Balancing Tension Between Productivity and Creative Flow


Productivity is a common benchmark for determining perceived value in the world of work, but while ticking items off a to-do list can feel fulfilling, using the same approach to measure the value of your creative flow falls flat. That’s why you may sometimes feel a sense of underlying tension around expressing yourself creatively – there’s no set way to determine the value of the effort. You just need to trust the act of creating is valuable, and that can feel awkward for people used to more traditional views of work, or who are new to entrepreneurship.


Whether you realize it or not, the balance between feeling productive and creatively fulfilled becomes the line we all dance along throughout the course of our lives, even those who identify themselves as highly creative. Sometimes the dance resembles the tango, hot, sassy and totally in tune. Other times it’s like a junior high slow dance, awkwardness is seeping out of every pore, sweet relief coming only when the song is finally over.


The fun part is finding where that line to connect with the creative flow is for you, and dancing along it in a way that feels more like the tango and less like you are trying to escape a sweaty gym.

Creative FloYo


There’s a reason creativity is described as a flow. It’s guided by inspiration, emotion, insights and countless other influences that aren’t necessarily measurable, and it can change on a dime. It’s also one of the reasons it makes people uncomfortable. Creativity requires you to be observant and present. Focusing all your energy on the completion of a specific goal or milestone means you might overlook new information, miss key signs that something is not a good fit, or simply drain all the joy and creative fun out of the experience. Things can’t flow when the requirements that determine success are too tight.


Yet creativity and productivity are not strangers in the night – they make a lovely balancing pair. Here are some examples of how the dance balances out, with both sides taking a turn.


You need:

1. A sense of your goals to work towards a creative vision that is personally fulfilling
2. Innovation and inspiration to help you create goals that make sense for your business or life

1. A way to connect to and experience happiness
2. A way to measure and experience success and happiness in traditional terms (the whole eating and housing thing)

1. A sense of what you value personally
2. Practical ways to connect with what you value


When you think about it as more of a point, counterpoint kind of expression like this, the balance of tension between productivity and creativity becomes so much tamer.


Creativity is a currency we all possess, it’s just easier for some to jump into the flow of the dance. So if you are an accountant, for example, maybe you think you aren’t creative in the least. But I bet you can come up with a hell of a creative budget if someone gave you $500 bucks to spend on a vacation get-away. It’s just one example of how the productive and creative sides of the coin can dance together very well.

Finding your Balance Point


Just the simple awareness about why you may feel tension around creative flow or expression is a big one. It’s the number one reason why people hold themselves back from trying something new, or force themselves to stay with “the devil they know” instead of making a change.


If you can get to the point where you are willing to look at and dive into the tension-filled sweet spot, you can learn to find a new rhythm that feels more like a flow than a vice grip.


As with any personal development work, it helps to find time to be alone, reflect, get the body moving, journal, listen to beautiful music — whatever gets you into a relaxed state. Then be willing to let your mind explore the where you feel tension or discomfort, where your creative flow may be a bit rusty.


There is no one formula to keep you tension free all the time, but if you are willing to see it as a way to change the music up a bit, the dance can get a whole lot more fun as you get ready to explore the possibilities.


Can you sense when productivity is taking over your creative flow and vice versa?

Photo Credit: Ian Hayhurst