There’s a stereotype about creative people – that they thrive on flexibility, rebel against rigid rules, and are subjected to the forces of inspiration (or lack thereof). If this stereotype is true, then it’s amazing that creative people get anything done at all, let alone get anything done on time!
Obviously, the stereotype is a myth. Creative people can be efficient, and, conversely, efficiency can be expected of creative types – even if it seems impossible.
So how can it be made possible? How can creative people become more organized and productive?
Give ample time for brainstorming and idea generation. Although great ideas can happen randomly – like when you’re reaching into a bag of croutons or standing in line at the bank. However, when you’re working on a tight schedule, you can’t exactly tell others “I’m sorry, but the right idea hasn’t happened yet.” If you find that you’re still blocked, LifeDev has 15 suggestions on how to generate ideas.
Know how to set the perfect deadline for your creative tasks. I recently wrote an article on setting deadlines, and it basically contains the following tips:
- Think of an initial deadline for the project. This is tentative, something you’ll work with as you compute the perfect deadline.
- Move your actual deadline later than the initial deadline. The rationale behind this is that things take longer than you expect. Just make sure that the actual deadline is possible.
- List the project milestones and give a deadline for each. Each project has smaller steps and next actions. Give a deadline, including the hour, for each milestone.
- Make all deadlines immovable. In the article, I gave examples on how to make deadlines immovable for your digital calendar.
- Tell outside parties (supervisors, clients, colleagues) a deadline much later (2 to 4 days) than your initial deadline.
Just pick one idea and get on with it. A few years back, I had this project where it was literally the day before the deadline and I still didn’t pick an idea/concept to commit to. Although I pulled something off, it wasn’t as good as it would’ve been if I was able to dedicate a lot of time on making it. The thing is, most creative people I know have several good ideas for a single project, and each idea is trying to outdo the others in your head. The more time you spend tossing ideas or trying to find the “one great idea”, the less time you have actually getting anything done. Sometimes, it works just as well to pick one of your current ideas and execute it the best way possible.
Know that as long as you can find something within 5 seconds, you’re doing fine. Some people think that efficiency or being organized has something to do with being tidy and neat. This really isn’t the case. Being neat and orderly is just something that’s superficial. Being organized, on the other hand, means that the way things are arranged makes sense to you, and you can easily find whatever it is you’re looking for – neatness is just optional.
Example: my office has a huge drawing table and a messy cart of art materials. It looks so disorganized and chaotic, but I know exactly where to reach for my things that I can find my #2 round brush with my eyes closed.
Being artistic and creative doesn’t mean that you have to go with the stereotype of being disorganized and inefficient. After all, efficiency and productivity doesn’t mean following a set of externally sanctioned rules and standards. It’s about what works for you.