Productivity for Creativity – Introduction and Advice #1 Mind your Inboxes

Why this may be helpful for you

This is about why you need boring productivity techniques when you want to be spontaneous creativity. Here, I want to give solid advice about what techniques you might try, because they are working for me. Maybe this is the beginning of a series of articles, maybe not, depending on your feedback and what I think I have to offer. I hope you give this train of though a try and it would be awesome to hear/read from you about this. This first articles is about inboxes, but first a bit of introduction.


I used to think that art and creativity is 100% spontaneous. You have an idea, you have your raw material available, you sit down/stand before your medium, you do it, you’re in the flow, you’re done. We’re artist and not an accountant, right? That was my holy grail of doing pictures, writing songs, creating animations, whatever … and sometimes it really was that way. I had this especially when writing songs for my rock/pop/funk band: I had a lyrics idea, I had a cool riff, now looking back I known that I had a fixed song structure (like intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge/solo, chorus, outro). When the ideas were good enough the song was done, BAM! That felt awesome, that felt great, you’re the best artist ever! So, what’s next?

Today by situation is a lot different, mainly because a) I have so many possibilities and b) because I have little time and c) because I’m lower on energy.

a) Should I make another pictures or an animation or a song or something completely different like these guys on youtube and their dawn cool tutorials are showing me? Maybe learn to play bass, guitar, piano a lot better, maybe learning how to speak French. I know what I’m talking about.

b) I’m a working dad, so the days in which I had a whole weekend all for myself doing nothing but creating music are over and they will not be back. Family and adult live is demanding time and this is my chosen life, so this is ok and I have to deal with that.

c) When you did all that stuff you may find yourself on the sofa watching TV or surfing the web for cat videos or youtube for a new tutorial or the latest free VST plugin or textures or fonts or staring down facebook. Short: You don’t do music.

Now, let’s assume you have beaten a-b-c and you want to create something new and meaningful to you, what will that be? You have 1 hour of free time until you toddler wakes up or you have to walk the dog, what will you do?

It was a bitter pill to me that this question was the same than the one I have all the time during my working hours as an IT-guy at work: You have 1 hour ’til the next meeting is due, so what is the most efficient use of your time? What will make you happy? At work I’m a user of productivity techniques (like GTD, Inbox zero etc.) so, after some hard battle to let this work related stuff into my recreation part of life I decided to let some hard-sorted stuff in. So, here we go with #1

Tip #1: Mind your Inboxes

Think about how many inboxes you have for your ideas. I assume that you write down / store your ideas somewhere when inspiration hits you: You may have a notebook which you carry on you all the time to write things down. You may have an e-mail inbox where you have undeleted mails with ideas in it. Talking of e-mail you have probably more than one mail account like one or two private ones and one for work. Let’s have look at social media: soundcloud, facebook, G+, ello, etc., they all have inboxes with messages or posts with inspiration. Maybe you’re using online tools like evernote, trello, dropbox, googledrive to store ideas, too? Maybe you have a local folder in which you store you’re downloads or other local files you found during surfing the web? Having voice notes from you commute to work stored on your smart phone? You have all that and more, right?

So, here’s the tip: Have only one inbox for your ideas, because when you have only a short time period to work on the next thing, you want to have a full overview of what is cool for you now in this moment. You don’t want to find a cool thing later when you don’t have time to work on it. You need a trusted system which shows you all the cool possibilities when you have the time and energy to work on them or one of them. When you pick one, you have to me sure that this is the one which is the most fun to pick.

AND: You don’t want to spend you hour of time to check 10+ inboxes because the time will be over or nearly over after you done that.

So, choose your favorite inbox and make it THE INBOX. Send all your cool ideas to that inbox and delete the rest. Use one and only one INBOX. Have one evernote, one dropbox, one mail account whatever works for you. This is where you look and nowhere else. Having only five inboxes? Make that three. Having three inboxes? Make it one and one only. If you find another cool idea in another “inbox” later, no problem and no need to feel bad about it: Send it to your INBOX and you’re sure that you have it visible the next time who want to have fun in artist land. You choose the best thing for now and you don’t spend trying to remember THE other cool idea and you don’t spend precious time to check a number of inboxes.

Inbox is for artists, too. Sounds too simple to be helpful? Give it a try. It would be awesome to hear from your experience with that.



7 thoughts on “Productivity for Creativity – Introduction and Advice #1 Mind your Inboxes

  1. Animus Invidious says:

    i consolidated all my notes and “to-dos” (some electronic, mostly on paper) with Trello a couple weeks ago and it’s been working pretty well; better than any other “note-taking” or “brainstorming” app i’ve yet tried.

    1. productivemonkey says:

      Hey, there. Thanks for the input. Trello is very cool, when your process has different states for you tasks or you have different moods, like “lot of energy = write song”, “low on energy = clean up library”. There the tool is really helpful. Funny thing is that everybody has different needs for this and some tools look cool on first sight but do not deliver when you use them. Some may look strange/weird first but it just clicks and your set. This is very personal. Don’t let someone tell you which is the best tool for you.

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