What Deadlines Are Doing To Your Creativity

Deadlines have their advantages, but creativity may not be one of them.
<p>Deadlines may be good for productivity, but creativity is another story. </p>
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Deadlines may be good for productivity, but creativity is another story.

Got a big deadline coming up on a creative project? You may be in trouble, according to one neuroscientist.

In an interview with The Washington Post, John Kounios of Drexel University said that working under a strict deadline can put a damper on creativity -- probably because the pressure puts you in an anxious and not-so-good mood.

“When you’re in a positive mood, you’re more sensitive to picking up these weakly activated, unconscious ideas and, when it’s detected, your attention can switch to it, and it can pop into the head as an insight,” Kounios explained. “If you’re in a bad mood … it just goes with what’s strongest, which is usually the most straightforward.”

Kounios isn't the first to take a look at how deadlines impact out-of-the-box thinking. Teresa Amiable, a researcher at Harvard Business School, said back in 2002 that putting too much pressure on employees on a daily basis can lead to burnout.

"Very high levels of time pressure should be avoided if you want to foster creativity on a consistent basis," she explained in a Harvard Business Week article. "However, if a time crunch is absolutely unavoidable, managers can try to preserve creativity by protecting people from fragmentation of their work and distractions; they should also give people a sense of being 'on a mission,' doing something difficult but important. I don't think, though, that most people can function effectively in that mode for long periods of time without getting burned out.”

Before you ditch your obligations in the name of creativity, it's important to note that working under a deadlines does have its advantages.

Justin Rosenstein, the designer for Facebook's internal productivity tool, is all about committing to deadlines on projects.

"If an important task doesn't have a natural deadline, I'll tell people confidently, 'I will send you a copy by end of day Friday,'" he wrote in a blog for The Huffington Post. "Now I don't want to look ridiculous in front of my teammates, so I will naturally make damn sure it's ready for them by Friday."

We're all about productivity. Just make sure it's not getting in the way of your creativity.

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