Season 2: Unlocking productivity

Madeleine Dore Author, Interviewer & Podcaster

Why we need to broaden the definition of productivity 

We are a society obsessed with tips and tricks to increase productivity, work smarter, and get more done. What we achieve is the measure of our worth, we are told. But how’s that working for us? 

Trapped in a never-ending to-do list, we search for the next solution to make us more efficient. But often what we’re left with is feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, burnt out and alone. 

The tendency is to blame ourselves—or others—for simply not working hard enough, but in doing so we forget that every day is different, and so are we.   

Productivity tells us to live sequentially, but our days rarely unfold in perfect order. Not only does each day vary, but we vary within them. To step more fully into the different versions of our day, I think we need to be more creative, not more productive.   

Bringing more creativity into our days 

Spending the better part of a decade interviewing artists, designers, musicians, and thinkers taught me that we can all learn from their insights on the creative process and how it can be applied to many aspects of our working days.  

For example, illustrator Mari Andrew taught me to set goals based on how you want to feel, rather than what you want to achieve.  

Or artist and author Austin Kleon shared that he keeps a clean digital desk for focused writing, and a messy analogue desk for creating his artwork.  

More often than not, when we create space in our days for the shifts in our energy, attention and focus, we begin to recognize what we need to do our best work. 

The key is to experiment 

Sometimes we don’t realise we have adapted a way of doing something that is unsustainable or unsuitable for ourselves or a team until we’ve become exhausted and burnout. 

The antidote is to apply our human creativity through experimenting.

madeleine dore

We can experiment in big and small ways with our own approach to work, or our work as a team. We can ask for more time, to work from home, reassess our to-do list, calendar and priorities, regularly and often.  

We won’t always get it right, but perhaps if we are open about trying new approaches, we can invite others to do the same.  

Embracing our own way 

When we let go of comparing ourselves to how other people do things or expectations around doing it right, we can embrace our way of doing things. 

There are many reasons we may need to measure our day differently than others because we’re all different. We can’t expect to recreate the same recipe when we have different ingredients. But we can get creative with what we do have and give ourselves permission to find what works for us. 

In summary, if productivity narrows our days, creativity expands them by allowing us to embrace the ebb and flow, experiment, and find our own way