Why is personal productivity important?

Every week on Q&A Monday, I’ll be answering questions from the Uncanny Creativity community and the web.

Why is personal productivity important?
Anonymous asked on quora

Artists and designers use the word productivity to describe the art of deciding and acting on our top priorities. When we work with our values, we give our life a sense of meaning. First, we notice what we really want. Then, we figure out ways to keep those tasks and projects in motion.

Sometimes we don’t really think through the steps involved. We end up putting effort on reacting to situations we don’t really care about. We’ll often be distracted by helping others with their dreams. We’ll help them in ways that don’t make sense for our own lives. We’ll react to whatever random thoughts come to mind. Often any mental connect of our day triggers these thoughts if we don’t have a way to practice.

By taking action on what’s important, we get more of what we want and need. Researchers at Stanford surveyed almost 400 people about their thoughts on distinctions between meaningfulness and happiness. They found that getting what we need helps us feel happier. Such as when we put some effort toward our health, we’ll usually make healthier choices and then feel happier. The researchers linked thinking about the present linked to happiness.

Meanwhile, the Stanford survey found that thoughts about the past and future actions lead to finding meaning in life. Connecting to other people deeply with a sense of responsibility helps with both meaning and happiness. Finding meaning often is stressful. We might choose the career of our dreams, engage in hobbies, raise children, and travel. All of these include both levels of uncomfortable mental or physical trouble. Those choices also help us feel less stressed .

We could use the term task for anything that we need to carry out. We might have bigger more complex life projects filled with recurring tasks. Productivity for most people includes continually balancing our wants with those of others, dealing well with stress, and defining ourselves.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

What types of mental blockades hinder creative thinking?

What types of mental blockades hinder creative thinking?
Anonymous asked on Quora

Often we get in our own way without realizing it. Figuring out which habit of thinking help or hurt us can be tricky. Often habits emerge from the environment and conditioning. The heart of creativity is solving problems in interesting ways.

Here’s a list of ten ways to look at your creative processes based on problem solving techniques used to change unhelpful thinking and the resulting behaviors.

Tip 1: Embrace the grey.

Compromise and find middle ground. Often when we’re stuck creatively, it’s because we’ve decided it exists as one thing or another other. It appears as the perfect most photorealistic painting or it is completely worthless. We must use all paints and no pencils. We’re a print graphic designer and don’t do the web.

Those are perfectly acceptable choices, sure. It’s also worthwhile to consider—revisiting the above examples—that any effort painting can yield lessons. That mixed media becomes really cool and interesting. And knowing a bit about the web, even if you’re primarily an expert print designer, is still better than nothing.

Tip 2: Focused on the task at hand.

Over-applying negatives about a task to all aspects of our life can trip us up. We’ll define ourselves by our job, our art, and our relationships. If we’re not “always” a perfect artist, this trap tells us, then we’re “never” worth much in all areas of our life. If your project isn’t the most original thing in the world, it doesn’t represent your self-worth.

Tip 3: Identify the positives.

We tend to only see the negatives. The positives are invisible to us. Notice what’s good about your efforts. It’s the only way to keep motivated to keep working and making.

Tip 4: Positives matter.

Even if we see the positives, it makes sense to take delight in good aspects. Make sure that you notice the positives about your work, and that you actually like and love those awesome aspects. Find where your strong happy emotions are. They tell your point of view.

Tip 5: Consider alternative solutions.

The first solution isn’t necessarily the best one. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Feel free to jump in to reality test your assumptions. Just because you’re trying something doesn’t mean it’s true either.

Tip 6: Stay present.

You can’t predict the future. We often envision disaster as a form of procrastination. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. We developed an imagination to help us understand and avoid danger. Catastrophizing and fortune-telling takes this to an implausible level and cripples our creative muscles.

Tip 7: Gather comments.

Don’t assume the worst. Clearly communicate as best you can to your audience and collaborators. We don’t know if others will hate our work unless we share. Carefully curate that feedback for what we find usable and doable.

Tip 8: Consider evidence along with feelings

Don’t believe everything you feel and think. Consider what these thoughts and feelings are really based on. From there, we can create brand new conclusions.

Tip 9: Work with what’s possible

Don’t demand unrealistically about yourself and others. Understand where your expectations come from and what they are. There’s a thin line between positive idealism and negative perfectionism. Learn to understand how to be most productive.

Tip 10: Describe specific circumstances.

Avoid negative labeling of yourself and others. There’s no need to use unkind names when a neutral word or thought will do. Consider all contributing factors.

These ideas are based in part by tips described in David D. Burns’s Feeling Good Handbook.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

What is the difference between stealing and inspiration?

“What is the difference between stealing a work and inspiration?”

Mohamed-76 asked on Quora

Substantial similarity is the term used in the United States copyright law to decide if a creative work is infringing. The court’s mindset can be used as a helpful creative framework.

Thedecision rides on whether the resulting work can only result from pure copying and not a coincidence. When making the distinction between copying and inspiration, the court use many factors such as:

Uniqueness, intricacy, or complexity. Guarantee that your work includes its own voice and structure. Expand your own experiences by telling your personal story. Draw from various ideas that you’ve discovered instead of just one and describe why they resonate for you. Start by explaining the story’s details and then give your ideal audience the your personal thinking behind it.

An unexpected element. What addition can you impose? Remove a common element that can be discarded to establish an element of surprise.

Mistakes in both works. Direct copying from a source can show mistakes. The copyist may not even understand the error. Without having a familiarity with anatomy, for example, an artist might copy an unrealistic invention or error. Only take inspiration from elements you understand. Study from various sources and learn from observing real life as much as possible.

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Pablo Picasso

Attempts at superficial differences. Making a copy while switching only colors or cropping is different from making a unique piece. Start from a base that is original to your piece. Make your piece mostly inventive. This is the fun part!

How to borrow creatively

When working with inspiration, try focusing on one aspect. If working with visual arts, you might look at only the color or only the composition. Think critically about what you really like about source material. You’ll fill in the blanks with other inspirations. Whatever thoughts you have collected over your lifetime will lead you to diverging paths than any other artist.

“Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” C.E.M. Joad

Austin Kleon asks “Is it worth stealing?” in his book, “Steal Like An Artist”. Your choice of inspirations will be unique to you. If you love the design of Ikea furniture, antique houses, and country living… You’ll end up with a house that you love and that is custom made for you. Apply this idea to your artwork.


Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Is there a way I can develop a more creative mind?

“Is there a way I can develop a more creative mind so that I can come up with ideas?”
Anonymous asked on Quora

Applied creativity is a practiced skill. There are infinite ways to understand the ways you already use this skill and to figure out the next steps:

Notice how you’re already creative.

Every action you take is creative. You’re taking something from your inner world and making it real. You created your life today. You could sleep in and instead you wake up. You could quit your job; instead, you work. You could abandon your relationships, instead, you keep them. Life is an act of creation.

“Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, Great Gatsby

You can play with your life in small creative ways. Plan in areas that you’re spontaneous. Be spontaneous about details that you often plan. Take a different route to work. Try something new every day. Quit doing something that you never want to do again or find an easier way to do it.

Clarity comes from action.

Research ways to be more creative. Read articles and tutorials. That’s just a start. And most importantly, try the ideas!

“If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.” Ecclesiastes 11:4

Notice what’s around you.

Every moment has an infinite number of facts. The feeling of touch of the keyboard or phone as you type. The sound of your breath. The color of your walls. The taste in your mouth. The scent of your clothing, hair and environment.

Engage your senses in any moment. You’ll notice something you never noticed before. The more information you have, the more you can use this in your creative pursuits.

Think of an artist drawing an ordinary object. Even if it’s a very minimalist representation, capturing some small detail of the original object is engaging. Imagine an artist sketch a silhouette of various objects. With a single line, you can capture texture, size, and relationship.

Listen and be curious

Often we listen with envy, wishing we can do what others do or have what they have. When you notice this feeling, engage with curiosity instead. Understand how they became who they are and do what they do. Notice how you’re alike and different. It’s okay and completely expected that everyone has a unique perspective.

“Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others experience.” Otto von Bismarck

If someone has an idea, try it without resistance. Being a good listener means having lower defenses. The more comfortable we get with understanding the thoughts of others as ideas rather than judgement, the easier it will be to apply those ideas to our own creativity.

“Don’t take anything personally…What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”— Miguel Angel Ruiz

Write it down

This is one of the tips that works really well for me. Write lists, organize them or leave them messy. Read about mind mapping techniques and play around with the. Take out a piece of paper and scribble over it.

In cognitive science, this concept is called Distributed cognition. As I was saying earlier, creativity is taking the thoughts from your inner world and making them real. So the more you practice finding ways to turn your thoughts into actions, the more creative you’ll be.

Sketch it out

Draw doodles. Turn words into pictures. How do you see things in your mind? If you have trouble building associations, go to google image search and Pinterest and doodle what you see. The very act of doodling will give it the uniqueness of your eye and your hand.

Get a sketchbook. Or often that feels that’s too precious. So scrap paper, cheap dollar notebooks, and old envelopes from junk mail are also amazing tools

Answer questions

“Make statements” as Tina Fey says. She advises that we turn questions into answers. Statements are where the real work is. Whether it’s making statements about questions on quora or testing the statements that are responses to your own questions. If your statement is wrong, just make another one.

“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” Oscar Wilde

Share often

Ideas don’t develop in a vacuum. With the internet, it’s easy to put your work out there. Get used to putting your work in front of people and not taking feedback personally. Feedback isn’t always true. It’s just the thought of others. Mostly developed through their own inner worlds. Enjoying this play between your thoughts and the thoughts of others is the heart of the creative mind. Your ideas can spark ideas the mind of others.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

What are your top five sketchbook prompts and ideas?

For this week’s Q&A Monday, I asked this question on Quora. Here’s a list of 30 answers:

“What are your top five sketchbook prompts and ideas?”

Read Jade Kandel's answer to What are your top five sketchbook prompts and ideas? on Quora

Read Patrick Hochstenbach's answer to What are your top five sketchbook prompts and ideas? on Quora

Read Marc Holmes' answer to What are your top five sketchbook prompts and ideas? on Quora

Read Kathy Staton's answer to What are your top five sketchbook prompts and ideas? on Quora

Read Racer Maximiliano Rodriguez-Avellan's answer to What are your top five sketchbook prompts and ideas? on Quora

Read Nat Love's answer to What are your top five sketchbook prompts and ideas? on Quora

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.