Creativity on a Deadline

Imagine it. You’ve been on this project for weeks. You know the research, you know the solution, you know it all. And yet, here you are… 8 hours away from the deadline with nothing completed. You might start to procrastinate. You start to reorganize the keynote for the seventh time. Maybe eat a rice cake. You engage in banal conversation with your coworker about their plans for the weekend. And there goes 25 minutes you can’t get back. So you go back to staring at your screen, the designs sitting there, static and mocking. Your failure sit there shaming you and your inadequacies. And that villainous deadline is still looming. No doubt you’ve had this happen to you. If not, please teach me your ways.

We’ve all been there… (Source: Reddit)

And if you are anything like me, you end up doing thousands of visual design iterations, frantically grasping for divine creative intervention. Your art boards end up being named homepage 5 copy 19. You may begin to hyperventilate and receive worried glances from everyone in the office. There is no way to turn on your creativity. Despite your best efforts, you are stuck, a kind of designers’s block. And then you start to stress about stressing and the day turns from productivity into a cyclical downward spiral of self-doubt. In my experience creatives don’t typically do their best work under duress, even if it is self-imposed. So how do you shake this horrible feeling?


I first used this at the behest of my sleep doctor (ya I went to a sleep doctor, I know). She told me to transfer your worries onto paper in the form of a worry journal. I chose to sketch instead. And I’m not talking about iterations of the problem that haunts you, I am talking about sketching something that makes you happy. Something you enjoy drawing. For me, its doing inky doodles of beautiful dresses that I cannot afford (see below).

I could buy none of these…

Sketching reconnects you with your creative side, it releases stress, and (most importantly) it gets you out of your own head. My best solutions often come when I am not working. These lightning bolts of inspiration strike when you least expect them to, i.e. in the shower, at 3 am, or pre-gaming with your friends on a Friday night. They come from real world experiences, from stepping away from yourself and experiencing something new and exciting. We get so stuck in our own minds, the more we focus, the more myopic our view becomes.

Jarring ourselves out of our self-imposed complacency jolts our creativity. And that is really what we bring to the table. Even in the most logical moments of product design, our creative problem solving is our asset, our secret weapon. So, if I am forced to walk to the Seattle Art Museum and sit there sketching, I am more than willing. You know, for work…