6 Essential Hacks of the Creative and Productive Leader

Do you feel as though life moves too fast? If you sense your to-do list nipping at your heels, you’re not alone.

It can be all too easy to be swept into the momentum of day-to-day affairs and no longer feel in charge. But there is hope. Let’s discover the 6 essential drivers behind the mindset of the leaders in creativity and productivity.

Be Aware

Countless peer-reviewed studies, notable authors and teachings of ancient cultures show that being mindful and aware of stressful thoughts and situations is a key element of a creative and productive life.

In 2017, the American Psychological Association, conducted a stress survey and found that the most common stressors for Americans were politics, money, and work. Identifying the internal and external drivers of your stress is essential to achieve mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Mindfulness may not be a magic pill that will optimize your life in one go, but with time and a self-reflecting and mindful lifestyle, you can alter essential traits of your personality.


Be Contextual

Life is complicated. We live in an interconnected and rapid changing world. When assessing any thought or experience, we ought to take into account the social, cultural and political context. Context means to take a step back and observe ourselves and our surroundings within our environment, such as our mood swings, workplace or family dynamics.

Not an easy proposition, but seeing things in perspective is an indisputably vital way to tame our thoughts and inspire calmness. Our modern era calls for a different mindset not necessarily relevant just a few decades ago.

To gain this situational perspective, we require a mental framework that we can carry with us at all times – a practical way to see ourselves in third person. One approach is mindful framing, where you visualize being the director, producer and screenwriter of your own life. Rather than be pulled waist deep into the mud of anxiety, you can use your mind’s eye to see yourself in a movie set, in the context of your own thoughts and environment.


Be Here for Yourself

Whether you choose to day dream, be creative, be mindful, socialize, work or relax, one thing remains the same: You.

Ensure in every moment that You are in charge, not a marionette or mindless robot. You should invest quality time in self-reflection. Find solitude by skipping passive activities, such as watching shows, scrolling news feeds, and overindulging in social media.

Spend time with yourself, in silence, doing ‘nothing.’ Be careful though, your mind will try to take over and lead you into stressful thoughts, avoid them by being aware and assessing the context of the moment. Over time your mind will start delivering creative ideas and a sense of calmness essential to cope with every day’s life challenges.


Be There for Others

Often, we believe the more we do for others, the better. We may even connect what we do to our inherent social value. Sadly, the endless strive towards mastering superficial engagements creates frustration and confusion.

Just being there, open and available to others provides immense support. People notice within seconds our social status and essential cues about our attitude. Let’s just be authentic, be in the moment and show empathy.

Take a new job, for instance. At the beginning of your new role, you will inevitably struggle to keep up with all the different tasks. You could spend all day answering every email that enters your inbox, or you could spend time learning about the company’s culture. Identify how individuals and teams, their personalities and networks are driving work streams.

Instead of barely skimming through a ton of superficial engagements, you can be more effective by focusing on a few in-depth interactions.


Be in a Flow State

Given a choice, would you prefer to receive electric shock therapy, or be alone with your thoughts?

It might sound like a silly question. But a study conducted at the University of Virginia discovered that participants would rather subject themselves to electric shocks than dealing with their minds.

When we eliminate distractions and allocate time to a focused task, either work or leisure, time passes much faster and we are much more productive. We are in a flow state.

In his best-selling book Flow, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi observed that to achieve a flow state requires the five C’s of the flow mindset:

  • Clear goals
  • Centered on the task at hand
  • Choosing the right opportunities
  • Commitment
  • Challenging yourself


Be Stress Free

It might seem natural to avoid stress by distracting ourselves with work, leisure and digital or social engagements than face our thoughts. And in some ways, it’s not our fault. There tends to be a culture of productivity and hyperactivity that tells us to avoid boredom at all costs.

We may even feel that doing nothing is lazy and unproductive. But nothing is further from the truth.

Ever notice how you feel more clear headed after a vacation? Well, our brains need vacations daily, not just a few weeks out of the year. Manfred Kets De Vries, an INSEAD Professor of Leadership, explains that allowing the brain ‘downtime,’ enables us to improve our mental health, incubate new ideas and reduce stress.

Our world moves at lightning speed, and in some ways, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of fast-paced drive. But having a mindset able to allocate downtime throughout the day while keeping productive bursts of energy generates better results than steady pressure at work.


By learning and practicing how to deploy these 6 mindset drivers you train your mind to relax and clarify your thought processes. You are entering a new mental space; you are becoming the fearless leader of your mind.

Why we need a Cancer Care Act

Why should cancer patients struggle financially, despite their major contributions to cancer care? Why should families undergo economic distress while caring for the front-line soldiers of the cancer battle?

Although progress is very encouraging, cancer will remain one the leading causes of death in developed countries. We know how to prevent some types of cancer and we can cure many early-stage cancers. However, we still cannot defeat most advanced cancers, just extending survival by mere months or a few years.

A human right

The World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution of 1946 declared that the “enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.” The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including medical care and necessary social services.”

Translating this set of rights into cancer care, every human being should be able to access key discoveries on prevention, early detection, and management of cancer. If this is a war, we need to have commanders and soldiers united with a single purpose, coordinating efforts and supporting each other.

An economic right

The costs of cancer care are staggering. When several procedures and expensive cancer treatments are required in a short period of time, financial hardship or medical bankruptcy are all-too-frequently the result.

Cancer patients should be fairly compensated for becoming the center of the so-called digital health revolution. Combining electronic medical records, genomics, and demographic data makes every single patient a formidable source of scientific and medical knowledge. As the most vulnerable and least organized group, the society should recognize and reward financially contributions of cancer patients.

A healthcare right

Progress in cancer care would not take place without patients participating in clinical trials and cancer registries, potentially sacrificing their lives or enduring serious adverse events. Data sharing, integration and collaboration requires trust and better communication, as well as a legislative framework to define the healthcare rights and duties of every stakeholder.

Cancer is not just a disease. It is a plague that can cripple individuals, families, and social networks. Not confronting the disease at its core, the cancer patient, will lead over time to a more fragile society.

What would go through you mind if you were told today that you had leukemia with a 2-year life expectancy? Wouldn’t you consider the impact of work disability, family care, maxed-out insurance deductibles, and significant out-of-pocket costs? Wouldn’t you feel at ease if you and your family were promised a financial safety net in exchange for your contribution to the advance of medical and scientific knowledge?

A Cancer Care Act would be a fair act of human solidarity.

Oscar Segurado, MD, PhD, Director of Medic Affairs Consulting LLC, has extensive global experience covering oncology, immunology and molecular biology in academia and industry settings.


This is an excerpt of an article originally published in The Hill on May 10, 2017