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Organizing A Workflow Document

Lesson 3 from: FAST CLASS: Workflow, Time Management and Productivity for Creatives

Lisa Congdon

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Lesson Info

3. Organizing A Workflow Document

Lesson Info

Organizing A Workflow Document

I mean, I'm about to flash on Teoh a spreadsheet. And sometimes when people see spreadsheets, what happens? Their eyes roll in the back of their heads and they're like, No, but I want you to take a depressed, and I'm gonna take you through each column of this and you'll begin to see how it all fits together. This is not something you can keep by hand in a notebook. And actually, there are probably other ways of keeping a document. And again if you find another way or another system and there's an app that you want to use that where you can record all this information, I say go for it. This is what I dio And it works well for me. So I keep my spreadsheet in Google, Doc, so you'll probably recognize that format. Okay, this is a sample template of how I organize my workflow. Your there is ah, downloadable version of this on the course page so you could take as many notes as you want. But no, you will have access to to this. Um and I'm gonna also flash this on the screen a few more times, ...

so let's talk first. about the first call in the project name. So this is the main Identify, Aaron, your workflow documents. So this is important column just to sort of differentiate between different projects because sometimes you're gonna be doing projects that are actually really similar. And so you want to differentiate between them, give it a unique name. So in this example that I've shown you I've got, um, one example is like illustrations for ABC, you and me. Children's book. So again, it's like just a very short description. You could even just say ABC you and me, Children's book. Okay, you need to know what it means. That's the only important thing. I've also got the first column divided into three sections. This is actually something I started doing about a year and 1/2 ago. Previously, I listed everything together, but what's the problem with doing it? That way? You lose everything. Not everything's the same grain size. And so I was prioritizing based on when things were do, but it made it look like I had way more on my plate than I did. Um, and I realized that I needed to divide my work flow into three sections, large project projects so that when I looked at it in the glance, I could say, Oh, I have actually have space in my calendar to take on this new project that I'm being offered because, um, I don't really have any large scale projects right now. We only have one right, Have a lot of small projects where if they're all listed like and given the same value, it seems it might seem like you have more work on your plate than you actually dio. Okay, so large scale projects those air for me, you can define it differently. Our projects that I take on that will take a full week to several months to complete. And usually these are client projects or a big personal challenge, like I'm going to draw a new portrait every day for the next 60 days. How many of you have done a personal, like creative challenge, right? And it's hard again. As I said, it's hard to stay on top of those because, um, who are you? Who are you accountable to yourself? That's it. Everything else on my to do list is usually like a client or somebody who's reached out to me because they want to write something about me or whatever. Um, those projects, I really highly encourage you to keep them on their And if it's a long term project that, um, you want to complete in the matter of months, like keep it in your large scale projects section medium projects will take two days toe one week to complete. These are projects that are maybe, like an illustration for a magazine or something that that is not a huge extensive project, like a book or, um, longer term client project, just something that is not small either. And then small projects. Those are things you can complete in a day or less in time. And the reason it's important to capture those is a lot of times I will get an email from somebody that says, I'd really like Teoh publish interview with you on my blogged. Um, and you have three weeks to get the answers to these questions back to me. So I put it in my workflow with the deadline and then because I tricked my workflow every day every other day, I am constantly reminded that this thing is needs to happen in three weeks. Pro tip. You never know exactly how long a project will take. So make your best guess, right? I think what often happens is and I think this is sort of part of psychologically what happens to us when we get a project, especially a larger project that has multiple components and it feels overwhelming, is we're so overwhelmed that we don't even know where how to begin. And that is really the core of why we procrastinate, right? This sense of not knowing where to begin are feeling overwhelmed by the whole and not knowing where to start. And so part of what I hope you get out of today is this understanding that breaking things down into smaller parts is actually going to help you get started. And even if you don't one of my mantra xyz begin anyhow, like so basically, even if you don't know how long something is going to take you or exactly what it's going to entail or look like Once you get started, you wanna take a good guess at where to start and begin, Okay. All right. Work flows are flexible changing systems. So if while you're working on something. You realize you have to change the timeline that you gave it. And we'll talk about setting deadlines and intermediate deadlines in a minute. Um, that's okay, because it's your system. You get to just go in and change the deadline, especially if you're working with a client. And you were agreed with the client that the deadline needs to change. Just go in and change the workflow document. That's why I like to keep these a digital document to do list, I think are better written personally. Um, but overall work flows, I think are great. And also, I highly recommend keeping them on something like Google docks or in Dropbox, like somewhere in the cloud, Um, so that if necessary, other people who work with you can access them and also update them and that you can access them from anywhere. Okay, column number two dates. Um, so this is typically for me, the date that I've been assigned a job or I have accepted an assignment or I've started a project, um, that it's not the thing. That's not the date that its do its and this is a good sort of record keeping um, for you, Like, I'll talk about this later, but I have Ah, tab another. I start a new workflow every January 1st for the year because otherwise they get too unwieldy, and I have a separate tab. When something is completed, I remove it and move it to completed the completed tab. So you're not just deleting things and you have a record their like, um, like, if you work with a client or you worked on a project and then, like a year and 1/2 later, somebody asks you When was it when you that you work did work with ABC, You know, uh, company. And you're like, I don't really remember. I'm gonna go back to my work, flow and look, or a client contacts you, and it seems like you just worked with them yesterday. You can go look and see when the last time you worked with them, so it might seem like a pointless column, but I think it's a good record keeping tool. Com three. This is where you name, who you're working with and you'll notice here, Um, I so in the first. And these are very These are fictitious examples they come, some from some of my actual experience. Right? So in the first column, I mean the first row. I've got a large scale project illustrations for ABC, You and me Children's book. So that's the job I'm working for working on. It's an ABC book for kids. The author is Mary Jones. I'm just illustrating it. So I put her name on there. I really don't have any contact with Mary. Um, I have My main contact is, um oh, actually, Mary is my contact yet, and the publisher is sunny books. Sometimes your contacts the author. Sometimes it's the editor or art director at the publisher. So just a place to put all the names of the people in the names of your client. Okay, Columns four and five are the most important in your workflow, so we're going to spend more time talking about these. Feel free to ask me any questions if anything doesn't make sense, this is the one of the most important columns, because it's going to drive the order in which you complete things, and more specifically, it's going to drive What goes in your to do list each day? Um, both of column four and five, and there very, really, You can't have one without the other. Okay, so Tom four is the project description and the delivery bles In that column. You want to write a few detailed sentences or an entire paragraph or two that describes what you're going to do for the client or collaborator. And again, this is important. It's not necessarily all of the art direction or a detailed list. It's just the most important stuff, like the stuff that information that came from an email or creative brief or a combination of places. It's where you take all the disparate information you're gathering when you get an assignment or a job and you put it in one place and you sort of parent down to the essential information. OK, it's a place to record all of the stuff that are part of what you are responsible for delivering to the client. And again these things are called Deliver a bles. Okay, this is, I think, the most important part of your workflow, and this is the only part that most of the other stuff is cut and paste like You get an assignment, you gather all the information about it if you listen to or took my class, um, on working six successfully with clients, you know, that I'm big on, like, gathering information from a client and housing it in one place. This is a good place to, like, Go get all your art direction and plop it. But oftentimes, when you're working on a job, you have, ah, start date and you have a deadline, but you don't necessarily have intermediate deadlines. And so this is your place, if you if you if you haven't broke, started to break the project down into smaller parts, that's where this is going to happen. And this requires a little bit of thought, as opposed to, like just taking information and pasting it into a cell in your spreadsheet. Okay, so just review your work, clothes, everything, then you're gonna you This is going to inform your rolling to do list, which we're going to get to in a little bit. And this column on your workflow is the most important column because it's the thing that informs your to do list every day or every week. So just to look again, um, here's what I've done. We've got ah, phase and deadline. That's her column. Five. So, basically, this is where you work to break down, how you're going to approach the project or assignment. And I was you have asked earlier about, like, what about these big, ongoing things? And so in that case, where you don't necessarily have a specific deadline, I think it's important to invent one for yourself. You know, it might be like preparing for 2019 sir Tex. Phase one. You know, and then you've got, like, a set of deadlines. You know, by a certain date, you're gonna make this many patterns. And then, you know, by this date, you'll have an entire collection with the same color palette. Whatever. However, it issue approach, and then you hold yourself to those. Okay, that's the most important thing. And that's where your personal responsibility comes in. Nobody could do that for you. Um, a lot of people are like, deadlines are great, but I could never follow them. And I was like, That's not my problem. So All right, maybe you're in the long the wrong line of work. OK, so, um, let's I'm gonna blowing these out Ah, a little bigger. So see, for a project or a book might look something like this. So written list of illustration ideas to the editor may force. So sometimes what happens is the working with the publisher you've got one time I did a, um, I illustrated a Children's book that had 100 and 50 illustrations because Children's books are very heavily illustrated and, um, oftentimes what they'll have you do is even if you know generally what you're illustrating, they'll have you turn in an art list or a concept list first. So this is an arbitrary example. I'm not saying that's how it works in every situation. Um, so my first deadline for myself with this project is to get a written list of of illustration ideas to the editor, and maybe I may. It's May 4th, because that's when the our director, the publisher, said I needed to turn them in. Or maybe they were like, Here's the final deadline. Let's set up some intermediate intermediate deadlines, and in that case, when you have control, like always try to think about how much time will I need for this thing, right? So it might be an arbitrary deadline that you said it might be one that they have given you. Feedback on written list of illustration ideas from the editor May 8th. This is always a little harder toe, um, control, like when you're going to get feedback. We always hope that we get it like the next day after we turn something in. And some, um, clients are really great at for doing client work are really great at giving pretty quick turnaround feedback, and that's always the best situation. But I do recommend if you're working on a long term project with a client and you wanna have some control over your deadlines, maybe asking the beginning, how long does it typically take you to give feedback? Or is there any chance I could get feedback on this list by the eighth? Because ultimately, your goal is then to get sketches for the 1st 6 illustrations by May 25th. And you wanna have some time to do that? Um, so letting the client know that you'd like feedback by a certain time, Of course, without being too pushy. Um, you know what? You want to push them too hard, but let them know, like I'd like some time to do this. Can we set an arbitrary deadline for when you're not on arbitrary but a deadline for when you're gonna get me feedback on the stuff that I give you so that I can actually start working Sketches for illustrations 7 to 12 due June 6th and again. Sometimes when you're working on a big project, everything will be do with end. So what I will often dio when I have a big project to keep myself on track is I'll give myself deadlines in between, and I'll even turn the thing in early to the client. So I'll say to the, um, our director Would it be okay if I turned in the 1st 6 by this state and then the 2nd 6 by the state? And the second you know, the 3rd 6 by this state and then all of the final ones by the final deadline, that helps me keep on track. Um, and if they say no, I'd rather have them all at once. Then at least you tryto abide by that deadline yourself and get a certain amount done. Every week. I'm gonna talk a little bit more about how to break down really big projects into. I just read parts. Feedback on all 12 illustrations arrives from the editor June 11th and any revise sketches do back to Editor June 1st and again. This is just your own list in your workload. This is not for anyone else to see. This could change. This doesn't have to be super accurate. It's your best. Guess about when you're going to try to get something done. When you might get feedback on that thing from the client feedback, you're gonna also do projects where there's not necessarily feedback involved, right? Sometimes you're just doing a personal project, or, um, you're not necessarily working with a client, but you still important to set the deadlines for yourself, even if you can't set deadlines for when you think you're gonna get feedback. Okay, don't rely on the client to set the intermediate deadlines for you. Set those yourself. Often they are up to you, since the client will only tell you when the final thing is do, or when or when there there's like definitely, you know, when the sketches air do before the final artwork or whatever pro tip mark major dates on your calendar to when you'll get hopefully a reminder from your calendar. Okay, let's talk about the importance of checking in with the workflow document each day at a glance. It's your reality. Check about what you have on your plate at any given time or into the near future. Everything should be recorded there. Sometimes when I get a new opportunity in my head, I'm like I got some time. In the next few months, I think I can say yes to this opportunity. And then I go over to my workflow and I'm like, Oh, I forgot I have way more on my plate than I realized. So checking and with it is really, really important. It's only gonna be useful to you if you check in with it frequently and use it to guide what you work on each day. Organizations. Individuals who run their own businesses spend a lot of time planning but then never actually follow the plans. The same is true for workflow documents. It's only gonna be useful to you if you check in with it frequently and use it to guide the decisions about your work. It will become your best friend. If you do, I guarantee it's a spreadsheet, but you'll grow to love it. You want to use it to guide all of your decisions about what to work on and whether to take on additional projects.

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Ratings and Reviews


While I'm not a designer, I'm a creative who is responsible for multiple projects, most of which take a week or months. Lisa's use of Google sheets then breaking things down is super helpful. I appreciate the bonus document! Thanks for the Fast Class version! So many of the Creative Live classes are far too long and need to be edited.

mary gabriola

I really enjoyed the class with Lisa. She's a clear and engaging speaker, and the examples she provided really bring the course material to life. She's talking mostly about creative projects, and since I have many writing projects on the go that works for me. I also am using her approach to set up other projects, though -- gardening and renovations and such -- and I think it's going to work really well. Thanks, Lisa!

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