Know what you’re doing, before you do it.
Actually, it’s a bit like seeing into the future. Except you get to choose what happens in the future.
Ok, seriously, it’s called project planning, and any undertaking of more than a few hours can benefit from having a plan. A project plan can range from a single to-do list in a text document to a sophisticated methodology with complex dependencies and dimensions.
“But I’m an artist! I work organically! I take a new approach for everything I do!” Well, first you have to separate (in your mind) the creative work from the workflow. It’s quite possible to be creative and innovative while working within a clearly-defined project structure. Having a project plan doesn’t have to stifle your creativity. In fact, it can allow you to be more creative because you’re not worrying as much about other things. For example:
- A project plan allows you to use your time more effectively. It can help you make sure you get your work done on time and avoid wasting hours (or days or weeks) on tasks that won’t make a significant impact on the final song that your listeners hear.
- A project plan also helps you make – and keep – reasonable promises. This is particularly important when you’re working with other people. Knowing what progress you’ll have made at any point in the future will enable you to easily coordinate your work with a collaborator’s work or availability.
- Losing track of your goal. This is common for long projects – especially projects that are longer than anything you’ve previously worked on. Without clear direction and tracking, it’s very easy to find yourself halfway through making something different to what you set out to do.
- Endless revisionism. This is a real sink-hole for time and creativity. Even the slightest perfectionism is amplified by digital technology – the ability to tweak and adjust and update, and the always-available instant recall of computer DAWs. When you get lost in endless revisionism, who’s going to tell you when enough is enough?
- Constant crisis. Without taking the time to clearly establish the scope of a project at the beginning, it’s easy to keep adding more and more tasks without thinking about how it will impact the timeline or resources. This results in crunch time when you realise you’ve committed to more than you can comfortably achieve.
- Lower quality work. This can easily happen if you set yourself a deadline but don’t plan out the in-between work with enough detail. In these situations, it’s common to get about 60-%70% through before realising that there’s too much work to do in the remaining time. In this case you can either extend the timeline, work harder, or reduce the scope of the work.