26 Lifestyle Changes Guaranteed to Substantially and Quickly Boost your Creative Productivity

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Creativity / Idea Generation / Motivation / Productivity

Being makers of things, one of our most important assets is our ‘creative productivity’. In this case, our ability to actually create new things through doing; through taking action, not just thinking about it.

To counteract this, we so often come against various blocks in energy and enthusiasm that hamper such efforts. Abounding in creative productivity is, therefore massively valuable, and it is in our best interests to see it thrive consistently within us.

I’m going boldly ahead by saying that there are guaranteed ways that you can achieve increased creativity and productivity in various ways through making small adjustments. These are all ideas I’ve gathered through personal experience and through the feedback of others. Each case is simple, straightforward cause and effect.

I will keep it short and refrain from explaining each point, not because I can’t be bothered, but because I want this post to be all about taking quick action and seeing the results for yourself (you guys are also no fools!). Yes, many of these we hear about day in, day out, but here are some key ones all in one place, that make quick changes.

Here are 26 in no order: (Taking action on just one can make a big change. I’m not saying give them all up!)

1. Quit coffee and caffeine
2. Drink more water more regularly
3. Take brisk walks
4. Quit dairy products
5. Meditate
6. Treat yourself with hot baths and massage more often
7. Socialise
8. Give yourself deadlines
9. Try more new things that scare you a little
10. Quit smoking
11. De-clutter your surroundings, especially work environment
12. Shift your dietary balance to plant-based foods
13. Wake up early (I thought I was a night owl, but doing this has made a huge difference)
14. Exercise a little or a lot every day
15. Quit alcohol
16. Get over yourself and actively be more positive
17. Improve the quality of other people’s lives
18. Quit sugar
19. Regularly self massage
20. Read before bed
21. Take 5 slow deep breaths when you feel off
22. Say no to time-wasters and stress-inducers
23. Think less
24. Allow yourself a few minutes to get angry or complain daily, then get over it
25. Eat more Omega-3s
26. Make use of solitude

Aldous Huxley once said:

“The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”

That’s 26 things that I know will make a big difference to your creative productivity, but also everything else that will make you simply feel good. I’m not expecting you (or me for that matter) to take action on all of them, and yup, some might be seen as pretty drastic changes by some of you. But those are the ones that will create the most noticeable shifts.

Now go ahead, and make cool things.

.

The Author

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

74 Comments

  1. “23. Think less” Why everyone advises people to think less? When in fact they should think more? Or should I say that people should think in the first place? I believe you can never think to much.

    • Alex Mathers says

      I’m stating what seems counterintuitive to creative productivity. The thing is though, thinking too much means we think less about more, not good for productivity as it increases powerlessness.

  2. What REALLY made a huge difference for me was to take vitamin D pills. Almost everyone in the northern hemisphere has a vitamin D deficiency and this has bad effects on your immune system and your energy. In fact, it’s one of the few dietary supplements that have actually been proven to reduce cancer risk by 50%. Since I started taking them I feel like my energy DOUBLED.

  3. Great suggestions — sounds a bit like my cardiologist’s advice, especially giving up sugar, exercise more, walk more, etc. Already had to give up coffee. Definitely need to declutter my work space. I don’t like to stay on computer and socialize — do what’s needed and move on. Right on — thanks.

    • Alex Mathers says

      Haha, Doris, very true, but I don’t like to skirt around the ‘facts’, and these are some of the best changes one can make in the interest of creative productivity!

  4. I like many of them. Although i agree with Doris, many of them are pretty universally applicable and would improve your life, no matter what work you’re doing – don’t you think?

    Also, I’d say comfort food can be quite important to boost your mood sometimes. It’s all about moderation, not just all or nothing – this hardly works for most people.

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  6. Angie Wimberly says

    Can you expand on giving up dairy? I ask because I’ve been seeing arguments for and against and I can’t tell which is a better argument. The Livestrong site still lists it as good as a source of calcium and protein, but other fitness enthusiasts share your opinion. I just want a credible source.

    • Alex Mathers says

      Hi Angie, I don’t think anyone is 100% sure, but I’m going with the many arguments that seem credible and point to animal proteins doing more harm than good. Even if milk is a good source of calcium, it might be better to avoid for productivity’s sake, and get calcium from elsewhere… I haven’t given up dairy, by the way. These are all suggestions, and I don’t claim to be a credible source myself!

  7. Done with most of them and have to admit how it worked me far better. The only hard fight left is the tenth. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this, Alex.

  8. Akash says

    Hello Alex, I have been visiting your site for several weeks. This is first time ever commenting. Congratulations on Great Job!

    @Daniel: Thinking too much also means, MOSTLY, we are either in past or anxious over future. None helps.

  9. George says

    Some great points and I will be adopting some of them (alcohol is the one that clouds my brain) but to quit good coffee …. ouch! I can’t do that.

  10. Hey I’ve been thinking about quitting coffee. Interesting to see that it’s no.1 on your list. Can you explain why?

  11. Nicolas says

    Caffiene. Caffeine blocks your bodies ability to absorb iron from anything you consume that contains iron. Even if you take iron supplements. I love coffee, so I have opted for decaf. But the expensive naturally filterd kind. Tastes great and you can say goodbye a sleepy mornings.

    Doing this 1 thing has stopped fatigue, laziness, sleepiness and overall increased my mood. If for nothing else, you should allow your body to know when it is tired. Putting off sleep for a deadline is something else but really, just give up caffeine. Sodas and energy drinks too! Great blog btw. Loving it.

  12. Alex Mathers says

    Nicolas, thank you – you got there first!

    It’s all about the caffeine. It might give you a seeming productivity boost shortly after drinking it, but over the course of a day, caffeine, caffeinated coffee, and energy drinks will have nothing to show for helping your creative productivity!

  13. Akash says

    Body absorbing iron from our food intake. Squeezed lemon over food (whenever it goes with that dish) helps iron absorption.

  14. Thanks team. This caffeine thing is really interesting. Might have to take the plunge (pun intended) and quit coffee.

    Alex, I totally know what you’re saying, in the morning I have one coffee and my productivity and creativity go way up, but the rest of the day is a struggle.

    What about tea guys? … only low levels of caffeine.

  15. Great points, all of these. Being a night owl is a big problem for a lot of us. It is so true that once the quality of your own life improves, your work improves. The best investment in time you can make is in your own well-being.

    • Alex Mathers says

      Thank you for the comment Armeen, great point! It’s not that being a night owl is a problem, however, if that suits you. But many of us think we’re night owls when getting up early can make us even more alive and productive.

  16. might work for you, but none of this works for me. except maybe the regular 5 minute self-massage unfortunately, there is no common formula to creativity for every person. and a gret deal of these are anecdotal.

  17. Hey Alex, all of these are well and good, but I fear you are missing something.. No man is an Island. Call me a romantic, but is there anything more inspiring and motivating than; being in, having, sharing, letting in, or giving out Love.

    • Alex Mathers says

      I like your thoughts Nic, and I think you are right for the most part. Giving love is invigorating and energising. I wouldn’t say being ‘in Love’ makes one guaranteed to be creatively productive, however. That is out of your control and therefore likely more an impediment don’t you think?

  18. Of Course being ‘In Love’ does not guarantee creative productivity. But using it is a tool to inspire yourself and others around you to be the best you, and they possibly can is surely a step in the right direction.
    As far as it being an impediment goes, things out of our control are what makes the journey of our creative lives such an adventure. Is it not how we react and deal with things out of our control that makes us who we are ?

  19. Alex Mathers says

    Yes, though I believe being ‘in love’ (and effectively helpless) and sharing love for others is a little different. The latter being excellent for productivity as I said.

    I believe it is what we create within our own control that make us who we are, not in the way we react to things. Reactivity is knee-jerk and passive. I urge you to read about what I wrote on reactivity in this post linked below.

    Enjoy!

    http://www.redlemonclub.com/motivation/how-not-being-creative-is-harming-your-very-survival/

  20. Wow you’re good ! Are you the Creative persons Messiah ? I feel a sculpture of you coming on.. I’ll tweet you when its done..
    Thanks Alex.

  21. Mireille Sillander says

    On the “think less” bit: I can’t remember whose list for creative types it was, but it mentioned “not trying to create and analyze at the same time because the two are different processes”. So yeah; think less when you need to create. Analyze when analyzing is called for. Practise to know the difference.

  22. I like the fact that you added point number 26. This is such an important point in my opinion. I’m learning to value solitude so much and I’m getting this praise of solitude from many readings I’ve done recently. Although it seems to contradict point number 7. I like all your points, anyway.

    • Alex Mathers says

      Thanks Elena. I don’t see the contradiction in this case as an issue if they both ultimately lead to increased productivity. It’s to do with how you manage that time, allowing yourself the balance.

  23. Deep down we all know these points but
    but don’t follow ’em – human nature to take the easy routes!

    26? – Like this one! finding spending time off the drawing board and looking at stuff that’s total time wasting!!!

    I’m sure I’m not the only culprit!

    All good reading Alex as usual 🙂

    • Alex Mathers says

      Jan, you’re very right about most of these requiring an extra push from us as humans, but then with the rewards that we see from doing so, we realise the power we possess.

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  25. Love this post Alex, totally agree with the night owl thing, I too discovered that waking up early actually helps my creativity! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  26. #4 – yes yes yes! At least, dump processed dairy. The pasteurization and skimming of milk and other dairy actually removes the vitamins A, D and K2 which tell your body how to absorb the calcium you’re taking in. So, you drink in the calcium and it goes right back out of you – what a waste!

    #12 – no no no! At least, not for me, I suppose I should say. I’ve been Paleo for about six months and it’s been a lifechanger. Humans are built to thrive on high-protein diets — diets rich in lean meat, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. You want to feel fantastic? Dump grains! Wheat, corn, rice, all of it! My body has leaned out, I’m awake ALL DAY, I can focus for much longer, recovery time is MUCH shorter after intense workouts… overall I just feel amazing. Get that GMO wheat and gluten out of your body and you’ll feel it too! It’s just too much work to get all of the protein your body needs on a primarily vegetarian diet, and that alone should be hint enough at its success rate. Eating like our ancestors is the way to go 🙂

    Other than that, a great list! I found that even just getting all of my tasks and to-dos in a task manager and out of my brain made me so much more productive. The more you’re organized, the less you have to THINK of where to put or how to do something. Oh, hello #23! 😉

    • Alex Mathers says

      What a fab comment Devon, thank you! You’ve really got me thinking again, as I’ve been consistently unsure about eating too much animal proteins. I like your take and I do agree that wheats and glutens are the real baddies.. but I still feel like taking it easy when I can on animal meats, more from the environmental and moral perspective, though I’m certainly not a vegetarian. Definitely trying to take it easy on the pork.

      My view is that it seems to be wise to go mostly plants and up your proteins via occasional lean meat (with a big bias towards grass-fed and ‘well-treated’) – ideally anyway..

  27. Not really sure about coffee – hard to say but it keeps me awake by the computer – you need to drink something. So for any edits – nice coffee in the morning – gin and tonic in the evening 🙂

  28. Thank you Chirmer for comments on food and Thank Peter too, for comments on Beverages/Drinks. I lik3 them 🙂

  29. Agree on some points (quitting smoking, dropping caffeine and alcohol, decluttering).

    Disagree on other.
    Reading before sleep – you engage your brain when it should be resting. Reading before sleep is bad practice if you value your rest.

    Thinking less – I think you should focus your thoughts, not think less.

    Quitting sugar is another odd one. Sugar provides body with energy and is not easily substituted with other type of nutrients.

    Quitting dairy and switching balance towards plan-based food are also questionable. Seems more like fashion than common sense.

    • Alex Mathers says

      ‘Food for thought’ Pawel, thank you! Some of these do require a certain amount of self-understanding and a personal viewpoint, so I can understand what you are saying.

      • Wow Alex, this answer has to be diplomacy at it’s best! Brilliant list BTW. Agree on ALL points. Fortunately, I don’t have to be so gracious: Yo, Pawel, sugar aint a nutrient – dude : ) And questioning the value of increasing plant based foods? … that’s just sad…

    • Angiers says

      Instead of reading I listen to an audio book before sleep. It works well to put me to sleep and I get a little bit of my “reading” done.

  30. I agree with the Vitamin D comment, aka make sure to get some SUN! Reconnecting with nature for a few minutes a day really helps to keep that balance, and getting some of those good rays on your face just feels nice.

    And in regards to the quitting sugar and caffeine tip that seem to have people up in debate about, I think it’s more about moderation and really cutting out any processed foods.

    Thanks for the ideas and inspiration Alex!

    • Alex Mathers says

      Thanks for the comment, Sarah – vitamin D does seem to be a very important one – something that is easy to get too little of.

  31. This is probably covered by 22, but I think limiting my social media use and keeping it strictly relevant to my work is going to have to be a big one for 2013 (and beyond..) Read an interesting article recently on how little actual impact it has on most businesses (in terms of measurable sales), and yet I spend a disproportionate amount of my time on there. Might work for some, doesn’t seem to work for me. Time to approach it very differently, I think.

  32. Alex Mathers says

    Nice that you are thinking of ways to cut out things that take up your time Sue.

    It is worth bearing in mind, however, that social media can be viewed from whichever perspective you want to view it. For some it can be seen as a tool in building connections with people that would serve to benefit and benefit from your business. For others, it is a source of entertainment, and ongoing distraction.

    At its core, social media is simply a means to communicate with people. Is communication not a central element in building an audience and building a business?

    Could it be that these businesses haven’t yet found how to truly make use of social media in making sales, and have missed the point?

    I myself have made connections via social media that have turned into very lucrative business relationships over time. Why should it work for me more than you?

    Good luck for 2013!

  33. Giving up alcohol & cigarettes has really helped me no end. So much energy! Also…exercising regularly. When I find myself pacing around, doing lots of nothing – I hit the gym and come back way more focused.

  34. Excellent list there, #16 made me laugh but is so accurate! I agree with them all and am personally working on #5 at the moment which I think will link nicely with #23. Great post

  35. Leon Mussche says

    I always enjoy reading your tips, and your book was inspiring. But imho this list is not, sorry. Quit dairy products? Coffee?? Leon Mussche

    • Alex Mathers says

      I still 100% stand by all the things mentioned in the list as promoting creativity in the long run

  36. Shani says

    Hooray to all of these things except the “think less.” I like “do more,” but that does not have to come at the expense of thinking less! Humans are incredible creatures that can walk and talk at the same time. Woah.

  37. Stephanie Brown says

    Honestly, I don’t think that you need to “quit” certain food items to increase you’re creativity, that’s just ridiculous. Cutting down I can see, but quitting? Nuh-uh. Also, I tried going more plant-based diet and cutting down dairy for one day, and I felt so friggin’ tired. Back to full energy the next day when I went back to my regular diet. No one is the same. I think if you just eat healthy and follow these other guidelines, you’ll be A-okay. But that’s just me. Everyone’s different.

  38. Marie Claire Bretaña-Ponsaran says

    Quit is a strong word. People immediately bristle when they see it. Perhaps, reduce? Not everyone is vegan or following a certain diet. We can’t all quit something that’s been working well for some of us. Coffee and tea, for instance. Also… dairy? I understand the need to be wary of processed foods, but quitting something that’s not only a good source of calcium, but also full of essential proteins and other nutrients seems too much in my opinion.

    Lastly, telling people to ‘think less’ is too vague. Chirmer did say to use to-do lists and other tools to organize one’s work. I get that. But, thinking less sounds counterintuitive for me. Maybe the advice is not to overanalyze things, huh? 🙂 Everything else in the list works for me though, particularly quitting sugar. I always experience brain fog when I eat sugary foods.

    • Alex Mathers says

      Thanks Marie – When I use the word quit, I don’t use it lightly. In most cases, including a discussion on dairy, I stand by my suggestion to fully quit, rather than just reduce. For many of the more addictive things (yes dairy is addictive – look around you – and there is evidence to suggest that dairy makes your bones weaker due to acidity), just reducing will not help you because you will likely rebound to full blown addiction. Just because something is not a drug does not make it any less addictive.

      Ultimately what you decide to reduce is down to your own judgement as there is a lot of conflicting information out there.

      I’m also assuming my readership to be intelligent beings who would understand exactly what I mean by thinking less :). Thanks for the comment, Marie – I appreciate it.

  39. Love the tips regarding mental discipline, organizing your space, meditating and massage. However, regarding dairy consumption and plant-based diets — people aren’t one-size-fits-all.. some will respond to certain diets based on their genetics. Some people have better metabolisms to handle high-carb vegetarian diets, while folks with insulin sensitivity problems will become closer to diabetic if on a higher-carb diet. Same with high fat, high protein diets — some will become ketogenic and lean, while others will gain weight. Diets need to be tailored to the person, and this takes a lot of process of elimination and experimentation. Absolutely agree on elimination sugar however; it’s bad for everyone alike.

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