How To Make Steady Progress On Your Big Creative Projects

Ev Chapman
September 30, 2023

I build processes for myself not because I’m super organised.
But because I can’t be trusted to get work done otherwise.

👉 I am a procrastinator
👉 When anything feels hard I won’t do it
👉 I have shiny object syndrome
👉 I struggle to finish things I start

Lately I’ve been struggling with my process for getting big creative projects done. They feel like they are taking forever to finish. Each step feels big so I put it off thinking I need a bigger chunk of time to deal with it.

And I’m not working on them consistently.

In my 9–5 I have a pretty standard way of managing my work:
→ I have projects
→ I break down those projects into manageable chunks
→ I time block those chunks
→ I get the work done
→ I finish the project

But big creative projects feel like a different beast.

Many times there is no clear linear path to getting the project done. The ‘chunks’ or work feel bigger and so often need multiple work sessions. And there isn’t anyone driving you or directing you on what the priorities are.

Of course I could have heeded the traditional productivity gurus and just kept breaking down my project into smaller and smaller ‘manageable tasks.’

But how much smaller can I go than ‘outline this section of this module for this course’ before I’m just managing projects rather than getting creative work done?

Traditional project management and productivity advice just wasn’t working for these creative projects.

I needed a new approach. An approach that understands and takes into consideration the nature of creative projects.

Here Are Four Insights I’ve Gained For Working On Big Creative Projects That Are Helping Me Make Progress Daily

Only work on One Big Creative Project at a time

I realised that I had way too many open projects. So instead of moving one thing forward in a big way. I was trying to move five things forward in tiny ways.

So I chose ONE project 😬

Don’t get me wrong. It was HARD & heart breaking.

But guess what? After a week I’ve made more progress on that one project than I have on all my projects combined in the last few months. It works.

Focus on one thing if you want things to move faster.

Set a Fixed Time To Work on Creative Projects

Rather than have a task list I have to complete for the day. I set a fixed time to work on creative projects.

Right now with all my commitments, I schedule a minimum of one hour every day for a creative work session. Then I can look through my project and choose something to fill that hour.

The tasks are not as important as keeping my commitment to that one hour everyday.

Work on big tasks incrementally

But some of the tasks for these big creative projects need more than an hour.

And In the past that was a roadblock for me.

I would tell myself I don’t have enough time so I can’t do that. But now I just commit to working on that task for an hour and making PROGRESS.

Any progress is better than no progress at all.

Track Progress rather than completion

When tasks are big and they span multiple work sessions you don’t get the regular dopamine hit of ticking things off your task list.

That leaves me feeling de-motivated. Because it LOOKS like I’m not making progress.

So instead I track progress against each task by keeping track of how many sessions & how long I’ve spent working on that task.

I track each work session in my task in Tana and then I can see the total tracked time & when the last time I worked on the task was. This helps me feel a sense of progress.

All this might seem trivial & extreme

But it makes me feel good. And when I feel good I make more progress.

And I’ve been making more progress this past week than I have in MONTHS.

It pays to think about your work processes rather than just trying to grit your teeth and ‘get it done.’ I’ll never feel bad for spending time reflecting on how I can get better work done.

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