How to get Sh*t done!
Over the past 20 years, I have been tasked with an onslaught of projects big, small and every size in between with deadlines that range from manageable to down- right insane. I’m rarely asked to do the same task twice, which means I face new challenges every time. These challenges have played a massive role in keeping my career interesting and have fueled my creativity as a digital artist.
As an educator, I’ve mentored hundreds of artists on their path to creative careers, and the number one question I have received over the years is “how do you get so much done?”. Many artists struggle with starting and finishing projects. I would like to share 5 suggestions that anyone can adopt to their workflow to help see a project from concept to completion… every time.
1. Accept that you don’t know how to do it, and then do it. Many artists will claim defeat before the first pencil stroke, pixel or keyframe has been created. Digital artists will constantly be tasked with new challenges and problems to solve. As silly as this will sound, I suggest saying the following out loud at the start of every a new project:
“I know everything I need to know to do the things I’ve already done”
Accept that you don’t know how to do the work set out before you. Get that out of the way so you don't linger on it and pour negative energy into the problem solving process. Once you have accepted this fact you can get on to the task at hand and start devising a plan. When the project has been completed you will have gained the experience needed to accomplish that task. That experience can be applied to future projects and the cycle will continue.
2. Make a plan and commit. Before you start working on the project, come up with a game plan for how you will tackle it from start to finish. Visualize yourself taking each step, solving each problem and crossing the finish line. The solutions you come up with may not work, but the act of visualizing already kick starts your creative thinking, making it easier to take on the challenges once the real work begins. Avoid the common mistake of starting over. Stay committed to your plan and push through any difficult portions of the project by course correcting rather than starting over.
3. Create milestones. Instead of focusing on the looming final deadline, create several milestones that you can reach along the way. Not only will these “mini” deadlines help you stay on track, they will make the final deadline more digestible and less daunting. Celebrate the small victories along the way to help stay motivated and aware of your overall schedule on the project.
4. Avoid excuses. Accept the fact that problems will arise, things will change and that doubt will creep in. The simple fact is that you have a deadline to meet and failure is not an option. There is no excuse for a missed deadline. One usually doesn't have to search far to find someone that will help convince you a task is too challenging or that it simply isn't possible to complete. Once you accept the fact that failure is not an option you can avoid wasting time with a negative mindset and put that energy towards completing the task at hand.
5. Track your time. Keep a log of where your time is being spent on the project. I suggest tracking your time in 15 minute increments. This will not only allow you to see where your time is being spent on the current production, but it will also help when budgeting time on future projects. Quite often artists lose track of time and what seems like 10 minutes is actually 2 hours. Digital artists are commonly asked “how long will it take you to accomplish this task?” and it is important to give accurate estimates to your supervisor or client. Tracking your time will help you gain control of time management which is key to any and all productions.
Adopting these suggestions to your workflow will not only allow you to accomplish your projects, they will help make you a more efficient, productive artist. I hope you find these suggestions as useful as I have over the years, and I look forward to seeing what you create!