How to Create Work in a Limited Time Frame March 3, 2017

At Pop My Mind we champion creative play and experimentation. This is why we like to provide various challenges to get our creative community to make work outside of their comfort zones. These include responding to themes such as the elements or key emotions, and time based challenges such as the 1 Hour Challenge, the 10 Minute Challenge and now the recently launched 3 Minute Challenge – generating some dynamic video content for Simba Sleep‘s social media campaign!

Producing work in a short amount of time is not only fantastic to get down ideas quickly and develop your abilities, it is also a great skill to have for your creative career – for example it means that you can be able to make commissioned work under tight deadlines, perform under pressure, and create interesting video content in a viewer-friendly time frame.

We are always excited to see the imaginative creative content that our community produce in response to certain themes. If you want to have a go at one of the time-based challenges, we’ve given you ten pointers at how you can produce work quickly with some awesome results.

Ten Colours by Gretchen Warsen – another exciting visual response to the 10 Minute Challenge

1) Firstly, think of it as making a sketch instead of a final piece.

This can be very difficult for creatives who are meticulous or who have perfectionist tendencies, but it is essential for quick challenges. Don’t be precious, just use this challenge to explore and experiment with new ideas.

2) Consider your medium.

If you usually work in a medium which is very slow to execute, such as an oil painting, then consider moving onto something which allows you to get more information across in a shorter amount of time – for instance, use fast drying acrylic paint instead. The same applies to other disciplines – for instance, if you are a musician who usually composes pieces in a band, try jamming instead. If you usually write rhyming poetry, try flash fiction.

3) Use the right tool for the job!

You won’t be able to get down a lot of information when you’re using small tools. Get bigger paint brushes, type instead of writing by hand, play the instrument you find easiest to use, and anything else the process of creating simpler and more immediate.

4) Preparation is key.

When making time-based work, it can be fun to see what ideas you can come up with, but if you come to the table with no preparation the results are more likely to not be as great as you were expecting. To make better work, think of a few ideas before hand and the kind of direction you’d like to go in. Also set up the materials you’d like to use, and any source material to inspire you (for example, one of the Latest Uploads on Pop My Mind).

5) Break down the subject.

Trying to do everything at once in a short time is a massive challenge. Instead, try picking out one element that you’d like to focus on and refine in your piece. For example, in artwork, you can try and draw something just using colour, shadow or line instead of all three. In music, you could just try and create a really interesting audio texture using your instrument, or a strong melody instead of all of the parts together.

Fairground Study by Sarah Pooley – a beautiful response to the 10 Minute Challenge

6) Build on an existing piece.

Who says that you have to start from scratch in a time challenge? Use the time limit to edit a poem, collage over your painting, riff to a backing track, or edit different shots of a video together.

7) Play with scale.

You don’t have to make a 5 minute track, 3 minute video or a 1m square painting in a short amount of time. Try creating something of great quality, but much smaller or shorter than what you’d usually create, in order to save time making it.

8) Build your muscle memory.

Muscle memory is where your body learns the motions of an activity after repetitive practise so that the action becomes automatic. In order to be able to create something in a very short time frame, you can start by practising it multiple times before doing the final thing. For artwork, you can practise making the same recognisable image using simple mark-making techniques until you are able to make the gestures without thinking about it. For a guitar improvisation, you can play for an hour before committing to the final version of your solo.

9) Work your way down to your time limit.

If you are used to taking your time on creating a piece, you can start from a long time limit and practise making pieces, cutting down on your time frame on each round. Eventually you will be able to create a piece you’re happy with in the time limit that you are aiming for.

10) Stop caring!

Time challenges aren’t there to prove your creative worth or capabilities – they are to experiment, record and inspire new ideas. Enjoy the process rather than the outcomes. After all, you learn more from your mistakes that your successes.


If you want to have a go at responding to one of the time challenges, check out the 3 Minute Challenge, 1o Minute Challenge and 1 Hour Challenge and get stuck in!

Not a member of Pop My Mind? You can easily become part of our community and respond to these opportunities by saying hello here.

Written by Karis Lambert