Music Videos, Beats and More

The Benefits Of Working Quickly

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?

A solution

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 πŸ™‚ 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!

6 Responses to The Benefits Of Working Quickly

  • Heya Avene, It’s your old mate Abz.

    Champ, I’ve got to be honest with you and I hope you take my response as it is intended, an honest reply to your question. “If you have comments to add, or just want to let me know that my plan is flawed, please do so below “If you have comments to add, or just want to let me know that my plan is flawed, please do so below!”

    I feel your concepts are flawed.

    As a long time friend of yours I feel I need to tread lightly here as to not offend, as that is not my intention in the slightest. I hope that my comments are taken as intended, which is as a 15 year corporate professional, mostly in I.T. but always in a structured team environment.

    I feel that your attitude and approach here are symptomatic of someone who has never really worked in a professional structure before. If we forget for a moment that I have an intimate history of your working life, these statements are the same things I have heard over the years from colleagues I have worked with who, let’s face it, were un-engaged and straight up lazy in their work practices. They were underachievers and honestly, they were generally bad at their jobs. These people would mostly work at their own pace and in their own direction, opposing virtually every team/business/company vision, goal, target or standard workplace practice that existed. They would constantly complain that they had no time to complete their tasks when in fact they would have ample time, just as the rest of the team did, however, they would spend the majority of their day distracting themselves from their job at hand and doing their own thing which detracted from their set tasks and team objectives.

    The biggest issue for these people is time management and attention deficit. They struggle to work efficiently and maintain focus over long periods. They constantly push up against authority and believe that their way is ALWAYS the right way. They snub advice and look down upon and criticise their team-mates for being suck-ups or drones, incapable of independent thought.

    Now, I know this because… I was once one of these people and my honest account of my past behaviour was that I was a terrible worker and team-mate and an arsehole to work with. My self diagnosis was that I was too artistic or too free thinking to conform to thewhole “corporate “way of working. I could do a more creative and thorough job if left to my own devices and in my own time. I was wrong.

    I eventually came around after many discussions and introspective moments and one day had a moment in time of reflection and realisation and I took a step back. See, as an analogy, I was in a dance. I was dancing my own creative dance in a room where every other dancer was in sync with each other yet still with their own dance style similar yet slightly different. I metaphorically floated up and out of my erratically dancing body and stood up on the balcony and looked down towards the dance floor at the dance playing out before me of which I was one of the participants. I saw then how out of sync my dancing was compared to all the other dancers all doing their own thing, in their own way and I was fucking up the dance. This was a turning point for me to realise that we needed to work as a team to achieve our goals as we were employed by a company and it was ultimately their vision. Odd analogy I know, but I hope you get the picture.

    I was working for a company who paid me a wage. They had reasonable expectations of my role and output and more specifically expectations of me in those roles and I twisted and contorted my work effort to attempt to stamp my original and creative brand on it. I was wrong. I needed to honour the contract we had by completing the tasks assigned in a reasonable time and as expected by the company. As an artist this took some time to both absorb and adjust to but as soon as I did “get it” I improved. I worked more efficiently and things got easier. I was more effective at my job and advanced quicker. I was respected and comfortable in this space because believe it or not, conforming was a lot easier than snubbing the system.

    I fed my creative side in my personal life and subsequently have had a much happier and stress free life since that turning point.

    Now mate, you are very different to me as you have mostly always either worked for yourself or else in a capacity in which your role was not challenging e.g. not forcing you to need to act professionally or rather critically for the job to get done. This in my opinion had bred complacency into your professional life and as a result you are blaming “procrastination” for poor time management and focus issues. Your example of the artist taking two weeks to complete a piece of work (in this case the banner) in which you can’t wait that long without getting bored and “losing interest” isn’t an issue of procrastination, it’s an issue of attention deficit and time management. You could’ve ceased work immediately on that project and worked on other areas of your business like marketing for more jobs, creating better processes or even taking some time off until the banner was completed. If you just ‘had to’ work on the project though you could’ve just treated it like the “day or two” project you say it could’ve been and immediately moved on to the next piece of work and when the banner came back you could’ve just added that in and it’s done. You are inferring that all the world needs to align around you in your expected time frames for you not to get bored or “lose interest” and this is a wacky way to view your problem. How would a builder ever survive if he lost interest or got bored waiting for his tradespeople to deliver their individual pieces to be able to complete the bigger job. How would a Project Manager ever go to sleep at night with the knowledge that their project could take years to complete with all the various project resources needing to do their own little bits at differing paces and schedules! They have incredible time management skills and know how to be efficient even when there are slow periods.

    Again, I would like to say that I am in no way trying to be an arse about this article but you did ask the question. The motivation for me to respond is that this is not an uncommon issue and I feel your article is way off base. There are fractured themes which I agree with but overall, from your example about the website, to this line “I don’t have the patience for anything too complex” just makes me cringe. This is a very personal and emotional reaction to a problem which does not warrant the title or description of being an “article” in my opinion but rather more an account of how to avoid doing hard work and passing the blame of your own inadequacies.

    The distinction is in your perspective and even though I do not expect you to embrace or even change your viewpoint on the strength of what I say, I still feel it necessary to be 100% honest and thorough in my comments.

    One massive thing I do like about this is the effort you put in to write it!

    Peace, Abz

    • Hello Sean,

      Many thanks for the long reply. Your writing skills clearly outweigh mine!

      Yes, I can clearly see where you’re coming from. Perhaps your experiences in the past would explain why you never did anything with the album of beats I spent a few weeks working on, that I sent you back in 2003? πŸ˜‰ And it’s alright, I’m not holding that against you or anything.

      But yes, you’re probably correct in a lot of what you’ve written here. Being attention deficit may be one cause of procrastination, in which case the question should be asked, why does one become like that? That’s where the real problem lies. The biggest cause of this usually always a lack of passion for the work. Anybody who finds themself in a job where they’re procrastinating a lot, should leave the job, as it’s clearly not their passion in life. Of course, this isn’t going to be an option for everyone with bills to pay, a family to support and so on. But at the same time, if you look at some of the most successful people in the world, many of them started with nothing. They pursued their dreams and became successful at what they did. In which case, for a lot of people, leaving their job is probably the best thing they can do.

      But, how I originally approached this article, getting back to the website example, is how we can easily believe that it’s ok to take our time on a project if there’s no urgency. So in a strange way, determining how long a project will take can be used as a way of creating that urgency, in order to complete the project. Procrastination in the form of perfection. Spending too much time on something, tweaking it to perfection and losing focus of the end goal.

      When I mentioned that I don’t have the patience for anything too complex. Well, looking back, it may not have been the most appropriate statement to use. The whole essence of the article is about getting things done quickly. Basically, here’s where I’m coming from. Robert Rodriguez in a few of his DVD commentaries always talks about the two pottery classes. One class were to spend a whole term creating the perfect pot, while the other class just had to make as many pots as they could. By the end of the term, the class making as many pots as they could were producing better work than the class who making just one perfect pot. Much like Google, if one of their experiments fail, they will quickly move onto the next, having learnt from their mistakes.

      So essentially, that’s how I view complex projects. I’m one guy working alone here. I would rather make 10 music videos for $400 each, than do one $4000 video. Because I know, that one $4000 video will be a pain to complete. The client/s will be more demanding, they will expect it to be shot with a more expensive camera than I’m using, it will most probably involve shooting permits or hiring out location, I may be forced in a direction I don’t want to go, and so on. I don’t have the patience for any of that!!

      Thankfully, I’m in a very fortunate position now where I have some great clients who believe in what I’m doing. In a way, I think my non traditional methods have attracted a few of these people to me. And yes, I’ll admit I’m still not perfect when it comes to completing some of these jobs as quick as I would like to, but at the end of the most appreciate the work I’ve done, will hire me again and recommend me to friends.

      By the way, the website example I used was totally fictional. I’ve never had a job to do like that and would pay someone for a banner anyway. Well, maybe on fiverr perhaps πŸ™‚ It was just an example I thought up to demonstrate my point.

      Getting back to a couple of your examples about losing interest. In the case of a builder or tradesperson, I would recommend my second approach. Split the work into manageable chunks.

      Anyway, I need to cut this short.. We need to visit the inlaws, and the missus is waiting to leave! Thanks again for the reply! πŸ™‚

  • Yeah I hear you mate. I also feel that whatever works for you then go for it. From what I see you are amazing at what you do. You are creative, technically sound and all in all the videos you are producing are top shelf stuff.

    If knocking out a lot of work, works for you then who am I to question that. My thoughts and opinions are just those from a corporate background and to be honest my dream is to run my own business and pretty much do exactly what you are doing in terms of being self employed… πŸ™‚

    Take care mate and keep up the good work.

    Peace, Abz

    • Cheers, and many thanks for the kind words!

      I can see where you’re coming from though. I’ve never been involved in any kind of corporate work myself and have never worked in an office. So that whole environment would most probably be alien to me. All my jobs up until quitting in 2006 were either factory or warehouse jobs. Since then, I’ll admit I’ve been struggling.

      If your dream is to run your own business, I think you should just go for it. The best way to start would probably be cutting down on the number of days you work at your current job, and using that time to work on your business. Even if it’s only one day a week. Is the photography business still something you’re heavily involved in? I know that’s a joint business though. Anything that would allow you to work from home would be a huge benefit, allowing you more time with the family.

      Anyway, take care, your original reply here has definitely woken me up to the fact that I need to put more thought into what I post here!

      • Hey brother,

        Yeah, I should’ve been clearer in my reply about owning my own business. I am part the way there through my photography biz and that is what I was referring to. I am still working full time outside the business as the business is unable to support me right now and I am unable to cut my full time role down either… someday πŸ™‚

        I hope that I haven’t dissuaded you from voicing yourself up in here. I would hate that. I was trying to honour your effort in writing the post by not only reading it and absorbing the context but also providing constructive feedback and examples.

        Keep on vocalising my man, it’s better than the alternative πŸ™‚

        Peace, Abz

      • Yes, there are a few of you involved in that business from what I’ve been told? I was talking to Johnny at Matt’s 40th, and he mentioned his role in the business too.

        And it’s ok, you haven’t dissuaded me at all πŸ™‚ Any feedback is good feedback, unless it’s coming from a mic πŸ˜‰ I’m trying to get myself in the habit of posting here more often. I have another slice of productivity advice on the way. Something that should make a lot more sense!

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About Avene
Sydney based artist specialising in creating music videos, cinematography, music production & beat making, digital art, sound design & photography.