A simple guide to accomplishing goals and eliminating waste
As a creative individual, I have had my struggles getting art projects completed, working really odd hours and wasting time that could have been spent in front of an easel or computer screen. I probably have struck a chord with many others dealing with the same issues. It would seem that creative people in general tend to struggle with these things. I wanted to outline some practical steps to begin getting projects completed in a timely manner, while developing some new work habits to not only be commited to project and task management but allow for the creative process. Sounds like a big task I know.
There are some great online tools to help with these tasks as well as the use of a simple white board with stick-it notes. Some of the online tools lean more toward web development and have everything from project creation with task goals, time tracking, billing and invoices but can be easily adapted to artists. Some tools are expensive while others are free or a low monthly cost. There are several options which I did not list. Most do cater to the creative individual. You will need to go through and weigh each tool for your needs. A SIDE NOTE: if you don't have access to a computer or internet, you can just use a simple white board with stick-it notes - which I mentioned briefly above. Probably the best solution is a combination of the online tools and the use of the visual environment.
Here is a short list of some of the online resources:
The one I am beginning to use: Action Method. The more I use this tool the more excited I am about it. This tool has an easy to use interface. They also offer an Adobe Air version that is very useful to me. I will discuss this tool in more detail in another blog if there is an interest.
I will explain the process using the whiteboard and stick-it note system. The idea is that the online tool would replicate the visual environment. I would suggest creating the project first using the online version. So let's say you have three paintings you have to complete. Two are pastel paintings and the other is an illustration that you are doing digitally for a book. You would get three whiteboards, hang them in your work area. Use a dry erase marker to name each project at the top. Draw two lines down to the bottom of the board so there are 3 equal columns. In the first column write "queue" or "tasks", the second "waiting" and the third "done". Using the sticky notes you would define the tasks in the project. Try to break these into logical chunks. It doesn't have to be set to 2 hour increments - it's just meant to get a feel on what it will take to get a certain task completed. These tasks can be used for anything like: "Go to art store and get these four pastel sticks and gray pastel board" etc. The other thing that is a good habit is to guess how long each would take to accomplish. So if it would take roughly an hour to get to the art store and back, put 1 hour. The idea behind this tracking system is for future projects and knowing how long certain things really take to accomplish. This is where you will find most of the wasted time.
You would write several sticky notes that cover everything you need to do to finish the project. An example of how I used the sticky notes for one of my pastel projects: using a dark brown/black pastel, layout the dark areas of the painting. Squint to get the correct contrast. I estimated around 2 hours to accomplish this task. I also put down the target date I wanted to have this accomplished by. I would set up several others that dealt with details in the eyes etc. Do your best to actually track how long it takes to accomplish various tasks. This will help you not only estimate how long it really takes to accomplish a project but it will help you get a better idea on if what you are charging is making you money or not. You may be making $3 an hour after all the trips to the art store and the time sitting in the coffee shop! But hopefully by using this system you will begin to track areas that are waste and other areas that the process can be faster by using a certain technique.
Once you have all your tasks written out and you are ready to begin working, pull the sticky notes you are able to accomplish, one at a time. Set the sticky note by your work area. Once you have completed that task put the actual time it took and the date and put in the done column. If for some reason you could not complete a certain task (like running out of a certain color and the art store is out of it - or out for client review), put the sticky note in the waiting section on the white board. The other benefit to using the sticky note is to keep you focused on a particular item. These are just some general ideas for you to develop a system that trully works for you. You may find that the sticky note system doesn't work for you and you prefer the online method only - or the other way around. My hope is that you all find a system that would really help you to not only get your goals accomplished in a timely manner but actually help make a living for you as well. More to come...