The conflict between creativity and productivity

Creative or productive? Quite a discussion it was with a good friend. Whether it's best to work with a clean desk or whether you need chaos around you.

But then we figured out that it depends on the objective. Do you want to be creative or productive? Because those are opposites.

Many of the factors that boost your focus and productivity lower your creativity. Often you are most creative at times when you are de-focused: a walk in nature, in the shower, daydreaming,... So we really need time-off to be creative. And often we are too focused on being productive, so we sacrifice creativity.

Focus means focusing on one thing. Creativity means that you broaden your view and start connecting the dots and making links. To be creative, it helps to have lots of inspiration and input around you. While for productivity and focus, it’s best to limit distractions and clutter.

We need both; and so it is best to alternate. Think of it as a kind of yin and yang. If one is active, the other is not.

By the way, you see this in organizations as well. The more structured, the less innovative they are. That's why chaos is often the norm in startups. Their survival is focused on innovation and invention. Creativity is more important than productivity. And that is also the reason why you see spin-offs develop more often in larger organizations because that way they get the space to embrace creativity outside of the existing structure.

So ask yourself regularly what you need at that moment: productivity or focus time.

Mien is coaches entrepreneurs and business leaders. She founded her own company, Lifegoal Coaching, to do this. Read more at her website.