THE INC. LIFE

3 Ways the Most Creative People Make Peace With Deadlines

How to make a deadline work for you.

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BY Jamie Welsh - 16 Jun 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Amongst the many clashes between creativity and the pragmatic reality of business is the hard deadline. While the process of creating meaningful design that is both beautiful and functional is not like putting a hammer to a nail, businesses thrive on a schedule, on rolling out product and advertising in a timely, well-planned fashion. There's no time to indulge your process. You have to put the hammer to the nail and hope for the best.

So where does this leave you and your team? You want to allow both the time and space for the best idea to win out. However, you're also in charge of delivering work to a client on time. It puts you in the position of the task-master, that malevolent dictator who crushes the spirit of the artist. Here's the thing: this side of you is a friend, not a foe, if you know how to harness it.

Embrace It

Like with most things inside and outside of business, this problem can be solved with a fresh perspective. In an ideal world we would have an endless wealth of time in which to create. When the work feels banal, tired and flowing at an excruciatingly glacial pace, like water dripping from a leaky faucet, most of us wish we could simply leave the desk. The great idea might be out on the mountain trail, or waiting in the lull between waves out in the ocean. If we only had the time to indulge in these parts of our process.

The problem is that real work doesn't get done on the mountain or the ocean. A deadline, as slavish and square as it might be, is a great reminder that creative work isn't as ethereal and mysterious as we might think. Great work comes from the grind, and nothing will make you feel the grind more than staring down the barrel of a deadline. Feel the burn. Embrace it.

Abandon Perfection

The desire for more time comes from a good place. You and your creative team have been tasked with helping a brand find their story, their look, their voice, the very thing that will invite a consumer to interact with the product. It's a huge responsibility. You want to create the best face for both the client, and also yourself. You want perfection.

We need to be reminded that "perfection is the enemy of progress." Or rather the pursuit of perfection is the enemy. Given the time most of us would tinker, adjust, modify and fine-tune until every line, word and color gradient is precisely perfect. In fact, if no one told us to stop we might be stuck in this loop forever. A deadline is there to tell you when to stop. Your great work does nobody any good locked up in perfectionists prison. Abandon perfection and let it free.

Trust the Process--And Yourself

Thank the creative gods for deadlines. They cramp your style and make you sweat, but they force you to get work done. And it can be great work too. Deadlines can teach an important lesson about your ability.

You and your team know what you're doing. No one would hire you if you didn't. So don't be afraid to set reasonable deadlines and expect them to be met. Allow time for engagement, collaboration and revisions, certainly, but don't get caught in the loop. Creativity can be an amorphous process, but the ones who meet their deadlines are the ones that get hired. The ones who meet their deadlines with great work get hired again and again. So trust in the process, trust in your talent and ability, trust the deadline.