When Imposing a Deadline Could Backfire

Certain kinds of work don't lend themselves to hard targets. How to get your people to produce their best work without wasting time

Written by PROFIT Staff

Deadlines destroy creativity, says neuroscientists John Kounios. His research found that creativity happens when people are in a peaceful and happy state of mind, when it’s easier to pick up on the ideas and associations floating below one’s consciousness.

Imposing a deadline on creative work, on the other hand, creates anxiety and stress, and shift your cognitive mode to more analytical thinking, crushing creativity in the process.

The take-away for managers seeking innovative ideas from their employees is to assign a “soft-target” date instead of a deadline if possible. At the same time, creative workers should get in the practice of giving themselves plenty of time before their deadlines in order to produce the most original work.


What other tasks don’t lend themselves to deadline? How do you balance the creative process and the need to get things done? Let us know by commenting below.

Originally appeared on