The 10 best Quartz at Work stories about productivity and creativity

Crushing it.
Crushing it.
Image: Gosia Herba
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One of the best parts about work is that exhilarating feeling of being deep in the zone. Quartz at Work was designed from the outset to help you find that place as often as possible, which is why we’re obsessed with sharing ideas for improved productivity, and with uncovering the hidden dynamics that govern the creativity process.

We’re celebrating the first anniversary of Quartz at Work’s October 2017 launch. To help mark the occasion, we’ve compiled 10 of our favorite pieces from our productivity and creativity obsession, organized by story type.

The guides you need

Our library of workplace guides keeps growing. Three of our favorite guides come from Quartz at Work contributing editor Khe Hy, a productivity nut who has a knack for solving common problems with easy hacks (and a few more advanced ones) available even to the technically challenged.

For starters, you can eliminate a lot of the hassle and cognitive overload of email just by developing a basic understanding of its psychology and setting up simple apps that help handle the deluge. Khe walks you through the process in this step-by-step guide to managing email.

Now that your inbox is under control, you have more time for other crucial tasks. But how do you decide which to do when? In this guide, Khe shows you how to structure your day better, with a fun exercise to help you prioritize your to-do list and plenty of sound advice on scheduling meetings, tapping into your energy, and making time for deep work.

Lastly, Khe shares the system he devised to make it easy to retrieve information when he needs it. In his guide to making better use of everything you read, you’ll find his thoughts on skimming books, his tips on storing articles, and his recommendations for cataloging your notes. And now, read on!

The reviews you loved

What happened when I forced my American colleagues to take coffee breaks. Aware that there are deeply ingrained cultural forces that keep Americans pinned to their desk chairs, Lila MacLellan, the lone Canadian on the Quartz At Work staff, was eager to run an experiment on her US colleagues. Could we, for one week, embrace the Swedish art of “fika,” taking two breaks a day for a friendly chat with co-workers, traditionally over coffee and cake? The answer seems simple, but the reality was a little more complicated.

I let Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson run my life for a week. Corinne Purtill is a senior writer for Quartz At Work, a mother to two young children, and a closet WWE fan who routinely shocks coworkers with her knowledge of professional wrestling. She’d also like to be crushing it more than she feels she is. In other words, she was the perfect person to test out The Rock Clock, a motivational app from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. You’ll love reading her review, just like The Rock did.

The $140 productivity app that’s managed my life for the past decade. Khe is back with his top recommendation for conquering everything the information economy has to throw at you. It isn’t cheap and using it to full effect requires a good bit of legwork beforehand—you can’t just go into this thing cold. But once you properly prepare yourself to use it, you’re bound to get more done and a lot less likely to see things fall through the cracks.

Something you may not have pondered before

If scheduling causes you conflict, maybe you’re on “event time.” There are people who live on “clock time” and people who live on “event time” and their rhythms don’t always mesh well in the workplace. Lila explains how to know which group you’re in and what you can do if your style is incompatible with the way your office sets things like meetings and deadlines.

Essential reads for creative people

The habits that encourage creativity, according to Questlove. Creative Quest, the partially eponymous book by the drummer for The Roots, sets out with a simple but ambitious premise: that producing more creative work is “one way to save the world.” Let’s get on with it then. In a story that’s part profile, part book review, and part meditation on staying open to the widest possible range of influences, Lila distills the musician’s advice for maintaining a creative frame of mind.

The mistake of seeing only some jobs as creative. “Before he was a MacArthur Fellow, or a Man Booker Prize recipient, or the person David Foster Wallace named the most exciting writer in America, George Saunders,” Corinne Purtill notes, “was a technical writer at Radian Corporation, crafting numbingly dull environmental impact statements that nobody read.” If it seems impossible to square the drudgery of workaday jobs with great creative ambition, read on.

How to critique creative work: Lessons from a master of the craft. In reading the outpouring of appreciations of Jonathan Gold, the Los Angeles Times food critic who died earlier this year, Corinne (who is based in LA) noticed that many of the most heartfelt condolences came from the very people Gold had critiqued. She writes, “As a critic with integrity, Gold had no choice but to be honest. But the choices he made about how to deploy his observations had the effect of encouraging the city’s most promising chefs to keep at it, even when their attempts fell short.” Gold’s approach could easily be adapted to any industry where creative types need occasional steering.

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