How? First let's talk about those dreamy, mythical deadlines that are weeks or even months away. Besides the natural tendency to procrastinate, the tendency to over analyze becomes the greater issue. The more time you have, the more you second guess what you're doing or the less willing you are to commit to a direction until you feel it is the ultimate solution. Or something could be great at first, but because you have all the time in the world you don't know when to say when. You keep building up and tearing down until you're left with something average or safe, not realizing that brilliance was staring you in the face days ago.
When you have a tight deadline, you're forced to immediately focus on the ask and quickly come up with an efficient game plan. Once the essence of the brief is understood, you go to some of your favorite digital or traditional resources for some quick industry research. Next, you sketch or write out a few simple concepts on paper, and because of time you rely on your instincts to quickly select the best concept and flesh it out. I'm willing to bet more times than not, by following this approach, most creatives are pretty impressed with the results in these seemingly less ideal circumstances.
So is that it? Not exactly. Once you think you've mastered the above process, you're really only halfway great. The truly talented are "always on" or seem to rarely run into that creative wall that stops many in their tracks.
The real trick, is knowing what it takes to keep you going or how to quickly get going when the ideas start to fall flat. Of course there are many ways to do this, and every creative has their preference, but usually I find it comes down to four. I polled our own creative team to see what approaches would bubble to the top.
Reset Yourself - whatever it takes to clear the mind
Get away from the screen. Temporarily move your workspace to a different area of the office. Take a long walk for coffee or lunch. Cake or cookie break at Jupiter. Draw. Have a music discussion with a colleague. Catch up on Facebook or Twitter. The Daily Show. Take a nap. mostawesomestthingever.com
Get Inspired - where you can find the latest and greatest
thecssawards.com, mashable.com, digitalbuzzblog.com, contagiousfeed.com, creativity-online.com, ffffound.com, mcsweeneys.net, thefwa.com, smashingmagazine.com, designspongeonline.com, designobserver.com, wemadethis.co.uk/blog, motionographer.com, designcharts.com, notcot.org, various specialty tumbler sites, fashion blogs, twitter trends.
Plan Your Attack - steps that always deliver
Put down the mouse and actually sketch or write your thoughts down on paper--know what you want to create before jumping into Photoshop or Word. Surf the web, research, look at the competition. Synthesize the creative brief down to the main ask--what will define success? Sum up the concept into a headline. Can you sell it in 140 characters? If not, move on.
Your Creative Window - knowing when you're at your best
Early mornings rule. The am is usually quiet with little or no distractions--take advantage of a fresh, well-rested mind. Late night grinds are rarely as fruitful.
Obviously there are some situations where a short turnaround just doesn't work, no matter how prepared you are. When you're dealing with a multi tiered social campaign with dozens of extensions and activations or a massive site redesign with endless layers of functionality and business requirements, the last thing you want is to be in a situation that forces you to compromise. There will always be projects that require a thorough development cycle with multiple checkpoints and milestones across every discipline.
At the end of the day, most creatives really have mixed emotions when it comes to having to deliver at the eleventh hour. Even if they seem to knock it out of the park every time. They love the challenge and satisfaction that comes with solving the impossible, but hate all the pressures, chaos, and emotions that come with it.
Do tight deadlines really equate to better work? Maybe not. But there's something to be said about the raw, streamlined process it forces us to switch into.