How I chose a city to optimize my creative outputsteemCreated with Sketch.

in life •  2 years ago 


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Over the past seven years, I have been obsessed with one question: How can I do lots of creative work, the creative work I have no choice but to do, and still stay sane?

After years of research, I wanted to test out my theories. I needed to find the perfect city for creative output.

After moving to Medellín, Colombia, and implementing my system, I quadrupled my creative Productivity. Not only did I do more work, I also did better work.


In choosing a city to optimize my creative productivity, I wanted a low-friction life, consistency, and forced disconnection.

Requirement I: A low-friction life

Unexpected changes can be useful for shaking things Up, and making creative insights. But when you’re trying to generate work, friction just gets in the way.

My system calls for consistent creative habits. So, I needed to have appropriate spaces to work in the various mental states of creative work, and be able to move amongst those spaces with minimal friction.

Requirement II: Consistency

When I lived in Chicago, there may have been a month or two when life was low-friction, but then the weather would change, and it would suddenly be high-friction.

Changes of season, and sudden weather interruptions can be useful for jostling certain creative breakthroughs out of one’s head, but for a system of consistently generating creative work, changes just get in the way.

Requirement III: Forced disconnection

This requirement seems to directly contradict the previous two requirements. Taking your mind off creative work allows your creative energy to replenish, and it helps ideas incubate. However, for a person wired for creative work, disconnecting is easier said than done.

The key would be to be forced to disconnect from my creative work, but not during times when I was actually trying to do that creative work.


Why Medellín, Colombia is my creative city

To test out my creative system, it was clear that Medellín, Colombia was the best combination of these requirements. Here’s what made it the ideal city for creative productivity.

  • Only one season. Look, I know seasons are nice, but while I was testing my creative system, I didn’t want the interruptions. Medellín is one of a handful of cities known as a “city of eternal spring”. The mean temperature is room temperature, about 72?F, all year long.

  • Consistent day length. Since Medellín is located at 6? N latitude, the sunrise and sunset times are consistent throughout the year. This is extremely helpful for getting into a rhythm and routine, thus boosting potential creative output.

Here’s sunrise/sunset times for my former home of Chicago. Anyone who lives this far north knows how dark, depressing, and disruptive the winter months can be.

And here it is for Medellín. The sun sets at about 6pm each night, giving several hours of wind-down time for a good night’s sleep. They also don’t practice Daylight Saving Time.

  • Furnished apartments. Since it attracts many travelers, Medellín has a healthy market of furnished rentals, and since the cost-of-living is way below your average U.S. city, I can actually afford them. This lets me be minimalist. Less stuff, less distractions.

  • Different culture = easy disconnection. Being immersed in a different culture makes for easy disconnection from my work. I’m forced to operate in a different language, which naturally takes my mind off what I’m working on, and helps ideas incubate.

  • Laid back culture. Like many Americans, I’m naturally-driven to my own detriment. Because of this, I’m miserable in the U.S.. Colombians operate at a much more relaxed pace in everything. This is frustrating at times, but I consider it “patience therapy.” It’s ultimately good for me, it’s a healthier way of living, and it helps me disconnect from my creative work.

  • Walkability / easy transportation. I have different spaces I use for the different mental States of my creative work, and I can move amongst these spaces with minimal friction. I do my morning writing facing a blank Wall in my apartment. There’s a coworking space at the building across the street for focused afternoon work, and there are plenty of cafes with laid-back atmospheres within walking distance. The walks are the perfect length for forced disconnection and creative incubation right before a creative cafe session.


I go to extremes to optimize my creative Productivity. You may not want to move across the globe just to do more writing. But if you strive for low friction and consistency, while allowing for some forced disconnection, you may get more creative work done, too.


David Kadavy Steemit

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Great distinction between disconnecting and friction. Disconnecting from one's work shouldn't be to focus on something else that takes away, but instead something that adds to you.

What an awesome and a much needed article @kadavy I believe that a city plays a big role on your creative output as this is something that I've experienced myself before. Certain places just suck the energy from you and others - replenish you. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading it.

I like your concept of a low friction life. That sounds very inviting to me right now. It would be very nice to just be able to coast down a gentle slope for a while.

The trouble is, I have this nagging realization that to get back up the hill (any hill), I might need a little friction.

Thanks for your thoughts.

gahh I loved Medellin!! Good for you :) very interesting perspectives

That city sounds great, actually. With winter coming to New England I've been thinking, man, it would be nice not to change our routines around every few months. (The Wife thinks I'm crazy. She loves the different seasons.)

And 72 F sounds perfect. What's the humidity like? I try to run 4 - 6 miles a day but it's brutal when it's humid.

Great job, keep the posts coming. Really enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing :)