Creativity and productivity is almost always a struggle for me.
Sure, there are times where they’re easy and I just feel “on”, but more often than not, they’re things I have to make a conscious effort to achieve.
And of course, if I had a day planned for productive work but I realize I got nothing significant done that day, I feel like I had just let myself down.
Fortunately, there are several intentional actions I could take that help me kick myself back into high gear and remove myself from mental slumps.
1) Changing Your Physical Environment
One of the biggest determinants of how much work I’ll be able to accomplish is reliant on where I physically am working.
Environment shapes action.
Being location independent, I have the luxury of being able to work from wherever I’d like as long as there’s a working internet connection.
Most days I’m tempted to work downstairs in my own home, but my house isn’t the most productive environment. I live near family members so at any given time, I could have a surprise visit that disrupts my workflow.
Even though working from home is the easiest place to start from a logistical perspective, I find that the potential for distractions is a distraction in itself. That and the fact that I have a Chromecast where I could load up Netflix makes it a particularly dangerous place to grind out work.
So where do I go for a reliable boost in productivity? Coffee shops. I’m writing this article in one right now.
Coffee shops definitely aren’t for everyone though. The majority of people I know seem to dislike the amount of noises from people talking to blenders going off every three minutes. Personally, I love it.
The conversations are at a level where you can’t hear the exact conversations so you don’t get sucked into eavesdropping (whether intentional or not) and I much prefer the consistent sound over complete silence at home.
But let’s say you’re not a coffee shop guy/gal, much like my friends. Then find a library where silence is literally enforced. Or to into a different room.
Changing up my physical environment is one of the most reliable methods to boosting your productivity. This should always be your first step when feeling unproductive.
2) Listen to a Podcast
Podcasts are basically internet radio where you have a host (or multiple hosts and guests) talking about a specific subject.
Usually I only listen to them while driving but I’ll occasionally pop one on while working. They could be listened to during most activities where there’s a lot of downtime, such as exercise, driving, walking, waiting in line, etc.
This is a tricky one because most people haven’t heard of podcasts or they say they “don’t get it”.
The secret to enjoying podcasts is to find shows that are well produced and relevant to your interests.
It’s a lot like finding a favorite movie or tv show. You can’t just stumble upon a random one and expect to get sucked in.
Personally, I almost exclusively listen to business podcasts. When I listen to them, I get new ideas, feel more motivated to take action on something, and I feel a boost in overall productivity.
Here are some of my favorite business podcasts that I regularly listen to:
And pretty much the only non-business podcast I listen to is the hilarious Bill Burr. Definitely not for you if you don’t enjoy crude and vulgar humor. There’s some offensive stuff on there but here’s Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast.
3) Get Your Nose in a Book and Read
Alright, so if you went back in time to high school Vincent, or even Vincent from a year ago, and told me I’d be passionate about reading then I wouldn’t believe you.
I used to be adamant about not reading and even wore my disdain for reading like some sort of badge of honor.
Although I still avoid fiction books (I’ve literally read one in the past three or four years), I am a sucker for a good non-fiction business book.
In fact, I finished 9 books from cover to cover since the new year started. Six of them I finished in the month of January alone.
Here’s the thing about reading: it gives you so many great ideas and have literally changed the way I see the world and do business.
I can’t say fiction could do that for you—I honestly don’t know—but there’s so much value in reading a book from someone who’s walked the walk and have tons of experience under his or her belt.
There’s been several books I read this year that got me to immediately rush to my laptop to type down practical notes that I implemented soon after.
Here are some of my favorite books from these past few months (non-affiliate links:)
The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – I’ve read this before but re-reading it after having lived the very lifestyle Tim writes about in his book gave me fresh perspective on the whole concept of location independence. There are definitely a lot of “dream-selling” in his book, but also a lot of golden truths in there as well.
Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares – This is a wonderful book on how successful companies gain traction and explode user growth.
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday – Ryan’s take on Stoicism was arguably more fun than an old favorite of mine, A Guide to the Good Life: Art of the Stoic Joy. I recommend both.
Rework by Jason Fried – This was another re-read because I recall the first read through was so quick as there’s almost zero fluff and each chapter tackles on a whole new concept.
80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall – If you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, you’ll like how Perry breaks it down even further into the fields of sales and marketing. If you haven’t heard of the Pareto Principle then you most definitely have to read this book.
I also had an article several months ago asking you guys for book recommendations. Here’s the original reading list along with tons of comments from others suggesting their own personal favorites as well.
4) Talk to Someone You Respect and Admire
Imagine you’re in a small group of 4-6 people who share the same values as you, they’re like-minded, and you trust their expert opinion on subjects that matter most to you.
Enter the mastermind group.
These have been growing in popularity in the business world and for good reason. You gain new perspectives on old problems that could take you out of a rut and thrust you into a position that’s 10 steps ahead of where you were before.
The idea for my first business literally came from a conversation I had with three other smart entrepreneurs down in San Diego. I never would’ve thought of forming a business around Facebook Ads Lead Generation if it hadn’t been for someone bringing that up at that table.
I’ve also had complete 180 mindset shifts as a result of conversations with some really smart people here in this very coffee shop.
Once you get into conversations with high quality individuals whose opinions you respect, you start diving into territory that you wouldn’t have been able to even find on your own.
Make it an effort to talk to people who can build you up.
That is how you spark creativity and productivity.
So the next time you need a boost in either, the secret might just be in switching up your physical environment, listening to a podcast, reading a great book, or talking to someone.