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5 Productivity Hacks for Creative Professionals to Keep the Ideas Flowing

Escape the desk
  • May 3, 2015, 11:45 PM EDT
  • Sponsored

Illustration: Stephen Cheetham

Throughout history, creative people—from Mozart to Picasso—have used different "life hacks" to manage their day. Charles Dickens, for example, was a gym rat a century before that term existed, exercising for about three hours per day.  

Advertising creatives are no exception. They too have their own tricks for managing the day and getting the most out of their working hours. They still need to create, perform and deliver, despite the tedious meetings, brainstorming sessions, casting calls and client shoots that often compromise their productivity.

"Some of the biggest killers of ad folks' productivity are the practices that are supposed to help their productivity," said Joe Staples, CMO of Workfront, maker of marketing work management solutions. "In a recent survey, we found that about one in four marketing professionals—including ad professionals—blames unproductive meetings, unexpected requests and rework for killing their productivity."

Inefficiency at work can take many forms, including excessive emails, endless meetings and poor planning. Here are five hacks that successful creatives use to stay productive and on task:

1. Don't let email sabotage your communications
Want to see your day, and your job, improve? Try actually talking to colleagues and clients. "Picking up the phone or having a quick meeting rather than sending 800 emails or text messages to accomplish the same thing is a great work hack," said Lori Brennan, founder of Lori Brennan Design. "Sometimes things need to be discussed in person or over the phone in order to get that immediate response rather than driving too far down the wrong path on a project."

2. Manage meetings by keeping them small and focused
First, don't wait for stragglers. "Close the door and start the meeting," said Kevin Meany, president and CEO of BFG, a creative shop based in South Carolina. "Waiting for latecomers only reinforces their behavior." Second, know what you want to accomplish and communicate it clearly to the group. Third, only invite people who belong in the meeting. This affects profitability as well as output.

3. Keep attendees engaged by having something to say
These days, it's easy to be distracted by smartphones and laptops—doubly so during a long meeting. When clients are in the room, it can be a challenge for creatives to present. Experts say that involvement is key to a strong and productive meeting. "It's important to keep clients engaged and on their toes so that they pay attention," Brennan said. "Having meetings where everyone talks is a lot more effective."

4. Don't let work get in the way of doing good work
"Creatives struggle with breaking away from work," said Staples. "Fifty-six percent of them spend lunch at their desks, and 23 percent work 10 or more hours per day. This tendency to neglect breaks is costly in terms of creativity, morale and quality." It's important to walk around the block, get some fresh air and otherwise relieve stress.

5. Rely on your colleagues for necessary perspective
Staring at a blank page for long periods of time frustrates everyone. But don't be afraid to talk to a colleague to help find your perspective. If you're stuck on a project, suggests Brennan, move to a different one. "Or get someone else's take on it who is not closely involved. Sometimes we get so entrenched that we fail to notice that something important is missing."

For advertising creatives, it's all about staying innovative in the face of mounting distractions. While these hacks may not prompt the genius of a Picasso or a Mozart, they can help keep the ideas flowing and the day manageable.