As businesses everywhere respond to this global pandemic, you might be under pressure to build smarter strategies, create winning campaigns, pitch new ideas… oh, and yesterday.
The pressure to create can cause both stress or fears of failure which are scientifically proven creativity barriers. Not only can they stand in the way of your motivation, but they could also prevent you from coming up with the new or unique ideas that you so desperately need right now.
When you’re under pressure, you might feel less inspired, unmotivated, or run into a nasty case of writer’s block that leaves you wondering if you’ll ever come up with a great idea ever again. When that moment happens, don’t panic. Remember, this happens to everyone.
At HubSpot, we have a wealth of creative marketers who strive to come up with unique and attention-grabbing campaigns. While we work up against high expectations, we also achieve major goals, such as high web traffic and credibility in our industry — and a lot of that comes from learning how to harness our creativity when the stakes are high.
To help you, here are six tips for staying creative under pressure I got from my colleagues on the HubSpot marketing team that can be applied to almost any discipline.
1. Pretend you’re working on behalf of someone else
The stresses of knowing that your creative ideas could go wrong and make you look bad can stop you from thinking in creative ways or pitching unique ideas that others might not consider.
When your fears about your career are getting in the way of your thought processes, pretend you’re coming up with ideas for someone else – such as a client.
Pretending to work on a project on behalf of another person sounds like a strange tip, but it’s highly recommended by the HubSpot Blog’s Senior Team Manager, Karla Cook.
“This mindset is actually proven by research to produce more creative results,” Cook explains. “When you’re producing work that will be attributed to you, you typically put more pressure on yourself to get it perfect, which can restrict how creative you get. When you think the work will be attributed to someone else, you’re more likely to take creative risks.”
“Even when you know the final product will be attributed to you, try detaching a bit from the first draft and writing it as if you’re going to pass it off to someone else,” Cook adds. “Tricky in practice, but once you get the hang of it, it can really help with producing fast creative work.”
2. Just start outlining
If you’re trying to produce creative or strategic content that requires a lot of thought and depth, don’t let staring at an empty page intimidate you. Just get started by drafting an outline.
Caroline Forsey, a staff writer on HubSpot’s Marketing Blog, says this a great strategy for fending off writer’s block.
“If you’re really feeling uninspired, just get the bare bones of the piece down on paper, and come back to it later,” Forsey says. “Once you have something semi-ready to publish (even if not the most well-written piece), the pressure should subside, allowing you to dive back into it a few hours later with fresh and innovative ideas for how to add flair.”
3. Work when you feel most creative
On top of jumping into an outline, Forsey also suggests figuring out when your peak productive times are and scheduling your creative tasks during them.
“I know I work best in the morning,” Forsey explains. “I will snooze Slack notifications, put my phone away, and close my email tab, so I can focus during those two to three hours when I’m feeling most creative.”
4. When you’re absolutely stuck, walk away from your computer
If you’ve tried everything and feel like your mind is absolutely fried, it’s time to take a break. But, don’t spend time getting distracted on the internet. Instead, take a walk or get out of your office for a few minutes.
Yes, it might seem scary to take a break away from your desk when you’re dealing with deadlines, but this can help you swiftly come up with new ideas and motivate you when you return to creating again.
This tip is a favorite of HubSpot Blog Managing Editor Meg Prater, who read about it in a book called Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. In the book, Shapiro talks about the “pitfalls of writing on a computer and the ease of escaping writing blocks by riding on the ‘log flume’ of the internet.”
Here’s a quote from Shapiro’s book that Prater recollects:
“By the time we return to our work — if, indeed, we return to our work at all — we will be further away from our deepest impulses rather than closer to them. Where were we? Oh, yes. We were stuck. We were feeling uncomfortable and lost. And how are we now? More stuck … Our thoughts have not drifted but, rather, have ricocheted from one bright and shiny thing to another.”
Prater explains, “When I take breaks to give my mind a rest or move through a ‘stuck’ point in my writing, I try to get up from my desk, walk around my house, or sit outside for a few minutes. It’s less distracting for me and easier to get back into my work once I’m ready.”
5. Get eight hours of sleep
When you have deadlines coming up, it can be tempting to think that staying up late and skipping a few hours of sleep for just one or two nights will help you get more creative work done. However, mounting research says otherwise.
Not only are you less productive when you work at night, but a lack of sleep can also stifle creativity. Not to mention, sleep issues can be detrimental to mental health.
As a former employee of multiple startups and newsrooms, I was no stranger to late-night shifts and take-home projects. But, now, I’ve noticed that I come up with far more creative and effective content ideas when I’m well-rested.
As a night owl, I know this is easier said than done. So, I’ve trained myself into better sleep habits. Each night, I consider 9 PM to 10 PM my wind-down time where I sit in bed, watch TV, or do a little light social media surfing. Then I try to have my mobile devices off after 10:30 PM and hopefully fall asleep by 11 PM.
Regardless of when you sleep, developing a habit will help you stay on track so you aren’t wide awake and worrying about your deadlines at night.
6. Record your creative ideas when they hit you, then review them later
Great ideas can happen at any time: in the car, while cooking, during a walk, or even when you’re falling asleep in bed. When something interesting pops into your head, record it.
“Use a voice recorder or voice assistant to record your creative thoughts when they come to you,” says Jim Ruocco, a senior customer success manager.
If you’re using a voice assistant, Ruocco adds that you should instruct it “to remind you the next day.”
For example, you could say, “Ok, Google. Remind me to create an app that can translate dolphin into English tomorrow morning at 9 AM.”
While ideas like the dolphin language app noted above might seem inaccessible in the short-term, you can still backlog a long list of thoughts that could lead to solid projects later.
This article originally appeared on the HubSpot blog. Thank you Pamela for your contribution!
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