Work better, do more in 2020: Get inspired for a more innovative year and beyond

Welcome to the first full work week of the year. Over the past five days, we've explored 20 techniques that'll light your productivity on fire. Today, we end our week-long series by getting inspired so you're fully prepared to take on the roaring 2020s.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
Dog at work
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The fact is most of us have to be productive in order to get work done and get paid. Fortunately there are techniques you can use to fire up your productivity, fuel your motivation, switch on your inspiration, keep you healthy, help you quantify your life, and get back into the groove.

Before we kick off the list, one quick note: different techniques will work better for different people. I've used all these techniques from time to time and they've kept me on deadline and on track. There are also a lot more beyond what I'm discussing here. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.

For now, let's dive into some ways to set your creativity loose.

The full series

Watch a TED talk

If you want inspiration, food for thought, and a good excuse to take a break from the grind, consider watching a TED talk. These are fascinating discussions by experts, thinkers, and innovators that will always drive your imagination.

Watch some YouTube videos

You can go two ways here. You can go down the rabbit hole of puppy and kitten videos, which will help you reduce stress but won't do much for your productivity. Or, you can watch some great maker videos which provide interesting deep dives into fascinating projects.

Some of my favorite makers are Bob Claggett who produces I Like to Make Stuff, James Bruton who builds robots, and Colin Furze who builds ridiculous things including giant robots and full-sized Star Wars land speeders. While you're there, don't forget to check out my channel, where you'll see many of the cool projects I've built for ZDNet.

Push your comfort zone

Loosely defined, your comfort zone is the area of work where you feel the most able and the least stressed. For me, it's article writing, speaking, and pretty much all things digital. When we first considered adding maker and 3D printing coverage to ZDNet, that was a big stretch for me. I hadn't made anything non-digital since my years of summer camp as a kid (and a few engineering school projects that resulted in smoke and fumes).

Doing stuff in the workshop, working with power tools, aligning and configuring machinery, and -- especially -- anything that had to do with a spinning blade was waaaay out of my comfort zone. But I'd been a maker (of software) for years and since modern desktop fabrication starts in CAD software, it seemed like something I could try.

All my 3D printing was a bit of a stretch to my comfort zone, but where I really pushed it was when I decided to build a wooden-and-3D printed cable organizer that stands eight feet tall. This required a lot of exact, precision saw cuts, a ton of what woodworkers call "joinery" (how pieces of wood are joined together), and my own design. It was scary and stressful.

But when I finished it (you can read the article here and watch the video here), it gave me an enormous source of pride and has fired up my imagination. What else can we build by combining all the tools at our disposal in 2020?

My point is that if you stay in your comfort zone, you won't grow. But if you take some risks and move outside your comfort zone, you'll spark your creativity, increase your competitiveness, and add new skills.

Find the fun, accept the work

As my last tip for this 2020 kickstart, I recommend that you both find the fun and accept the work. What do I mean by this? Well, not everything we do is fun. Work is called "work" because it's work. Accept that some days will be hard, some tasks will be challenging or unpleasant, and your ability and comfort zone will be stressed.

But also find the fun. Sometimes, right in the middle of a project I'm struggling with, I realize that pieces of it are really interesting, fun, or cool. Focus on that as your take-away, even as you continue to produce and perform.

There's a lot of hard work in work, but there are also nuggets of fun. Find them. Enjoy them. Now, get back to work.


So there you go. As you get fired up for 2020, keep in mind these suggestions for firing up your creative juices. This week, we've explored 20 techniques that can light your productivity on fire, but there are many more. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below. And, on behalf of all of us at ZDNet, have a great and productive 2020 and beyond!

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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