The Benefits Of Working Quickly
The problem –
As nice as it is to plan out a project properly and spend a lot of time and doing everything right, sometimes it doesn’t always work out to be the most effective approach. From my own experience, things don’t always go as well as they should. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that the longer a project takes to complete, the less desire I have to complete it. Procrastination kicks in, and before I know it I’m not getting much done. Have any of you had the same experience?
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Lets just say you’re setting up a website. It’s something you could easily finish in a day or two. But you decide to take it a step further and hire an artist to create the banner. You start working on the website, but knowing that it will be another two weeks before your friend gets back from a holiday and does the banner, you begin to take your time working on the rest of the site because you know it won’t be completed until that banner is done. You do a little bit here and a little bit there, and then find yourself wasting time tweaking parts of the site that don’t need to be tweaked. With two weeks of waiting until the banner is done, you have time to try a few different things, don’t you? Without realising at the time, you’re actually procrastinating. Slowly the website starts falling into place, but at a very leisurely pace.
Two weeks pass and before you know it, you have the banner artwork ready to go. Cool, the site can be finished! Or can it? Well no, there are still the ‘contact’ and ‘about me’ pages to be added. By that point you’re already doing something else, so you’ll have to get those done later. But it never happens, does it? In fact, the website doesn’t get completed at all. A week or two later you have an idea for another website, so decide to pursue that instead. Does this kind of scenario sound familiar? Jumping from one project to another after losing interest in the first project, and eventually not getting anything done? I’ll confess, I’ve been there on many occasions in the past.
So how can we avoid this happening? Many experts will advise you to plan things out properly in the first place, list all the actionable tasks and complete those tasks. But it doesn’t always work as planned, does it? At some point or another, even doing everything you need to do to complete a project, you’re going to lose interest and want to do something else instead. Of course another important factor in completing a project is focusing on the end result. That being, the project itself in its completed form. But even then, what if you’re not exactly sure what that will be?
This is something I don’t recall reading about anywhere else, but is what I believe to be the key to completing a project successfully. Well, it works for me anyway! We simply need to ask ourselves how long a project will hold our interest, and then proceed to complete it in half that time. Yes, it’s a simple solution, but one that I actually have found to work.
Lets go back to the website example. How long would we be able to focus on the idea of building a new website? Lets just say two days. The other week I had an idea for a purely html website, but lost interest in the idea after a couple of days. So in that case if I had decided to go ahead with it, I should have completed the website in less than a day. This probably isn’t the best example though 🙂 Regardless, I suggest completing the project in less than half the time you expect it to take and put all your energy into it, just to be safe and ensure the project is completed before you lose interest and move onto something else. But what about the two weeks it took for the website artwork in our example? In that case, everything else that was required to be completed should have been done during that first day. The banner could easily have been be slotted in later, with a simple text header in its place for the time being.
An alternate question we could be asking ourselves is how much patience we have to complete our project? In my situation, music videos would be the best example here. To be honest (and this may worry a few of my clients :)), I don’t have the patience for anything too complex. As excited as I have been a number of times in the past to shoot chromakey or bluescreen videos, the process usually ends up taking so long, that after a while I sometimes do get impatient, or just lose focus of what I was trying to achieve in the first place. Although I will admit, many time this will be due to not having a good system in place for completing such projects.
Another thing I should mention that can hold up a project, or more specifically a music video project in my case, is when a client has a vision for the project/video that I’m not the slightest bit interested in. When this happens, my desire to complete the project will drop to zero! Whatever you do in life, doing work you’re not the at all interested in should be avoided at all costs. Thankfully this rarely happens, but when it does, I feel like quitting completely afterwards.
Here is what I have found works best for me when making music videos. If you don’t know already, I really enjoy shooting music videos on small pocket sized point and shoot cameras. The Canon S95 being my current favourite. Simple videos with as many cinematic looking shots as I can manage, funky edits, a nice colour grade, and possibly a few effects shots. With a maximum of maybe 4 hours to shoot the video, a day to edit, and maybe even a day to work on the colour and effects. So with any music videos I do and for the work to hold my interest, any more than 4 days of work on a project and I will start losing interest in the job. With all that being said, and as much as I prefer to work this way, working on a project 4 days in a row straight is rarely an option with multiple jobs to complete. I sometimes might need to do something else during that time, or even shoot another video.
In such cases, I will still follow the same principle, but will split the overall job into manageable chunks. For example, the editing part of the job. 12 hours is plenty. Any more time spent on editing than that and I would begin to lose interest. So I usually aim to edit a video in half that time. I will even split that time into more manageable chunks! For example, I might just want to edit a music video up until the first chorus. With it being one third of the song length, I know that 4 hours will be my limit. So I get it done in 2 hours! And what then? I will either continue working on it if I have the time, another 2 hours for the next verse perhaps, or give myself a break from that project and work on another.
Conditioning yourself to this way of working
Here is a method I have used that has benefited my business, which will only apply to projects you’re earning money from. With music videos I halved my fee. This might sound crazy, as we should really be charging more for our services. How has this worked out well for me? In my case, the lower budget forces me to work quicker, as you would expect it to! Quite obvious really. But with my previous higher fee, many times I fell into the trap I’m addressing here in this article. I would spend too long on a project and lose interest after a while. Not only that, but with the higher fee, I just wasn’t getting as much work to begin with. Now that I am charging less, I am picking up more work, and completing these jobs in less than half the time I would spend on them in the past.
While we’re on the topic of fees, here’s another quite tip for those of you running a business. Get your clients to pay in advance. This will benefit both you and the client. Remember we’re in the business of doing whatever it is we do, not chasing people for money! Unless you’re debt collector perhaps. With clients who don’t wish to pay in advance, I’m happy to make them wait. Especially if I have other paid jobs to do. In my opinion, any business providing a service shouldn’t be run like a credit card where the client gets to pay later. For me, if I know I’ve already been paid for a job, I will do my best to get that project completed as soon as I can. With music videos, sometimes this can be a few days, or sometimes a few weeks depending on what other work I still need need to complete. In the past, and charging a higher fee, my average turnaround time would be closer to two months.
Stick to the plan
Just to recap on the main points I’ve covered here. Determine how long you expect a project to take before you lose interest in it, and then do your best to complete the work in half that time. If it’s a longer project that you don’t expect to be able complete all at once, split it into managable chunks. Determine how long you expect each of those to take, and attempt to do them in half that time. Over time, this will have the benefit of enabling you to complete these projects in less time, and essentially get more done. If you have any comments to add, or just want to let me know that my plan is flawed, please do so below!