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In some situations, we need to be creative quickly and effectively (we've all been in situations where there's a deadline looming in just a few hours). For example, perhaps a client wants last-minute changes, or a pitch is coming close and you want to make a great impression, but your presentation is still missing something.
There's a wonderful technique which makes it possible to boost your creative thinking in a short amount of time. Some of you probably recognize the Pomodoro Technique as a method for increasing your productivity. However, its philosophy of providing a flow and focus can also be perfect for your last-minute creative needs.
The concept behind the Pomodoro Technique lies in spending short intervals of time paying dedicated attention to something you're doing. So, as you prepare for a Pomodoro session, turn off your phone, disable any form of notifications and stay focused. No social networks or news websites, or any other websites which aren't relevant to what you're doing. I mean it.
You'll spend two hours working towards your outcome. During this time, you'll relax, work and think. Find a quiet place (I suggest not using your standard working space), take your work equipment with you (don't forget pen and paper) and have a timer ready. Your phone will do, as long as you can't be disturbed. No calls, no push notifications.
Let's Do This
- Start and define what you want to achieve. Put it on paper. It should be pretty obvious as the deadline's close. For example, you need a new creative concept.
- Begin with browsing for inspiration which is relevant to your goal. Stick to relevant and dedicated websites, such as Behance or Dribbble for example, for 25 minutes. Afterwards, take a short break of 5 minutes (grab a drink, go outside, ..).
- Great, now use this inspiration and try to solve your problem, again limit yourself to 25 minutes. Take notes, make sketches, get your ideas on paper. Start with the obvious and keep writing, even if you believe some ideas are terrible. 25 minutes over? Okay, let it go.
- Take a break of 35 minutes. Go do something which is completely irrelevant to what you were doing. When you first do this, it might be hard to let go of your deadline, but practice makes perfect. It's advised you stay away from the internet and do something you enjoy (for example, cook your dinner, grab a book, go for a run outside, ...)
- Use your final 25 minutes to finish what you started. Often, you'll have had new insights during this interval which, at least, provide progress to the final solution. As you get more experienced, you're often able to simply solve your problem.
What's the Secret?
As you analyze this method you notice that we're only being really productive for about 50 minutes. The outcome might be amazing if you compare that to results of lengthy meetings and uninspiring trial and error. The idea is, once again; flow and focus. First of all, by truly achieving full focus and restricting yourself in time you force yourself to reach a new height of productivity and creativity.
Besides, having physical triggers such as a timer, a different location, taking a break or entering a new interval is a direct way of preparing yourself mentally for the upcoming task. Instead of focusing on the deadline, you change your focus to your given task.
What are your tips if you need creativity and you need it fast?