Creative people are always creating. They are always working, always learning, and always thinking. They do not have an off switch. Every movie they see, every song they hear, and everything they touch is research for their craft. They are constantly making mental notes and observations of the world around them and applying it to their work.

They can rarely finish reading a book because they get too many ideas as they are reading it and have to go write one of their own. They can’t hear half of what you say because something you said reminded them of a problem they are trying to solve. They are restless at night and are often going in twenty different directions during the day. They always have a song in their head and are thinking of at least three or four different things at the same time.

This creative mind can be an asset or a detriment to your company depending on your understanding and direction of these brilliant minds. These unique factors work just fine for your creative people, but it can be extremely frustrating to everyone else. Below are a few tips to help you understand and better manage your creative employees.

  1. Give Short Lists

Due to their overcrowded brains, creative people are rarely good multi-taskers. Do not give them long lists of tasks to achieve in one day. Even if you give them something in writing it is best to give them short lists more often than giving them long lists once in a while. You can keep a long list for yourself, but I recommend giving them about three things to do at a time. This may mean that you have to give them multiple lists in one day.working-with-creative-professionals3

Most creative types will have trouble remembering more than three things at a time. Even if they have a longer list, they will probably only look at it once and remember two or three things on that list. When you give them a list of tasks, make sure you give them a priority and deadline for each item. Most creatives will have trouble getting started when faced with a large agenda. They can be easily overwhelmed by a large amount of work, especially if it all needs to be done at the same time.

Before you give them another list of items to complete, you may want to check on the status of the previous lists’ tasks. If an item cannot be completed for some reason, don’t expect your creatives to remember that item later on. Their brains will not return to that item on their own. They have probably already moved on to the next idea and have forgotten all about the previous project.

  1. Get Their Attention

Another helpful tip is to get their attention before you talk to them. Don’t walk into a room with them and begin talking because they are already thinking about something else. You can have an entire conversation with a creative person and he or she will have no recollection of anything that transpired. Make sure that you get their attention and permission before you try to communicate important information. You can usually have casual conversations with creatives while they work, but don’t try to get them to think about one thing while they are working on another.

Keep your “interruptions” short and direct, or their minds will begin to drift back to what they were working on before your conversation started. They don’t care about what you are saying right now. They just want you to leave so they can get back to what they were working on.

Even time can be a source of frustration to them. They don’t want to stop working because it is time to go home or time to go to sleep for that matter. When they are on a creative high, eating, sleeping, and restroom breaks are seen as distractions and, therefore, a source of frustration.

Get their attention, have your conversation quickly, and let them get back to work. Creatives are more than happy to talk with you and get to know you better. They just don’t want to do it while they are trying to work.

  1. Develop Self-cleaning Systems

It’s no secret that creative professionals are not the neatest of people. Their work spaces, computer desktops, offices, and automobiles are often a cluttered mess. As far as work is concerned, creatives will rarely go back and clean up after themselves or put things back when they are finished with a task. The reason for this is that their brains have already moved on to the next project. This occurs the second they finish a project. In fact, they often move on to the next project before they finish the one they are working on. If they don’t stay on task, a lot of projects can be left incomplete.

right-artistCleaning up, looking back, and sorting items take too much time away from the next creative high they are wanting to get started on. They are always looking forward and never looking back. Shortly after they finish a project, they are tired of it and often don’t even like it anymore. That project they worked on all night because they couldn’t sleep will be a hunk of junk in a few days or weeks’ time.

Obviously leaving a sloppy mess for someone else to clean up is not an acceptable practice at home or at the office. Your job is to develop a system together that requires little to no clean up once a project is completed.

Develop file naming conventions and organizational systems that can be implemented while your creative professional is working. This way they don’t have to go back when the project is complete and rename or move files to another location. It’s important you do this together or and least get their feedback so you know if they will actually follow the system or not. If it gets too complicated, they will become overwhelmed, shut down, and revert back to what they did before.

Despite what you might think, creative people are not opposed to systems. They need a system if you or anyone else, including your creative, are going to be able to go back and find something that is needed later on. The reason they don’t come up with a system themselves is that it “takes too much time.” Try and get them to start following a simple system from the start of a project.

3 1/2 Think Differently

This may seem like a lot of extra administrative work for managers of creative people. I submit that creative people aren’t more work to manage. You just have to manage them differently than you would other professionals. Just like anything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to working with creative people. When harnessed correctly, the pros of working with a creative professional far outweigh the cons. If you can learn the ins and outs of managing your creative people or team, you will become part of the most rewarding work you can imagine.