Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gettin' Organazized

So another year brings more resolutions. A big one on my list this year is to do less, but do it better. Like most other creatives I know, the curiosity of a new project can be irresistible, but a lack of organization tends to lead to a stack of half-finished project. Or, worse yet, a stack of finished projects that are only half as good as they could have been.

Most of the time, this blog is dedicated to creative techniques when it comes to tapping creativity. This time, however, we're going to take a quick look at some organizational techniques that should help you see more projects through to completion, while allowing dedicated time that each projects deserves.

The Scenario
If you are like me, at any given time you have a stack of projects of varying sizes/complexities going on all at once. So you end up scrambling from one project to the next, giving little pockets of time to each one. As a result, small projects wind up taking WAY longer to finish than they should, and some larger projects that sounded like excellent ideas (and may still) simply die on the vine, because you don't have the extended periods of time for the concentration that some of those larger projects take to do correctly.

Make The List
Start by making a checklist of your projects. I'm not talking about a mental checklist either. (After all, if we were good at making mental checklists, we probably wouldn't be so far behind in the first place, right?) I'm talking about grabbing a pen and paper or - even better - opening a (gasp) spreadsheet!

Yeah, I said it.

When you have your list together, sort them from smallest to largest.

Starting Small
By starting with smaller projects, you can accomplish three goals:

  • You can spend some time concentrating one these projects to get them done in the time it should take to get them done, rather than having them linger around and clutter up your mindspace.
  • By completing the smallest projects first, you can check them off of your list and actually see the progress you are making. Like a diet, the sooner you see the results from your efforts, the more motivated you become.
  • When you clear the smaller projects from your list, you create more room in your schedule more quickly. If need be, you can more easily begin a new project, as you'll have some room for it. That kind of flexibility is a big advantage for freelancers.
Getting Big
Okay, now that you've moved down your list to the bigger projects, you should already be seeing the benefits of this approach. Rather than spending 30 minutes on a few projects, or a few hours on each project once a week (or more), you get nice, big chunks of time to dedicate to the bigger projects. And you can do it more frequently.

For me, these larger chunks of time are perfect for a couple of reasons:
  • When I'm "in the zone," I can keep going and going without worrying about the mess of little projects that need to be finished.
  • When I'm up against the wall on a project, having extended periods of time to concentrate on the best way keep it moving is very handy. The added time spent on some of the more difficult aspects of executing certain creative ideas is also helpful.
Bring Them Both Together
One more approach I like to take involves breaking larger projects down to smaller parts. Writing a 20,000-word piece can seem like it takes a long time to finish if you are doing 1,000 words a day for 20 days. If you can break it down to 20 chapters, at 1,000 words each, you can "finish a project" every day.

Additionally, breaking a larger project into smaller parts like this can help you pick up where you left off and see the larger scope of the project at every step.

Back to that Resolution
So my main resolution was to do less, but to do it better. Who knows, though, if I'm more stringent about staying organazized, I'll be able to do more and do it better.

1 comment:

Jim Moon said...

Hey Geoff, Great post!

This is one aspect of the New Year that is on my list. Last week I was supposed to file away all of my 2007 documents…. Guess where they are? Yep, still in my office...

But I have a plan. Starting this week, its organization time… Time to get all of those nagging “To do” Items going.

Tomorrow starts the 2008 organizational day.

Thanks for the tips!

Jim Moon