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Creativity vs. Productivity: It’s Not a Thing. Here’s Why…

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.

So, yesterday I made one of those special connections. One which happens maybe once every couple of years.

It’s the same thing I felt when I met Erin. And it’s the same thing I felt when I met all of my life-long adult friends.

There’s instant resonance. Conversation flows free and deep. Time disappears. And when people ask you years later why you’re close, you can rationalise, but the truth is you both “just knew” it felt right, right from the start.

So, that’s how I felt yesterday when I met Chris – my official new man-crush and one of the most interesting, grounded and thoughtful human beings I’ve yet met.

But there was a problem. Because it was 5PM on a Monday when we got chatting. And even as I realised this was a moment worth grasping, I also knew that I’d already planned out my evening; that I still had a few things to do before I closed out my day.

And the reason I’m sharing this story is because it speaks to a fear I hear often about productivity; a fear that being organised, structured and productive means giving up your ability to be creative, spontaneous and flexible; a fear that being productive means becoming boring and closed-off and rigid.

And I totally get it. We’re boxed-in and overwhelmed and overworked as it is. And then someone comes along and says, “Hey, what you need in your life are MORE structures and rules and routines,” and you’re like, “Hell no! I’m already trapped writing emails, managing others and firefighting 90% of the day, what I REALLY need is LESS stuff to think about – and a 4-week holiday wouldn’t hurt either.”

But that’s not how it works. You see being organised, structured and productive didn’t stop me from turning my 5-minute chat into a 3-hour conversation over dinner. It enabled it.

Being organised, structured and productive didn’t stifle my spontaneity and creativity.

It set me free.

It gave me the clarity to instantly and intentionally restructure my plans because I knew exactly what I wasn’t going to do as a result; AND I felt good about it. 

It gave me the confidence to feel totally happy about “writing off” my original evening because my day was already successful; I’d already achieved my six top priorities before lunch time.

And it gave me the headspace to be totally present as Chris and I talked because everything was outside of my head; I had everything captured in a simple, watertight productivity system that I trust and I use every day.

I didn’t miss out on a new, life-long friend just because I’d planned out my day in advance.

I didn’t blow off my to-do list and spend half the evening worrying or feeling guilty about what wasn’t happening.

I’m not spending this morning furiously catching up on important projects that I delayed for something unexpected and important.

I still feel great, I still feel in control and I still feel on top of my game. Even if it meant leaving a few things outstanding that I’d originally planned to get finished.

THAT is the power of mastering productivity. THAT is the power of taking charge of your ability to get big things done.

Can you see how that kind of command over your time, space and energy is so valuable?

Can you imagine what that kind of confidence, clarity and headspace would feel like when you’re making decisions?

Can you think of a recent occasion where being disorganised forced you to miss out on something or someone important?

If so, I’m giving a free, online training this Wednesday you should come to.

Register for it here: 

And even if you can’t make it, I hope you’ll take the most important lesson from today’s story away with you.

I hope you’ll see that:

Creativity doesn’t happen in spite of mastering productivity.
Creativity happens because of it.

Look after your fundamentals and the rest will look after itself.


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