually worked for me. I didn’t have to feel guilty about taking breaks in the middle of the day. In fact, I could take a whole day “off” and know that something positive would come of it. Being away from my desk was often more productive than forcing myself to sit at it. What I came to appreciate is that no matter how hard you work, creativity can’t be forced. Neither can productivity.

These days my workday begins when I step into the shower and ends when I close my eyes at night—but much of that time I’m not actually working in the conventional ‘office’ sense. I compose articles in the shower, dream up ideas while I’m walking my kids to school, and check emails when I’m in line at the grocery store. When I’m stuck, I sweep the floor or throw in a load of laundry, then step back into my work with better focus. And I try to take as many walks as possible, especially when the weather is nice. What I’ve learned is that I’m often most productive when I’m not trying to be. I no longer give myself a hard time for taking a break in the middle of the day—because I know that’s the only way I’m going to get anything done. I even try to schedule in breaks (a personal trainer once a week, coffee with colleagues or friends, non-work appointments etc.) to add some variety to my calendar.

Sitting at my desk waiting for inspiration to strike is stressful and demotivating. Working on the go is way more fun and way more productive.

There are days that I can sit down and work for five hours straight without looking at a clock once, and others that no matter how much I intend to get done, nothing actually happens. It’s embracing this reality that makes me successful at what I do.

The best, most creative, out-of-the-box ideas come when you’re not expecting them. But in order to catch them, you have to get out of your own way. Whether you work in an office or from home, here are a few activities you might want to try incorporating into your workday:

  • Spend time in nature
  • Make yourself a delicious lunch
  • Go for coffee with someone who inspires you
  • Doodle!
  • Take a yoga class
  • Schedule a session with a life or executive coach
  • Go for a run
  • Have a dance party (just be sure to wear headphones if you share an office!)
  • Wash the dishes
  • Read a blog you’ve never read before
  • Write a ‘to-do’ list…then throw it away!

What right brain activities have you engaged in to get your creative energy flowing? Share them in the comments below—together we can re-define productivity and make it a more creative endeavour.

Posted on: February 19th, 2015 by

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