Creativity Under A Deadline

We’ve all heard that “Deadlines are the enemy of creativity.” Yet we have deadlines, and we want to be creative. How do we walk that particular tight-rope?

Not too long ago I needed to pull together a proposal for my High-Tech employer that I knew would be a bit controversial and not-necessarily well received. I needed a way to present things so they could be easily understood and the benefit would be clear. In other words, I needed to be creative. And I needed to be creative right now.

That seems to happen to me a lot, and I bet you find yourself in similar situations.

Ideas to Help Spur Creativity

I’m going to share with you several principles that I’ve found to be helpful while trying to be creative on a deadline. We need to give ourselves permission to:

1. Relax and have some fun with it.

When our brains are focused on the deadline, our creativity becomes stifled. Chances are pretty good we shift out of artistic/creative and into just-get-something out the door. Don’t get me wrong: I believe in the value of delivering, but if you give yourself permission to have fun, you will spark more creative ideas, even while on a deadline.

2. Set aside some time and space.

Creating the right environment is important for creativity. It doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to the mountains (after all, you are under a deadline). Find a quiet space that has few interruptions and no visual reminders of other pending work or deadlines. Then give yourself some time just to come up with creative ideas. Oh… and Skittles (or your favorite treat) will definitely help keep the creative juices flowing!

3. Be inspired by art, movies, books, even Instagram.

Just remember to be inspired. This can be a dangerous one. Don’t let your creativity session become a Facebook dog-spotting binge. Done that. Been there.

4. Thrive with structure.

It turns out that a bit of structure is actually quite helpful for creativity. The limits that the structure provides creates energy and intentionality. Think about poetry. There are definite rules of structure that must be followed. Now, what could you do with “purple”? Go.

5. Shake things up.

As a bit of a last-resort, I like to try some “lateral thinking” (A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech). My favorite is to think about something along the lines of “What would Oprah do?” This just allows us to explore things from a perspective that we wouldn’t have otherwise. This is what I did for that proposal I mentioned at the beginning of this post. For this one, I used Isaac Asimov’s “Three Rules of Robotics” (from Asimov’s science fiction thriller “I, Robot”) as an outline for the proposal (which had nothing to do with robots). I had intended on using this just as inspiration, but I accidentally left the rules in place when I started reviewing it with my colleagues. Turns out, even management appreciates a bit of whimsy–and my proposal was well received. Thanks Isaac!

You will need to curate your own list of go-to moves for sparking your creativity. What works for you may be different than what works for me. But enough reading–go be creative!

Roger Lipp

Roger is a productivity and quality engineer for a Fortune 50 company.

He helps teams reach their full productivity potential by teaching them practical and simple steps to reach their goals. Roger and his wife, author Kathi Lipp, teach communicators how to share their message through social media and email marketing.

He and Kathi coauthored Happy Habits for Every Couple with Harvest House Publishers.



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