You are a business. Yes, you. You think you’re an artist; of course, it is a lot more fashionable to say so, but you are a business.
To be productive, all businesses need good management. Time management is one key to this. But production management is another. So how does one manage production? With focus and a few simple steps.
State what it is you want to accomplish. Whether it is finishing the first draft of your novel or launching your first album, create goals that are clear and achievable. It is not good enough to say, “I want to get a record deal.” That’s too vague and folds too many hidden steps into the equation. You need to back it up a few steps. Of course you want a record deal or a book contract or a gallery showing in Beverly Hills. That is good. Those are good goals to have. But what you really need to do is work backward from that goal. Before you can have a book deal, you need a book. That is the first goal. Good. Now you have a definite goal, and that goal is something that works toward the larger goal. First step, done.
Once you have your goal defined, you need to put a ticking clock on it. Decide by when you want to meet that goal. Figure out how long you think it could reasonably take you to accomplish it. Then, set your completion date.
Make sure your target date is not too soon that it is not realistic for you to meet. Doing that will make the target unreal to you. An unreal target will serve no purpose. You won’t have believed in the deadline in the first place, so you won’t take it seriously, but you will still feel bad when you don’t meet it.
If you set a goal that is too far in the future, however, you won’t push yourself to complete it. This can be another form of not taking yourself seriously, the opposite side of the coin. A good target will push you to do more and get done faster. Challenge yourself realistically.
Once you have a target and a goal, you have the two vital pieces of data with which to create a sound game plan. The easiest way to do this is to create a list of all the things that need to be done to accomplish this goal.
Once you have sketched this out, take a calendar and break it up into weeks. Decide which day of the week you want to be your last day. For some people, Fridays work well as the end of their week, for others Sundays work. You decide what’s best for you. Find out how many weeks stretch between now and your target date. Divide out each step on your list and designate a target week for each of those steps. Now you know what you have to accomplish within each week in order to meet your ultimate target.
Now that your plan is in place, guide your focus. Instead of always looking at your master plan which can stretch for weeks or months, and can leave you feeling overwhelmed, create weekly and monthly game plans. Take a piece of paper and write on it only the things that you need to do that week. This cuts down your list significantly and actually seems doable. From there, make an even smaller list each day for what you need to do. This helps to focus your efforts one day at a time to keep you on task.
As you work on your project, you may find that you are falling behind or surpassing your weekly targets. Every few weeks, reassess and reset. If you are ahead of the game, outstanding! Look again at what you have been able to accomplish and move that final deadline up! You can finish sooner that you’d hoped.
If you are taking longer that you would like, there are a few important steps to follow. First, find the problems that might be arising to be causing these delays. Is it your own schedule and discipline? Are there outside elements that are making progress difficult? Could it be you’re target was unrealistic to begin with? Honestly assess these things. Handle those that you can handle in order to improve efficiency. For those you can’t change, factor them in and create a new target date further into the future. You may feel that this is a bad thing to do, and if you are just doing it because you are too lazy to fix the problems, it is. BUT if you have honestly eliminated all possible problems and the target is realistically still too steep, NOT resetting means that you are playing a losing game with yourself. And no one wants to be a loser. Design the game to win and make it fun. You’ll achieve a lot more that way.
Accomplish and Move On
Once you have accomplished your goal. Celebrate! Do a dance. Yell from a rooftop. Pat yourself on the back – then move on. Don’t rest too long on your laurels. Yes, you have accomplished that big goal you set out for. Good job! What now? You have A LOT of goals for your artistic career in mind. I know you do! So bask in the glow briefly, refuel and set new goals. The faster you plow through your goals, the more you can accomplish in a lifetime. A beautiful life awaits. Let’s go!
C.R. Cohen’s love affair with words and the arts has lead her on a lifelong journey as a poet and writer and an art activist, founding Artists Underground, to bring networking, resources and advice to artists, and joining forces with Soapbox Nation to provide creative career consultations and artist services to help artists get further faster.