We found that on days of the most extreme time pressure, the professionals in our study were 45 percent less likely to come up with a new idea or solve a complex problem. Even worse, there’s a kind of “pressure hangover,” with lower creativity persisting for two days or more.
So if you have to tackle a complex problem in a pressure-cooker situation — hide somewhere with minimal distractions, like a seldom-used conference room, or the coffee shop around the corner. Focus. Don’t let other demands get in the way. And, through it all, keep sight of the importance of the mission at hand. If you’re a procrastinator, maybe the most important change you can make is an attitude adjustment. You might be convinced that extreme time pressure is the only way to get brilliant work done because you’ve never actually tried it any other way. The fact is, when you work under the gun, creativity is usually the first casualty.
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