In today’s fast-paced world, creativity and productivity have become buzzwords that everyone aspires to achieve. But how do we balance them? How do we leverage creativity to increase productivity? To explore these questions, we embarked on a journey to interview Brett Terpstra, a developer, blogger, and creator, who always seems to find a way to get things done. We asked Brett the same four questions about creativity and productivity in both his personal and professional lives.
Brett admits that he didn’t consider himself creative, at least not initially. His early interests were focused on technology, and he found himself building PCs, programming, and experimenting with Logo and BASIC. He also dabbled in music creation and started playing music in his 20s. It took some time for Brett to see that all these activities were connected and interrelated. Finally, when he studied multimedia at art school, he realized that his technical and creative sides were inextricably linked, and he had been creative all along.
When it comes to mediums and inspiration, Brett leans towards digital tools like mind-mapping, DAWs, text editors, and photo and vector editors. He says that analog mediums like paper and canvas don’t work as well for him. Brett’s proudest creation is an app he wrote in 2006 called MoodBlast that let users update 6 of the most popular micro-blogging services simultaneously. Despite not being the best work of his life, it made him realize that some things he found easy were less obvious to others. Today, Brett’s creations are geared towards solving a problem, whether making ideas a reality or creating solutions to work more efficiently.
For those who don’t consider themselves creative, Brett suggests looking at the things they’re already good at or drawn to, as it might reveal their latent talent. Embracing those talents and continuously exploring and developing them could lead to exceptional creativity.
When you talk about productivity, Brett is an expert. He is the Senior Dev at AOL, where he manages a team of developers that run tech blogs like Engadget, TUAW, and Joystiq, while being the creator of Marked and other Mac applications in his spare time. Brett describes himself as obsessively productive, a trait that stems from his early years when he ran his own business, freelanced, and worked from home. Clear time divisions are important when separating work, personal, and digital areas of responsibility. Brett creates obligations to balance them. He hates flaking on promises, so making plans to be somewhere with someone is usually his motivation to switch modes.
When it comes to tools and techniques, Brett relies heavily on plain text for writing, note-taking, and programming, and uses OmniFocus to handle his overall workload. He also uses his own applications that fill a specific need in his own workflow, such as nvALT, which is in constant use, and Marked, which is a major part of his writing workflow. Brett also uses Launchbar, FastScripts, and a slew of his own AppleScripts and shell scripts to fill in the missing holes. The Pomodoro technique is also a valuable technique for Brett that provides structure in his time management.
For those struggling to get organized and start being productive, Brett suggests that outlining and planning is a good starting point but warns not to get stuck in the “fiddling” stage. The drafting process is just the first step, and it’s important to focus on getting things done.
In conclusion, creativity and productivity go hand in hand, and Brett Terpstra is a perfect example of this. By exploring our strengths and passions and finding alignment between technical and creative pursuits, we can find exceptional creativity. To become productive, we need to establish clear time divisions, use the right tools and techniques, and avoid getting bogged down by the planning stage. With the right mindset and approach, we can achieve great things.