Slow Down. You’ll Get There Faster.
I had a conversation with a student recently who was struggling to finish his assignments and meet deadlines. Project after project he simply ran out of time, but not from a lack of effort. While many of his classmates were watching the latest superhero movies on the big screen, he was glued to his seat feverishly plugging away on his assignment. He invested more time than most of the other students and worked extremely hard on every assignment. After a brief conversation with him, I discovered what was causing the problem. He was working hard instead of simply working smart and was missing a key component to the production process.
No amount of additional time or effort would have helped him meet the deadline, and if he continues attempting to tackle each new assignment in the same fashion, he will continue to miss his deadlines and will ultimately fail. Of course failure is not an option if he wants to accomplish his career goals, so he will need to course correct to succeed.
Unfortunately, his problem is far from rare and can also be seen outside of a school setting. I have seen many working professionals struggle with meeting their deadlines for the same reason as this student.
They put no plan into place.
One of the best suggestions I can give for working smarter is to start every project by formulating a plan. Start with visualizing your plan of attack, even with the clock ticking and the deadline looming. Visualization is the process of creating a blueprint of how you go about accomplishing any given task, and this pre-planning will go a long way toward making efficient use of your time. Racing full speed towards the finish line without clear directions on how to get there will only burn fuel and in most cases wind up getting you lost.
It can be challenging to refrain from jumping right into production, but before putting pencil to paper, typing your first words, creating any polygons or setting your first keyframe, take the time to formulate a plan. Skipping this stage of production is a recipe for disaster, even for small projects. Imagine the Rebel Alliance at the Battle of Yavin during the Galactic Civil War that led to the destruction of the first Death Star without a plan in place. It would have been the end of the rebellion as Darth Vader predicted.
To devise a plan, start by defining what your end goal is. It’s important to develop a clear understanding of the goal before attempting to accomplish it. Although this may sound like common sense, I’ve frequently seen this stage of planning glossed over or simply skipped.
With your end goal defined, the next step is to break it into smaller components. These more digestible tasks become your milestones. Developing a schedule for these milestones will help you stay focused and keep you from getting overwhelmed with the amount of work involved with the entire project. Utilize your experience from past projects to aid you during this process and if you are extremely new, reach out to someone more experienced for guidance.
Using the defined milestones, create a physical checklist. As you complete each milestone, reward yourself by crossing it off the list. Celebrating these small victories along the way can help keep you motivated and aware of your overall progress on the project.
Once developed, the key to making the plan work is a commitment to seeing it through. I’ve seen people devise amazing plans and then disregard them while in the middle of the project. Looming deadlines can trick you into thinking that skipping the planning stage of production or disregarding your plan will allow you to accomplish your goals quicker. Just remember that slowing down and devising a plan will always get you there faster.
Good luck on your current and future projects, and always remember the wise words of Gold Five… “Stay on target!”