Helping Creative People Create

The High Seas Showed Me How Pitifully Unproductive I Am

by glen

high sea productivity
Photo by zanzibar

This is the first in a series of posts that showcase things I’ve learned during my recent honeymoon travels.

My new wife and I decided to go on a Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon, and with the help of the most knowledgeable traveler I know, we booked an amazing week-long cruise.

Lynn made me promise to leave my laptop at home, and we decided both of our phones were going to remain off for the entire trip. (Little did we know that it costs a ton to have wifi connection and even phone service on a cruise.) We wanted to spend time with each other, without worrying about the outside world.

And then a funny thing happened. I had an absolute deluge of creativity.

Aside from hanging out with the most beautiful woman in the world for a week, I managed to:

  • write 5 posts and a few post “fragments” for potential posts
  • planned and completely outlined 2 entire ebooks
  • put finishing writing touches on a soon to be released ebook
  • planned goals for the next 6 months for my sites and release dates
  • and on top of all that I managed to read 4 print books.

All without the help of a computer. This was far and away the most productive week of my life, and I was on vacation. So how did I do it?

Factor One: Distraction-Free Platform

Without the computer I was able to think clearer with less distractions. No IM, no Twitter, no email… those are just a few of the benefits of unplugging.

But more importantly, the medium I was using was much better suited for no holds barred creative output. A pen and paper is so simple, yet it’s the most powerful tool that I own. Unlike computers, the simplicity of paper and a pen makes it more powerful. It can only mirror what I’ve put onto it, nothing more. I can jot ideas down as fast as my hand can write, and I’m not constrained to just text. I can draw diagrams, make arrows, circle worlds, all with a few swooshes of the wrist.

Also, when I use a computer I feel sucked in to the screen in front of me. Pen and paper allows me to look away, take in my surroundings, without demanding my attention like a computer monitor does. In terms of the perfect “output” medium, a pen and paper wins every time.

I don’t think that we give enough thought or credit to the medium or tools that we’re using to create or get information. The medium means everything.

Factor Two: No Extra Distractions

While Lynn and I explored all parts of the ships and were constantly checking out ports and towns along the cruise, the only place where I was actually doing this creation was either in our ship room or on our private balcony. Why? Because there weren’t any distractions in these two places.

Thanks to Chris’ excellent advice, we opted to pay a little more and get a balcony room. This meant that every morning I could sit out on our balcony, enjoy the fantastic weather and ocean views, without having to worry about distractions like other people.

Contrast that environment with the one I’m in right now. I’m sitting at a table in a coffee shop with random people walking in and out, ordering coffee. Cell phones ringing, people talking, espresso machines hissing. While I typically love working in a coffee shop, the cruise spoiled me. The only distractions there were the waves and the incredible views.

Which brings me to the last factor…

Factor Three: The perfect “Work” Environment

Great work environments mean everything. For whatever reason, beauty, scenery and nature inspires like no other. Inspiration means you can output more and better ideas.

Imagine the “office” I was using on the cruise: A private balcony on a ship that gently swayed as it rolled through the ocean towards our next port. The sound of the sea lightly hitting the side of the boat. The warm Caribbean breeze blowing.

Now contrast that with this:


Photo by tenderlung

Pretty much the same, right? Hmmm….

I know this was a major reason I was able to think clearly, plan and create with such efficiency. The unprecedented work environment created unprecedented results.

The best part: I wasn’t even trying to do anything productive. I just wanted to jot down some ideas. This simple act coupled with a perfect work environment and no distractions lead to a 6 day outpouring of ideas.

What about you? Have you experienced this before? Can you attribute these factors to your creative boons?

Liked the Post? Why Not Subscribe?

Get LifeDev delivered to your inbox as articles are published.

Leave a Comment

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

NickThacker November 20, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Glen, this is so true–I try to take “mini sabbaticals” as often as I can to my lakehouse. I've been able to complete a book, three ebooks, client websites, and even have time to fish with Grandpa.

O and one time I actually wrote a symphony. No joke.

Here's to the power of the perfect work environment!

Reply

miketo November 21, 2009 at 11:25 am

It's true, and I think you missed another reason: you're not at home! For me, when I'm home, there are errands to run, things to fix, yard work to do, cat to feed — plus the television lures me in to play a video game or watch an episode of Nova. Getting away, without all the distractions of *living*, is wonderful for creativity.

Reply

Glen Stansberry November 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Mike,

Bingo. You're right, I overlooked it! Excellent thoughts. There are so many
distractions at home. It was nice not to have to worry about doing all of
those normal things.

Reply

aravind November 21, 2009 at 11:26 pm

This is so true! The exact same thing happened to me last week!
I was on a vacation with my friends. I had a chance to take a walk through a private beach. I was alone, had no cell phone, no laptop. All I had was a pen and a small piece of paper. But that two hours I spent myself was the most productive hours in my life time!! In that small piece of paper I have planned two business ideas, three blog posts, catching copy for my portfolio, concepts for some designs I was working on, the interior for my new office, creative titles for my team mates, and a loads of other ideas. I was truly amazed by that experience.

A neatly arranged workspace or an iMac may not make anyone creative or productive. Spend time yourself, be alone, zero distractions.

Reply

Jeevan November 22, 2009 at 12:00 am

The post reminds me of the book 'Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age' by Maggie Jackson
“Taking us beyond 'Blink and Faster', Jackson makes it clear that if we continue down this road of scattered attention spans and widespread societal ADD, we will be in danger of squandering and devaluing the essence of humanity, and our technological age could ultimately slip into cultural decline …”

In the middle ages, renaissance artists had the same twenty four hours a day but they had higher efficiency and output, inspite of lacking the modern technological tools. What was the key to their efficiency? Distraction is one of the most corrosive forces that stiples creativity and innovation. We need to strip out what isn't essential and make life simpler by design, concentrating on the most important and essential.

Reply

Jeevan November 22, 2009 at 1:18 am

The earlier comment has been quoted from Amazon product description here 'Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age' by Maggie Jackson
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Distracted-Erosion-Atte

Reply

rjdempsey November 22, 2009 at 1:42 am

Definitely going take this to heart… Though I can't go cold turkey. I'm still taking my smartphone on my next trip.

Reply

Jeevan November 22, 2009 at 2:18 am

The earlier comment has been quoted from Amazon product description here 'Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age' by Maggie Jackson
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Distracted-Erosion-Atte

Reply

rjdempsey November 22, 2009 at 2:42 am

Definitely going take this to heart… Though I can't go cold turkey. I'm still taking my smartphone on my next trip.

Reply

Jason of Kim & Jason November 25, 2009 at 4:52 pm

I have to say that your reference to your new wife made me think of a bunch of “old” ones stashed somewhere. But seriously, I'm glad to hear your marriage got off to such a good start.

Thank for the reminder that sometimes the best way to be productive is to unplug and get out of our natural environment. I have experienced this bliss you speak of and wonder why in the H E double hockey sticks I don't do more of it.

Reply

Jason of Kim & Jason November 25, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I have to say that your reference to your new wife made me think of a bunch of “old” ones stashed somewhere. But seriously, I'm glad to hear your marriage got off to such a good start.

Thank for the reminder that sometimes the best way to be productive is to unplug and get out of our natural environment. I have experienced this bliss you speak of and wonder why in the H E double hockey sticks I don't do more of it.

Reply

Trainerpack December 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm

The pic is so relaxing…..ahhhh

Reply

Trainerpack December 1, 2009 at 1:32 pm

The pic is so relaxing…..ahhhh

Reply

Get In The Hot Spot December 8, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Sounds like an excellent excuse to book some more lovely hols with your beloved. I wonder what she was doing while you were hitting super-productivity.

I think this sort of situation makes writing and creating fun again. No need to feel guilty about chores to do – banking, accounts etc and no need to wonder what you're going to eat, how you'll fit in the shopping etc.

Reply

Get In The Hot Spot December 8, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Sounds like an excellent excuse to book some more lovely hols with your beloved. I wonder what she was doing while you were hitting super-productivity.

I think this sort of situation makes writing and creating fun again. No need to feel guilty about chores to do – banking, accounts etc and no need to wonder what you're going to eat, how you'll fit in the shopping etc.

Reply

Get In The Hot Spot December 9, 2009 at 1:36 am

Sounds like an excellent excuse to book some more lovely hols with your beloved. I wonder what she was doing while you were hitting super-productivity.

I think this sort of situation makes writing and creating fun again. No need to feel guilty about chores to do – banking, accounts etc and no need to wonder what you're going to eat, how you'll fit in the shopping etc.

Reply

travesti May 8, 2010 at 1:32 am

hi very nice your site's contents. If this is a nice sharing. Thanks, but for my country because there is no content sites like yours as I would always follow the most liked sites like these and I'm waiting for new issues and explanations.

Reply

{ 2 trackbacks }