Creativity and Flow: Finding your rhythm at work

In the book Hustle & Float, Rahaf Harfoush breaks down why we work the way we do today and challenges us to think beyond metrics that represent productivity-driven goals versus creativity-led ones.

When was the last time you were in a meeting and had a productive and creative discussion that resulted in teams becoming energized and excited about the path ahead?

You’ve probably had a handful of good ones, I hope. This makes one wonder if we are focusing on the right priorities in our day-to-day engagements at work.

Everyone has a few meetings in our calendars that we attend where we wonder why are we here and what value we can provide.

The same goes for better understanding our rhythm and creative flow at work.

As a creative soul, I get energized when we have good discussions with diverse perspectives across teams. And on the days when meetings are a drain, I can see how my energy flow goes the opposite direction.

Productivity Versus Creativity

We all know the stories of famous hustlers who define an ideal worker as a go-getter who’s willing to sacrifice their days and nights and weekends to make it work.

Do we all want to continue to be the same ideal worker who’s sacrificing all the time? Or is it time to change the focus?

Creative thinking is not a switch that can be turned off and on in between meetings; even 30-minute blocks are not as effective for me. I prefer to block out two or three hours to get in the zone of creative thinking.

So, when companies and teams recognize and reward those who go above and beyond — those who sacrifice their weekends and vacations — I pause. Is this the culture we want to build going forward? Do we want to encourage and set this as an example of success?

As leaders, we can and should question the status quo. Even the 9-to-5 schedule might be detrimental for some of the knowledge workers of the future. The time I do my best work may not be between 9 and 5, but we often don’t have the option today to find our rhythm at work.

I’m a team leader for folks around the world — North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia — and the time that works for me may not work for everyone else, but we all comply with the rules our organizations set. Our 40-hour workweek is not always the best way to achieve creativity or productivity, for that matter. And our processes and frameworks to measure performance and growth today may be outdated and still based on a way of working that’s 50–100 years old.

Finding your Balance and Rhythm

Find the times when you perform best, and adapt your schedule to that rhythm. It’s not just about filling in the hours in the day, and especially while we’re working from home, we have the constant urge to be online and check email.

Also, we need to be careful not to sway to the other extreme end of the pendulum. We need some baseline so that there are times to connect as a team when necessary while also allowing the flexibility to work when we are most productive. Whether you are a morning lark or night owl, when you work and how you work should be your choice to make — that flexibility is priceless for creative minds.

We are all good at moving from one project to another and hustling every week, but we also need to take the time to reap the benefits of thriving in our work environments.

Productivity and work schedules may be one of the things we hold onto like we do daylight savings. But as the knowledge workers of the future, we have the ability to bring flexibility and creativity into our work lives.

Starting Small and Leaping Forward

This may seem like a herculean task, but we have the power within us to make a small change to let the creativity within us come to light. Look at your schedule for the next week: Do you have focus time set aside for creative thinking?

  1. Block off the time (a minimum of two to three hours) when you perform best, whether it’s 8–10 a.m. or 9–11 p.m.
  2. Make the commitment not to plan meetings during this time. This is the hardest part; I struggle with this step the most. Now, even though some days are impacted by meetings outside of my control, I make a conscious choice to have focus time.
  3. Creativity does not have a step-by-step manual, and we need to let things happen naturally. Sometimes working on a project can feel like an empty page. That’s when I go for a walk or do something totally different than the task at hand. I know my mind is doing its magic behind the scenes and putting together pieces of the puzzle to come up with an innovative solution.
  4. Take the time to rest, recover and recharge, and don’t allow burnout to be the norm. We need to be our best selves and give our very best to whatever project we have at hand. This means we need to be able to focus and not multitask or juggle multiple priorities at once.
  5. Share your small wins — if we truly believe in redefining how we work, we can all do our part to make this a reality. Nothing is impossible; our creative minds will guide us once we set this direction for ourselves and for the future of work for everyone.

To the change-makers and the creative souls, we don’t need our work and success to be defined by productivity alone. We can set a path for creativity and flow in our work every day. And we can extend this creative concept beyond teams to organizations, communities and economies to link true business value and growth with creativity. I believe it’s time to reinvent creativity and initiate our creative differentiation for the future.

Originally published at