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4 Ways to Stay Creative Under Pressure (And tools to help)

By August 6, 2020December 6th, 2023No Comments

Whether it’s a design roadblock, writer’s block, or just a feeling of total overwhelm due to multiple changing priorities, the need to stay creative under pressure is a pressure in itself. 

The problem is, oftentimes working in a fast-paced environment that makes up a digital agency leaves little to no room for these types of roadblocks.

Despite everything, there are ways to get out of this rut and stay creative. By following these 4 strategies, creatives should have a protocol to manage roadblocks and lack of motivation when they start to feel the pressure. 

Here’s how to start when the pressure of deadlines and other factors creep up at work: 

1. Act as if you’re working for someone else

The pressure to stay creative or come up with creative ideas can stem from a fear of failure or that the fact that you might look bad to others.

And these are valid feelings. 

However, if you approach a project or problem with the idea that you’re working for someone else, this can instead broaden your creative horizon and take away that stress. A study by Cornell researchers Evan Polman and Kyle J. Emich asserts this idea in the Decisions for Others Are More Creative Than Decisions for the Self

According to a multi-study, participants were first asked to draw an alien for a story that they would write. In the second study, participants were asked to draw an alien for a story that someone else would write. Participants were able to draw a much more imaginative, creative alien when tasked to draw it for someone else, verses for their own story.

So, even though you know you are the one creating and taking ownership of the final product, try to detach yourself from the creative process. By essentially “tricking” your brain that you will pass it off to someone else, you eliminate the pressure on perfecting it, while also removing any barriers to creativity. 

Although tricky in practice, this approach can enable creatives to produce original work under tight deadlines—which is quite often when running a digital agency.

Tip: “Pretend that you’re working on a project on behalf of a colleague or a friend.” 

2. Save your creative ideas for review later

Creativity likes to pop in at any time, any place. Ever noticed that your creative ideas come while driving, cooking, walking your dog, or in the shower? Whenever that may be, record those ideas for later. Often, these ideas don’t flow through that regularly, but when they do, it can be a gold mine of information. 

Jot it down on a notepad or journal or use a voice recorder to record your idea. The built-in voice recorder on the iPhone and Voice Memo on Samsung devices are quick and easy tools to capture creative thoughts when they come to you.

Take note of when creativity pops up. Spanx Founder Sara Blakely for example, goes out of her way to drive an extra hour in the morning to work just to spend time greeting her creative ideas when they arrive. Wherever your “creative zone” is, take note of when they come and save those ideas for later.  After all, by the time pressure kicks in, creatives should have a whole notebook full of ideas ready to kick-start their creativity! 

Tip: “A light bulb pops up in your head?  Jot it down for later.”

3. Delegate time-consuming tasks to make time for creativity

Creativity and stress often don’t mesh well together. Stress from deadlines, changing priorities, personal/home life, team conflict, and more: you name it, these are all major roadblocks to reaching maximum creative potential on projects. Not to mention it increases burn-out, too. 

Often, the inability to stay creative can come from a place where your mental (and physical) state is simply too full. Too full to the point where these negative feelings trickle into other areas of your life.

“Professional burnout is a prolonged psychological response to job stressors,” according to a study in the Annual Review of Psychology. It manifests itself in many ways, ranging from physical and emotional fatigue to a lack of enthusiasm for the job involved. Combined, these factors can result in lower job performance and employee turnover.

So how can you address this issue?  Well first, creatives should look inward to make room for creativity. If your mental state is at full capacity, then you likely don’t have room to be creative. 

Time-consuming, redundant tasks should be the first area you look into. As companies increasingly adopt software to automate redundant tasks—so should creatives. 

Accounting software is increasingly adopting machine learning to automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks like categorization, manual entry, and reconciliation for business owners and creatives. Take advantage of software that uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to match receipts and invoices to business transactions. This will not only save up an extraordinary amount of time for creatives, but it will also mean it’s one less thing on your plate to worry about. 

Reviewing financial numbers is also an extremely time-consuming task, but one that must be done. By adopting accounting software, creatives can have peace of mind knowing that numbers are accurate, and reconciliation is done in real-time and accurate too.

Kashoo’s unlimited 14-day free trial allows creatives to try our awesome new features that are designed to help make the lives of creatives better, including saving them countless hours doing time-consuming tasks. After all: you’re a creative for a reason: you need your time to be creative.

Tip: “Creativity comes from a place of space. Dump out unnecessary thoughts and administrative tasks to make room for creativity.” 

4. Change up your work environment

Lastly, if nothing else works: go off the grid. This could mean taking time off to change up your workspace to jump-start your creativity. Book a weekend cabin trip to embrace nature or visit a warmer place to reignite the flow of ideas. 

Studies have shown that creativity can come for simple changes like taking walks, working in a dimmer room, or having an alcoholic drink or two. For example, a study even found that working amid disorder helped individuals come up with more creative ideas. 

“Being creative is aided by breaking away from tradition, order, and convention and a disorderly environment seem to help people do just that,” writes Kathleen D. Vohs, a professor at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.

Whatever “disorder” may mean to you, sometimes your mind and body simply need a break from routine to stay creative.

Tip: “Go off the grid”

Ready to jumpstart your creativity? 

The pressure to stay creative is hard as it is. Creatives are constantly under the gun, expected to produce creative work at a breakneck speed while maintaining quality and consistency. At the end of the day, creativity is a skill that can be learned and fostered—as long as creatives make the time for it or remove roadblocks that take away from it. 

Whether it’s pretending to do the work for another team member, jotting down creative ideas for later, adopting software to relieve time-consuming tasks, or going off the grid, creatives should consider these strategies to stay creative under pressure. 

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