If you work in the world of brand marketing, you know that voice. It accompanies that all-too-familiar tight—some might say impossible—deadline. The one that can be identified by a gentle scream in your brain, shouting useful things like “You have exactly one hour to shatter the earth with your creative genius. Do it! Do it now!!... Why aren’t you doing it?!? Oh great. Now you’ve only got 59 minutes. Be inspirational already!”

Oh, you haven’t heard that voice? Well, we’re getting to know each other then. Welcome to my brain on “creative concept” day at the office, the day a select few of us are pulled from the pack, put in a room with a whiteboard, a fun colour set of markers, and…yup, a deadline.

Don’t get me wrong. These are my best days at the office. Rooting out the core of a client’s communication need and putting the shine on their apple is absolutely fun. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t. But it’s also stressful—an extremely unproductive emotion in the midst of the creative process. Which is why I was so pleased to read Daniel Goleman’s article on Maximizing your AHA Moment because it reminded me that it’s okay to take a breath in pursuit of an original thought. In fact it’s in those moments of “rest” where the true insights occur.

It doesn’t mean I should bring a cot to the office. (I’m still working on a rationale for that one.) It simply gives me a sense of order and calm within a seeming madhouse of creative production. In simple terms, it goes something like this:

1. Work really really hard.

Get to know your subject, everything that is relevant to what you need to communicate. Hammer it out. Absorb it. Don’t multi-task. This is the time to focus on the task at hand.

2. Go for a walk and listen to the birds.

Or whatever your equivalent of mental relaxation looks like. Daydream. Let your thoughts drift. Take in the world around you. Breathe. These are the times new connections are made and fresh ideas flourish.

3. Come back to your work, and see what happens.

Of course, there is no guarantee creative genius will occur. But at least you’ve set the stage for greatness. And whatever happens now will be an improvement on what would’ve come before.

As for that impossible deadline…just you tell your client you’re going to need an extra day for walking around and whistling time. Then let me know what happens next. I love a good war story.


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