The more my career takes me in the direction of creative projects that require peace and quiet, alone time, and imagination, the more I realize that being productive has very little to do with high-stakes, high intensity conferences, back to back meetings, can't-catch-a-breath to-do lists, or endless projects I’ll half-ass due to exhaustion. What makes work good is time to read, think, slow down, and create a rich inner life. In other words, good work comes from slowing the fuck down and trusting that good ideas will come through if we give ourselves enough time and space to see them.
Cultivating richness of mind to create richness of work reminds me of a piece of advice I read from sculptor John Gibson, giving advice to Harriet Hosmer at the start of her Zenobia sculpture:
There are many obstacles in the path to fame, but to surmount them, to produce fine works, we must have tranquility of mind. Those who are envious cannot be happy, nor can the vicious. We must have internal peace, to give birth to beautiful ideas.
Tranquility of mind from slowing down and taking time. Hard to do with the insanity Azout describes as workin within a productivity paradigm, but we have to find ways of microdosing tranquility into our days. For me I've been trying to think of ways to build in tranquility breaks in the day. One strategy has been to have a couple books that sit beside me on my desk, ready to open if I need reprieve from staring at code for too long. That above Gibson passage actually came from such a book, Maria Popova's Figuring, on such a tranquility break.