Doing more work doesn’t always mean doing better work. But when you can hit your stride, that’s when your creations will reach new heights. This stride isn’t about working longer hours, but instead about consistently pumping out great ideas. So what can we do to get to that coveted spot in our careers?
1. Decrease or Rearrange Meetings
We know you’ll be skeptical of this one. If you’re more of a manager than a maker, then you might not be able to take this one to heart. But the logic is still worth exploring. Meetings are largely centered around planning and alignment. The case for decreasing meetings centers around having more time to “do.”
On the other hand, a number of meetings are essential, so changing the day of the week that you meet can have a major impact on creative output. If Fridays in the office are more relaxed, switch weekly meetings to Fridays so you can go over what was accomplished that week and deliverables for the following week. When you come into the office knowing exactly what you need to do on Monday and beyond, you’ll be able to dive into it instead of starting your to-do list from scratch. In the end, it boils down to finding a balance between meetings and focused work. Which leads us to our next strategy.
2. Switch up Your Work Location
Let’s be honest: open office layouts can be downright distracting sometimes when there’s a team having a meeting in the corner, a coworker is playing music, and someone else is on the phone. This kind of environment can really slow you down, even if you have the world’s best noise cancelling headphones.
When you’re at your desk, it can be a free for all, with junior designers asking questions as they come up and executives stopping by to ask for updates. Instead of inviting distractions, move to a private space in your office. Whether that’s a phone booth or a conference room, or maybe even working from a cafe for an hour in the morning, take the space you need to really get stuff done.
If your company allows some work from home opportunities, give it a try to determine when and where you are most productive. You may learn that being in a cafe with ambient noise and art on the walls helps get the creative juices flowing when you’re in a brainstorming phase. Or maybe that setting up in your quiet home office is the perfect environment for implementing feedback you’ve gotten on your latest prototype. The space you choose can have a major impact on your creative output. Being aware of what helps you meet deadlines and deliver your best work is the first step. Then letting your team know your preferences is second. Not every workspace is designed for every kind of creative, after all.
3. Educate Your Team on Your Particular Work Style
You do your best work when you can stay true to your work style and when your team is aware of how you work. Then everyone is able to collaborate better. If you like to have your noise cancelling headphones on while knocking out important tasks, let your team know that 9:30 – 11:30 am is your deep focus time. They are welcome to send Slack messages and emails when needed, but make sure they are aware that under normal circumstances, you will not respond during those hours. Better yet, if you are a manager, team lead, or someone who answers a lot of questions each day, have team members add up their questions and send a single email or put time on your calendar to talk them all through at once.
With the rise in remote work and varying office layouts, it’s becoming clear that companies want to cater to diverse work styles. No matter what your company culture is like, keep communication open about what environment is most productive for each team member helps everyone meet their deadlines and avoid burnout.
4. Determine the Best Communication Channel
While Slack, email, and video calls are great, nothing beats going to a whiteboard to sketch out a solution to a problem. This face-to-face time is the best way to communicate. Of course, many companies have some remote employees or are fully remote. In that case, figure out what communication method works best for you. Avoid going back and forth over email when you could pick up the phone and talk out a solution in 10 minutes. It is simply a much better use of everyone’s time.
There are countless ways to get in contact with team members, whether it’s video, chat, or phone based. Once your team has a good understanding of what methods of communication work best for certain types of conversations, it may warrant a larger company chat. For example, if your team is able increase creative output by changing up timing and tools you use to communicate, your executive team will want to know about that. Running some tests with your own team can lead to greater efficiencies in your greater company, if others can successfully put your findings to work in their own way.
5. Step out of Your Comfort Zone
There are many reasons to get out of your creative silo and experience something new. Reading the same blogs and going to the same conferences will only help you for a certain period of time. To avoid hitting a creative roadblock, make the conscious decision to periodically try something out of the box. If you’re an app designer, attend a talk on fashion design or go to a marketing meetup to better understand how your marketing team approaches projects. No matter how this looks for you, you are doing it right if you feel your brain expanding and filling with new information that you can channel into your own work.
6. Take a Break
We can’t say this enough: when you take care of yourself, every aspect of your life can reach its true potential. When it comes to your creative output, taking a walk around the neighborhood or traveling to an unknown part of the world can pay dividends. You never know who you’ll meet or what ideas you’ll generate while taking time for yourself.
Also, if you like to break up projects like we do, give yourself ample time to reflect on what you’ve done so far. Or even put the project completely out of your mind for a while. If you’re working on a new layout for a website, give yourself the opportunity to do research on one day, gather feedback from stakeholders a few days later, and brainstorm afterward. While tight deadlines can be great for getting out a first iteration, there are other projects you’ll want to ruminate on in order to devise the best gameplan. No matter what your style is for segmenting projects, the fact of the matter is that breaks are essential in the creative process.
7. Ask for Help
As the saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and the work certainly wasn’t shouldered by one person alone. We accomplish much more when we know when to ask for help. If you work on a team, you are surrounded by people willing and able to pitch in. You don’t have to take it all on yourself. If you are a freelancer and work by yourself, know when to ask your clients for clarifying questions and get help from members of the larger company when it will make your project better.
This could also come in the form of accountability. If you have a tough deadline coming up, ask someone to help you manage smaller deadlines to reach the finish line without exhausting yourself. When you are able to come to work with energy and feel supported, this is when your creative output will reach its potential.
8. Stay Inspired
Last, but not least, maintaining a constant level of inspiration will help you bring new ideas to your work and execute on them. After all; where inspiration goes, creativity follows. In the past we’ve asked designers where their inspiration comes from and the answers we received were wonderfully diverse. From music to video games to the Twitter feeds of design greats, there are endless places to find new ideas.
Here are Proto.io, we’re firm believers in quality over quantity. And when it comes to creative output, we’re referring to boosting the quality of your design projects. Even if you’re cranking out dozens of app ideas or prototypes each month, taking the time to notice when, where, and how you do your best work is a worthwhile endeavor. When you can replicate all of these factors and put yourself in a productive mindset, you’ll be on to your next big idea in no time.
What do you do to increase your creative output? Let us know by tweeting us @Protoio.
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