Magazine article Success

Time Crunch: How to Inspire Creativity on a Deadline

Magazine article Success

Time Crunch: How to Inspire Creativity on a Deadline

Article excerpt

I have discovered the best ideas come to me at the most random times: in the shower, brushing my teeth, walking in the woods and in the middle of the night. Experts talk about the benefits of productive procrastination, which is a fancy way to say that when you are working on a big project, your mind needs time to wander.

But what do you do when you can't afford the luxury of letting an epiphany just rise when it's ready? Projects inevitably require your best thinking quickly, whether you are building a new sales strategy, updating your website or solving a customer issue. When the answers to these problems don't seem obvious, it can cause additional stress. So how do you do your best creative thinking when you're under pressure to solve a problem?

Teresa Amabile, a creativity researcher at Harvard Business School, and other researchers collected more than 9,000 workday diary entries, crunched the numbers and were able to isolate the two factors that promote creativity on a deadline:

1. Time to concentrate with zero interruptions.

2. Knowing why the problem is important to solve.

Let's unpack these a bit more. First, if you need to solve a problem on a deadline, start by blocking out distractions. Amabile's research showed that all creative days featured the same working conditions: the ability to concentrate with no interruptions. Without this protected focus during time-pressured days, people felt as if they were on a treadmill: moving fast, but not getting anywhere. …

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