I am writing to you, gentle reader, in a state of disarray. After crash-landing back into my university schedule I have suddenly been inundated with countless pressures on my time and energy. I feel as though I’m trapped in a giant, greasy bagel of need which is sucking out all my creative juices.
Needless to say: songs still need to be written, blogs still need to be written, essays still need to be written. But how can it be managed? How can you remain productive? I’ll tell ya, but first I’m going to explain the airborne omnivore currently floating in your eyeline.
Mr Kung Fu Panda, or Po to his friends, works at a noodle shop run by his dad, Ping. Ping sells loads of noodles because of the ‘secret ingredient’ that they contain, which apparently makes them extra nice. Po, disapproving of this dull business venture, nonchalantly becomes a Dragon Master, appears in a short training montage, and goes up against some kind of evil tiger.
However, at his moment of doubt, when all hope is fading, when he realises that he can never fulfill his promise to be a Dragon Master, he turns to Ping.
“Son,” Ping says, “Do you want to know the secret ingredient of my noodles?
“There is no secret ingredient.”
I know that many may not appreciate taking advice from a cartoon goose, but this is too important to miss out on.
Productivity is a state of mind. If you feel energised and focused, you will work more and therefore produce more. So, whatever you do to make you feel productive actually makes you more productive. Let me explain.
I reckon it’s all down to the placebo effect. Many of you will already know what this is, so I won’t go into detail, but you can Wikipedia it if the mood strikes you. It basically means that if you attribute an object/situation with an effect, the brain will simulate the effect and make you believe it is working. For example, if you tell someone that an M&M will make their headache go away, it will help kill the pain of their headache. But there’s no secret ingredient in the M&M which suddenly turns it into an efficient painkiller: you are the secret ingredient.
It also applies to the creative process. I have a friend who could only write poetry if she drove out to a remote location and scribbled in the dark. Roald Dahl could only write in his shed, using a rotting plank as a desk. Both effective, if slightly mental, placebos.
I have purpose-built my own placebo. Want to know what it is? Tea. Yes, Tea. If you didn’t know I was English before, you do now. When I’m working, I do 50 minutes on, 10 minutes tea drinking. This can go on for hours before I need a proper break. It’s not the caffeine, the heat or even the regular breaks that make me productive, though they probably contribute: It’s just that when I hold that mug of Tetley’s in the morning, I feel the need to work.
How did I do this? The law of repetition and relation. A fair while ago, I purchased Call of Duty 4, and on the same shopping trip bought a new coat, filled with fake fur which had a very distinctive smell. The heating had gone out in our house, so as I settled in for a massive sesh I put on my new coat. To this day, when I smell that fake fur I feel like I want to shoot things. The repetition of playing for such a long time had related the smell of the coat with the feeling. Weird, eh?
So what does this mean for you? It means that if you discover a placebo that naturally makes you work harder, turn it into a habit. With enough repetition, you will relate the object to the feeling, like my cup of Tetley’s. Your creative juices will flow, you’ll become super-productive, and you’ll finally take your place as a Dragon Master.