Get the plan right at the start

Know what you’re doing, before you do it.

Actually, it’s a bit like seeing into the future. Except you get to choose what happens in the future.

Ok, seriously, it’s called project planning, and any undertaking of more than a few hours can benefit from having a plan. A project plan can range from a single to-do list in a text document to a sophisticated methodology with complex dependencies and dimensions.

“But I’m an artist! I work organically! I take a new approach for everything I do!” Well, first you have to separate (in your mind) the creative work from the workflow. It’s quite possible to be creative and innovative while working within a clearly-defined project structure. Having a project plan doesn’t have to stifle your creativity. In fact, it can allow you to be more creative because you’re not worrying as much about other things. For example:

  • A project plan allows you to use your time more effectively. It can help you make sure you get your work done on time and avoid wasting hours (or days or weeks) on tasks that won’t make a significant impact on the final song that your listeners hear.
  • A project plan also helps you make – and keep – reasonable promises. This is particularly important when you’re working with other people. Knowing what progress you’ll have made at any point in the future will enable you to easily coordinate your work with a collaborator’s work or availability.
Without a project plan, you run the risk of the following death traps:
  • Losing track of your goal. This is common for long projects – especially projects that are longer than anything you’ve previously worked on. Without clear direction and tracking, it’s very easy to find yourself halfway through making something different to what you set out to do.
  • Endless revisionism. This is a real sink-hole for time and creativity. Even the slightest perfectionism is amplified by digital technology – the ability to tweak and adjust and update, and the always-available instant recall of computer DAWs. When you get lost in endless revisionism, who’s going to tell you when enough is enough?
  • Constant crisis. Without taking the time to clearly establish the scope of a project at the beginning, it’s easy to keep adding more and more tasks without thinking about how it will impact the timeline or resources. This results in crunch time when you realise you’ve committed to more than you can comfortably achieve.
  • Lower quality work. This can easily happen if you set yourself a deadline but don’t plan out the in-between work with enough detail. In these situations, it’s common to get about 60-%70% through before realising that there’s too much work to do in the remaining time. In this case you can either extend the timeline, work harder, or reduce the scope of the work.
I’ll go into more detail about project plans and workflow in later posts.

-Kim.

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  1. Recently I experienced the last on the list with my son: he and his fellows procrastinate for so long that eventually they abandoned part of their project…
    I’ve done that part of the job, but with so short time that it’s well below the level they presume to reach in they plans…

  2. @trafficarte
    Good example. You might have been lucky – it’s very easy for a whole project to be put in jeopardy if one or more team members don’t play ball.

    -Kim.

  3. Dear Kim,

    Thank you for your very usefull advices!
    I´ve been working in a mess of noneffective workflow. I do end up with something interesting, but because i´m chaotic with my work, i have tons of unfinished projects potentially usefull but left alone by boredom. To plan is very important, i think i´m too spontaneous.

    Martin.

  4. @Martin
    The important thing is that you’ve identified it. That’s the first step, and it’s actually the most difficult. Stay tuned, I’ve got more posts about workflow and project management coming up…

    -Kim.

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