You can’t create in a bad environment

Recently I haven’t been as productive as I’d like. Sure, the pandemic took its toll. The summer is coming and if there is a time to consume what life has to offer, instead of producing what you have to offer, this is it. Productivity should never be the goal in itself.

Nevertheless, I could be better at focusing on what’s important. Significant amount of time gets wasted. It’s rarely caused by an unexpected, huge time sinks. It’s usually small things - one YouTube video here, one Twitter doom scrolling there. It’s not about replacing all those moments with work. Your time isn’t something you have to trade for money or self improvement, but it is something you should trade for positive/beneficial things. Before you buy something, you usually ask yourself “is this worth my money?”. The more important question is “is this worth my time?”.

You can develop, integrate and follow systems which save you from impulse time spending. You probably should. Part of a process of learning how to manage your time is cultivating a healthy environment. You’ve probably heard about or tried browser extensions which block YouTube if you already spent more than X number of hours on it, that day. Those control your environment.

The healthy environment - a mythical creature for most, yet crucial to live a happy, productive life. This is how I define a healthy environment:

  • You don’t have to worry about your basic needs like shelter, food and security.
  • You don’t have major health problems.
  • You have a network of supportive people.
  • You have a network of like minded people.

If those basic needs are satisfied then consciously and subconsciously you know you can focus on yourself. You don’t have to divert parts of your brain to process possible, apocalyptic scenarios.

If you feel like you aren’t motivated to work on yourself or your creative projects don’t label yourself lazy - it’s a silly simplification. Think about your environment. Don’t use it as an excuse. You should take responsibility for your environment. Yes, you might find yourself in an environment you never chose. It might feel unfair to have to dig yourself out from all that mud even though you did nothing to deserve it - that’s life for you. Observe your environment and see what in that environment is toxic. See if those parts are fixable and if not remove them.

Some environments can be treacherous. You might be tricked into taking responsibility for someone else and their shortcomings. This means you have to create boundaries. Your future environment is the result of what you’ll say yes to and what you’ll say no to.

Environment is also about the simpler things. Put some art that inspires you on your walls, have rules about social media consumption, invest in good work tools, etc.

This, by itself, won’t make you productive (duh). It might combat the escapism. It might help you sit by yourself with your thoughts and see them as valid and creative. Creativity likes comfortable, cozy places. Don’t expect it to visit if your environment is a mess.