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Looming Deadlines Messing with Your Creative Flow?


Some thrive under the pressure of deadlines.

Creatives often don’t.

Great ideas are rarely conjured at the drop of a hat. Innovating, inventing, creating something new – these tasks don’t share a strong temporal bloodline with other fields of work. A good cook knows how long it takes to make any dish on their menu, but a chef would be hard pressed to tell you how long they’d need to make and perfect a new recipe.

Evidence from a study conducted by Harvard University suggests that even when the productivity of those working in creative jobs spikes under a tight deadline, the overall quality of the work they produce almost invariably takes a dip.

Unfortunately, though, deadlines are simply and incontestably a fact of working life. Time is money, so jobs need to get done, and done on time. But when properly approached and properly managed, deadlines needn’t always blight the creative process – pressure can be a commodity when handled correctly.

Follow our list of suggestions below if you want to free the flow of your creativity from the barriers posed by constraints on your time.

  • See the silver lining

Deadlines can provide focus. Endlessly exploring different angles can be just as detrimental as not having the time to explore enough. Too many ideas can be bewildering; they can weigh down a project from ever getting off the ground.

The tick of a time limit necessitates a momentum that keeps driving the creative process forward. So long as time isn’t too tight this momentum can keep you cruising at a steady pace, powering your productivity without impeding your creativity.

Lets face it. Without deadlines it’s likely most creatives, and anyone else for that matter, wouldn’t get half as much done.

  • Chop into bite sized chunks

Many of us suffer from the same affliction. Deadlines are set, they approach, and yet we only notice they’ve moved beyond the horizon once they’re almost upon us. Alarm bells then begin ringing and panic sets in. ‘Why have we left it to the last minute yet again?’ We wonder, yet again.

Splitting one big deadline into several smaller ones is a great management technique. This breaks the task down into smaller, more manageable stages and ensures an even spread of the final deadline’s pressure over those stages. This ensures that the momentum spoken about in the pervious point is always present and kept to a steady speed.

The flexibility to shift your own smaller deadlines within the frame of the larger deadline also allows for working around any bumps in the road that might otherwise have sent you spinning off at the 11th hour.

Organise your deadlines this way, and ‘last-minute-syndrome’ can finally be put to rest.

  • Space to work

Noise, frequent interruptions and other distractions are unwanted competitors for your precious time. Optimise the time you have to complete a task by its deadline by ensuring that these ‘time competitors’ are restricted to a minimum. You only have a certain amount of time to complete your task, so make sure that that time is conducive to getting the job done. If possible, work somewhere quiet and distraction free.

  • Get on with it

Getting the job done is your utmost priority.

We all want our work to be good, but unfinished perfection will only ever be regarded, simply, as unfinished. A good, or even a mediocre job, so long as it’s delivered on time, will almost always be met with more appreciation.

So don’t always wait around for inspiration to strike and don’t loiter over minor details. Not every project will be your best, and even if the one that you’re working on isn’t, you’ll always have the opportunity to do better next time. Just make sure you keep moving forward and keep making progress with the task at hand.

  • If you’re really stuck. . .

Unfortunately those especially tight, difficult deadlines do come ‘round from time to time. Their added stress can be enough to plug anyone’s creative spring, and the double whammy of limited time and an obstructed creative flow and can be devastating.

But there are a few tricks you can try when you’re really stuck.

Sometimes taking a few steps back is the best way of moving forward. Go back over your work and you might find a route around the point you’ve struck an obstacle, or catch a second wind from your old creative current and sail on through down your original course.

Another option is to ask for a second opinion. What’s obscure to you might be glaringly obvious to another. Asking a colleague what they think, what they like, and what they don’t can help reignite your own idea generation.

If all else fails take a break and go for a walk. You’ll find a pit stop for your mind in the form of some fresh air, and a little physical activity is often all you need to get back on track.

Some of us cope better with deadlines than others. Luck has smiled on those hardwired to work well within strict time frames. But for the less fortunate, approach deadlines armed with this advice, and they needn’t be a nightmare.

If you’re looking for further inspiration, we’ve written an article that explains all about how you can make the most of mood boards to help inspire creativity, with some useful and handy guidelines to help you along the way.




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