4 Remedies for Sluggish Creativity and Productivity

Startups are tough, but what’s even tougher is maintaining a consistent flow of productivity and inspiration without crashing. Countries like Sweden have began experimenting with 6 hour work days to improve quality and efficiency of work. Unfortunately most of us don’t have the luxury of calling it quits after 6 hours. Startups are all about getting the most amount of work done in the short timeframes.

So, how can you stay productive and keep a constant flow of inspiration? There are dozens of different techniques, but we went out and asked a hundred San Francisco locals about their secrets for keeping productive and inspired. If you find yourself feeling tapped out and staring at your blank computer screen here are the top 4 remedies to get you back in the groove.


1. Indulge in exercise

Exercise plays a huge role in providing sustainable energy to keep yourself productive and inspired. Various studies show that exercise creates new brain cells and improves overall brain performance. Depending on the intensity of the exercise it will have different positive effects on your brain. For example, tough and strenuous workouts increase levels of a brain-derived protein in the body. This protein, BDNF, is known to help with decision making, higher thinking, and higher learning. Petr Bela, a software engineer and entrepreneur, has been able to identify the time of the day when he gets sluggish and decided to do something about, “…I go for a bike ride or a run. I also try and schedule a tennis training or match [around that time]”.

Jane Bolander, from JSY Public Relations had a similar observation about the afternoon sluggishness “It’s amazing how you can get stuck in the same sitting position for so long, but getting up, getting fresh air and moving around can instantly recharge you.”

Relaxing is the huge benefit of exercise, and coworking spaces have begun incorporating on-site yoga, meditation, and even weight training as a member benefit. Primary, a coworking space in NYC, has built an on-site fitness studio with classes running all day for members. Showers are also included!

If you’re not one for hitting the gym several times a week, then try going for a walk next time you start feeling uninspired. 


2. Switching up locations

Changing locations can be an advocate in getting back into the productive groove. You’re not just changing your surroundings, but you’re also getting up and moving, so it’s a double positive. There have been some studies done on how our environment can help us focus. So, next time your in a productivity rut search for a location with one of these attributes:

Looking to brainstorm or solve a tough problem? Look for a  place to work with high ceilings. According to research high ceiling height helps us think more broadly and make connections between unrelated topics.

Need to buckle down and power work? Work environments where the primary color is red will help you with good performance and short-term memory tasks. When you’re crunching work try and avoid environments heavy on blue. A blue dominant environment sparks creativity and may not be the most conducive for power working.

Feeling stressed out and overwhelmed? Grab your laptop and head for nature. Studies have shown that an environment [that has nature in it] helps reduce aggression and reset your feelings. If you don’t have the luxury of working from a park, then try and work near a window that looks outside on to a green field with trees.

Dan Ahmadi, Director of Digital Marketing at Meteor likes to switch it up when he works, “Working in a different location (either in the office or somewhere else entirely) helps me think more creatively”.  Dan Ahmadi


3. Grab a beer

This one may be a favorite among many, but beware! It may have diminishing returns. A study published in Consciousness and Cognition showed that men who were given enough vodka to raise their alcohol level to .075% solved problem faster than those who weren’t. If you’re studying for a state exam or need extreme concentration, then it’s probably not such a great idea. However, if you’re trying to solve a puzzle or a problem that requires “outside the box” thinking, then a pint of beer or cocktail can help spark creativity. 

This method was mentioned by a few of our respondents, Matt Harris a Software Executive and Entrepreneur, likes to “grab a beer at the nearby brewery” when he’s feeling sluggish performance and lack of inspiration setting in. It helps with relaxation, which can get your mind wandering and can even help with creativity. The brewery visit combined with the positive effects of a stroll to and from is a great combination for putting creativity and productivity in overdrive.


4. Pomodoro Technique

So this one is more has been gaining more and more traction amongst not just programmers, but for anyone required to be highly productive. In a nutshell the Pomodoro Technique forces you to work in short-bursts with five minute breaks in between bursts. 

The goal is to take any project or work that you have, and break it into a series of tasks and timed intervals. Once you’ve done this, then work in 25 minute bursts and take a five minute break when time’s up. At every fourth interval take a longer break like 15 - 25 minutes.

This technique, if practiced consistently, can over time improve your attention span and concentration. In the short-run it will help you tackle bigger projects more efficiently, while keeping you productive and flowing with inspiration.

Don’t want the hassle of having to constantly checking the time, setting reminders, or countdowns? 

No worries. There are solutions out there for you. Brian Zaik, Lead UX Designer at BMC Software, uses a variety of apps to keep track of his Pomodoro Cycles, “I have a little app on both my MacBook and phone to start up short Pomodoro cycles. After 25 minutes of work, I get 5 minute breaks. I find these pomodoro cycles to be wonderful for pacing myself and keeping my productivity high.” A few apps you may want to try are Tomighty (Mac), Focus Timer (iOS), and Simple Pomodoro (Android). 

What are some techniques you use to stay inspired and productive?