Few professionals ever say, “I have too much time on my hands.” In fact, every professional I know is looking for more time. Many people have written on how to manage time, prioritize time, and optimize time. I have also built on this work in my ideas about how to create more time.

Some people, of course, are better at managing time than others. Flow hackers understand how to harness their mental state so they can deliver more impactful results. So how do you become a flow hacker too?

Let’s accept that time is finite. Given this fact, how can you turn your time crunch (desert) into a productivity and creativity oasis? How can you create or increase tension, so as to promote creativity/productivity? First, you need to turn your attention to optimization.

I won’t describe myself as a procrastinator, but I am definitely “pressure prompted.” I do my best work when I am not at the 11th hour but perhaps at the 8th hour. If I invest too much time, effort or energy too far in advance, I never find myself in the zone or at my peak. If I wait too long and don’t anticipate, I end up having to do too much of the work myself and simply can’t tap into my talents.

In his book, The Originals, Adam Grant tackles this phenomenon. He highlights how the powerful force of creativity can be optimized when you find that sweet spot between pre-crastination (starting a project too early) and procrastination (being too close to the deadline). This sweet spot is different for everyone. What I know is that his concept resonates with flow, because flow is all about understanding yourself and how you organize your days and projects to optimize your creativity.

I have started to play with Grant’s concepts to optimize my own creative work, including writing and crafting client retreats. I have always kept a long list of ideas I want to write on. I will often load two to three ideas into my brain, write a little on them (to deepen my thinking in the moment) and then let my mind consciously and unconsciously process these ideas for a few days. When I put things aside, I start harvesting real insights. Indeed, I have found that creativity flows for me when I’m not thinking about things directly. Creativity flows for me when I’m in a relaxed, active state (e.g., out for a run). In fact, during these periods, creativity sometimes comes so fast and furious that I have had to find alternative ways to capture my insight.

But I have also learned that in order to execute ideas and projects, I have to plan ahead. For example, when I’m delivering a client retreat, I need to think far enough ahead to give the support team time to bring together the right resources and to give the participants the right pre-work. That said, the real energy comes 12 to 24 hours before I step into the room. To be able to optimize my delivery, I need to have space to prepare, which I learned the hard way as a newlywed when my husband enthusiastically joined me on a work-related trip. The reality is that I have “pre-game” rituals that I have to attend to in order to deliver my best.

Your own optimal working situation is likely going to be different from mine, but there are some approaches that are important for everyone.

Clarify the challenge. Define the ideal outcome. What would success look like? What information do you need from others to be effective? What tasks do you want others to do?

Identify your creativity sweet spots. Understand yourself and where you can be your best. For me, running outside is a creativity trigger. Ask yourself: Are there types of settings, times of day or activities that help you optimize your creativity?

Pre-load ideas. Know that your peak creativity falls between pre- and procrastinating. To help get there, do some deep thinking on upcoming challenges before sleep or while on a run.

Think good thoughts. Be gentle with your inner muse. Make sure that your internal dialogue speaks to the brilliance you will create (positive visualization and imaging) and not to the disaster or train wreck that might be just around the corner.

Decide how you will respond when lightening (or creativity) strikes. Practice these habits with discipline and creativity. The more you can capture ideas effectively, the more the creativity will flow and the possibilities will mount.