The spotless desk, inbox zero, the to-do-list constructed the night before: these all sound like markers of a massively productive individual. But what about those with a perpetually cluttered workspace, or those who prefer to switch between projects rather than focus on just one?
Tim Harford is an economist and writer with a knack for translating complicated ideas into compelling, digestible articles and broadcasts. His new book, Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, investigates the ways in which clutter and chaos can actually breed some of the best, most groundbreaking ideas.
In this interview, Tim and I talk about why people love systems and organization, and why breaking those patterns can make ideas particularly potent. Tim also shares the messy habits of some of the world’s most creative people, and draws on research from a wide variety of fields to support the idea that working in slight disarray doesn’t mean you’re unproductive.
Tim Harford is an acclaimed economist, journalist and broadcaster. He is an author, senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s “More or Less.” Tim has spoken at TED and is a visiting fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. Most recently, he was awarded the Bastiat Prize for economic journalism in 2016.
Tim’s combination of economics, sociology, and psychology is a rare and intriguing one, so be sure to catch Tim’s fascinating insights into creativity.
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On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:
- Why people like to organize their work and space, and how this can hamper creativity.
- Whether or not it’s really advantageous to completely tune out distractions around you.
- The tension between productivity and creativity, and the role of the “flow” state.
- Tim’s tricks for staying productively distracted and switching between projects.
- Why “messy” teams tend to come up with better solutions to problems.
Key Resources for Tim Harford:
- Connect with Tim: Tim Harford | Twitter | Facebook
- Amazon: Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives
- Kindle: Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives
- Audible: Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives
- Kindle: The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor–and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!
- Ep #68: Disrupting Markets with Nobel Winner Al Roth on The Brainfluence Podcast
- Ep #125: The Inner Lives of Markets with Ray Fisman on The Brainfluence Podcast
- When Being Distracted Is a Good Thing from Dr. Shelley Carson of Harvard
- Uninhibited imaginations: Creativity in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder by Holly White and Priti Shah
- Flow, the secret to happiness: TED Talk from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Sir David Brailsford, Team Sky Cycling
- Better Decisions Through Diversity from Katherine Phillips of Northwestern
- Balasz Vedres, Network Scientist
- Steve Whittaker, UC Santa Clara
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Full Episode Transcript: