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Focus on Results, Not Time

Focus on Results, Not Time
Published June 13, 2008 by Behance Team
We often assume that the number of hours spent at work are an indication of one's effort, interest, and accomplishment. However, in reality, the greatest ideas and the execution of these ideas happen in spurts. The best ideas often do not require a lengthy conception, and the most productive days are seldom the longest. But still, managers instinctually measure employees with an eye on the clock. Working hours remain rigid, and morale suffers when the rules fail to support the ultimate goal: a productive creative workplace. What working conditions are ideal for maximum creativity and productivity?


It is no secret that a lot of time in the typical corporate job is wasted - look no further than the success of comedy shows like "The Office." We like to make fun of bureaucracy because we see it around us every day. Managers create rules and norms not in the pursuit of efficiency, but rather out of distrust. According to a recent study by AOL and, full-time employees work a total of three days a week, wasting the other two.A productive creative team must embrace transparency, and there must be a fundamental trust shared between colleagues. Beyond deadlines, expense accounts, and privacy, every employee must trust that their colleagues want the best for the company, care about the product, and aspire to succeed in their role.  For this to happen, everyone must have a sense of shared goals, and shared rewards.


In our research at Behance, we have found that placing importance on hours and physical presence over action and results leads to a culture of inefficiency (and anxiety).  The pressure of being required to sit at your desk until a certain time creates a factory-like culture that ignores a few basic laws of idea generation and human nature: (1) When the brain is tired, it doesn't work well, (2) Idea generation happens on its own terms, (3) When you feel forced to execute beyond your capacity, you begin to hate what you are doing. Of course, there is no short-cut for the perspiration required to make ideas happen. But the time required to complete a project successfully must reveal itself rather than be dictated. If you care about your work, you will do what it takes to get it done right. As such, your performance should be measured by your ability to get work done on time and done well. Your decisions about when and how you completed the work should not matter.


Inefficient hours in the office are better utilized out of the office as creative stimulation.  Time spent in the outer world is still productive if it is increasing the rate of idea generation and providing the mental focus required to capture and complete action steps when back in the office. There is a value to mixing up the workday, working out, grabbing coffee, etc...  Managers must start to reconsider the conventional assumption that butts in chairs = productivity. As such, creatives companies such as Kluster have abandoned the normal societal expectation of work time by “doing work whenever there is work to be done.”  Another company, 37 Signals has went as far as implementing a standard four-day work week.  Even major corporations such as Best Buy have implemented programs such as ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) which favors performance based on output instead of hours. By embracing these three values, creative companies and individuals can start changing the ways they traditionally do business to create a productive creative workplace.  At the end of the day, measuring success by output and not time may require even more perspiration and hard work.  It just may not occur between the hours of nine and five.

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