Top Creativity Productivity Boosters

I had lunch with another attorney the other day. He was sharing that he would like to find more time for his creative pursuits—writing poetry and screenplays. He was frustrated and asked how I was able to make time for my creative efforts. I responded, “two things: carry a journal and turn off the T.V.”

Because my legal niche is helping creative people and business, I’m around inspiringly creative people almost every day. You can spot a productive creative person from across the room because no matter where they go, they carry a journal. When you talk with them, you’ll find they spend very little time watching TV.

Carry a journal

Notice that I didn’t say “keep a journal,” “buy a journal,” or “have a journal.” They CARRY a journal. Everywhere. The only way to get the benefit of journaling is to have it with you at all times so that you can right down the ideas when they hit you and work on your inspirations whenever you get a spare block of time that would otherwise be wasted. So, when you select a journal, find one that fits in your pocket or purse. Make it easy to keep with you all the time. I like the 5.5×8.5 inch size Moleskine journals, but you can find wonderful journals at art stores or online. I also keep a larger 8.5×11 inch journal in my briefcase. I’ve found that if you’re just starting to build the journaling habit, it helps to buy less-expensive journals because an expensive journal is intimidating and we tend to feel that we can only write profound thoughts in an expensive journal.  Hell, buy a dime notebook and keep it with you all the time and write your to-do list or grocery list in it go get you started. Deface the thing so that you can feel comfortable writing anything and everything in your journal. It’s not sacred.

It’s not a diary.

You don’t have to write letters to yourself every day. You scribble ideas. You draw mind-maps. You make outlines. You record wise statements overheard in meetings. You doodle while you’re waiting for the kids to finish gymnastics practice. Write headlines. Write a list of reasons people hire you. Write a list of presentations you could create to bring in more clients. Outline the PPT slides you’ll use in your next Ignite talk. Make a list of funky non-law Ignite talks you could give.

If you’re really into it and want to super-charge your creativity, then get the book Creative License and do what it teaches. Get yourself a set of watercolor pencils, a sharpener, and a couple small brushes to keep in a pencil case in your purse or backpack. Use them. Let your kids use them. My journals are now full of drawings and paintings from my 9, 7, and 5 year old children.  I’m sure I’ll treasure these journals because of the contributions of my kids rather than anything I’ve put in them. They’re messy.  They’re organic. They are snapshots of living a life that is mine—one shared with other creative humans—creative humans that remind me how we approached life with smiles and joy and wonder before all those filters and weights of being a grown-up settled down on us.

If you carry a journal, you will use it, your stress level will be reduced, and your creativity will sky-rocket. If it doesn’t, drop me an email and I’ll refund the cost of your journal.

Turn off the T.V.

Studies show that the average American consumes around 150 hours of television per month. That’s around 5 hours every day on average—and we wonder why we’re not more successful. Television consumption is sucking the creativity right out of you in 10-second increments. Clay Shirky does an incredible job building this case in his book Cognitive Surplus (see the video below). Turn the damn thing off.

If you’re addicted to the tube and can’t leave the television turned off—then get rid of it. I know from experience that you can still watch DVDs of movies and Shows you want to see even if you don’t have a TV in the house. It’s easy enough to watch a live sporting event at a friend’s house or bar. (Granted, having no TV sucks during football season, but that’s my problem…) Get rid of your cable and spend the $70+/month on something creative. $70/month buys a lot of art supplies and a couple VERY nice leather-bound jewel-encrusted journals. $70/month will more than cover the start-up and hosting cost of a blog sharing your prose or photography. Even if you only watch an hour of TV a day, it’s an hour that you could easily use in more creative adventures.

Here’s a great Ted talk about what you might be able to do with your cognitive surplus.

If you can’t turn off the television, then make a pact with yourself that you’ll only watch while on the bike or treadmill at they gym. Shifting the $ you pay the cable company over to what you pay for a gym membership will also make you more creative. You’ll have some of your best ideas while working out or in the steam room or shower after exercise.

Just make sure your journal is close. You might change the world. Really, you might. You could. Why not give yourself a chance?



  1. Avatar Wade Coye says:

    Great idea about the gym membership taking the place of cable service. I’m not sure if I’ll follow through with that, but it’s a step in the right direction. If anything, it could keep our multi-tasking skills sharpened.

  2. Avatar Justin McLeod says:

    I really like the journal idea. I always bring a pad to court to write down thoughts/impressions, but there is no reason that should translate into other activities. Great article, and luckily I don’t have to deal with a TV addiction ;-).

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