How Work Management Software Can Help Creatives Finish Their Projects

work management for creative projects

Work Management for Creative Projects – © Tartila Stock.Adobe.Com

Creative brains are restless processors of imaginative ideas. Our itchy fingers yearn to start creating the next fun project we dream up. Unfortunately, our next big idea rarely waits until after we’ve finished our current endeavor. Progress on our manuscripts, paintings, or screenplays falter. We lose momentum and begin missing deadlines.

Work management software can assist in planning our creative projects and help us stick with a firm schedule.

What is Work Management Software?

Work Management Software (aka task management or collaboration software) is a category of digital tools designed to plan projects and non-project tasks. Their applications can range from single users or small teams to large project management offices. Easy to use and readily available online, these tools are perfect for creative projects.

In other words, work management software is a project management tool for everyone.

Which Tool Should I Use?

I’ve been a project manager for over fifteen years and have used many complex project management tools to track my large enterprise level schedules. Mastering the platforms required extensive training and some technical knowledge. Many times, the tools were cumbersome and made managing the project unnecessarily complicated. It also limited project management tool access to companies who could afford the expense and resources to maintain them.

The new wave of work management digital tools has opened the door for individuals and small business owners who can’t afford the expense and don’t have time for extensive training. Larger businesses are adopting these easy to use tools as well, effectively reducing their setup and training times.

In researching for this post, I’ve discovered a smorgasbord of new tools. Most of them are unfamiliar, so I’m suggesting a few I know are free and reliable. Asana and Trello are both easy to use and have free basic plans.

A Sneak Peek at Trello

I use the free version of Trello. Why? One of my project teams used it in the past. It’s familiar. It’s free. And it’s fun.

Trill

Trello for Creative Projects

Simple Steps to Set Up Your Creative Project

Trello and YouTube have great “how to” videos to get you started setting up your new account and boards. In this post, I want to give you a few tips to help you plan effectively. You have some things to think through before jumping into the tool. What will it take to complete your project? How long will each task take? If I connect these tasks and their due dates correctly, then will I have my project completion date? Finally, who do I want to access my boards? Are there team members I’ve assigned to tasks and do they need to see those tasks?

Step One – Create your board

  • Give your board a meaningful and descriptive name, so you can quickly identify which project it represents
  • Set it to “Private” (setting located at the top of the board by the name) if you don’t want anyone to see your board
  • Invite your team (if applicable)

Step Two – Plan and create your cards

  • Think about the task categories your creative project must navigate:
    • Create – What steps must you take to create your book, video, etc.?
    • Edit – Do you or a team member need to review the work and quality check?
    • Publish – Are you sending this to a client? Or will you be producing/ publishing the work yourself?
    • Market – Do you need to create marketing tools and advertising?
  • Set Due Dates to hold yourself accountable
  • Plan carefully to calculate a reasonable and accurate project completion date

Step Three – Track your progress

  • Mark your finished items ‘complete’ to gauge where you are in the project
  • Review your splendid progress in ‘real time’ for a boost of self-confidence
  • Watch potential time slips and mitigate them before they happen

Work Management Tools can help you stay on track. Keep your designs easy and straight forward. You’ll soon see the value of organizing your work.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

Toxic Is as Toxic Does

Definition of Toxic (Cambridge English Dictionary)

  1. Poisonous
  2. Very unpleasant or unacceptable
  3. Causing you a lot of harm and unhappiness over a long period of time

© James Thew – Stock.Adobe.Com

What do you usually think of when you hear the term “toxic?” Maybe you think of harmful chemicals or crude oil spills in the ocean. Radioactive material and asbestos come to mind as well. These substances destroy living things. The human body can show signs of toxicity through skin (acne, rashes, eczema), fatigue and even depression.

We have other types of toxins in our lives that can be just as harmful as physical substances. I’m talking about toxic relationships or environments. Have you entered a room and immediately sensed a heaviness to the air? The people inside are merely occupying the space. No one is smiling. If and when they do speak with each other, it is to complain or share snarky comments. Your good mood is ruined. Their combined negativity and unhappiness are stronger than your good thoughts. Behold the toxic environment.

Signs You’re in A Toxic Situation:

  • People or Person is tearing you down rather than building you up
  • The situation makes you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, sad or angry
  • You dread going into work or seeing a specific person
  • You are unhappy

Suggestions for Escape:

  • Take a hard look at your excuses for staying in the situation
  • Make Self Care a priority
  • Avoid the drama. If you don’t play they won’t include you
  • Dream Big. Make Plans. Rediscover what makes you happy
  • GET OUT!

You’ll notice none of my escape bullets involve you trying to change your toxic coworkers, friends or lovers. They won’t change, because they don’t want to change.Rolling around in the toxic swamp is comfortable. Pulling yourself free and starting a new life is hard work. You can do it! You are worthwhile and deserve happiness.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

 

Why Do Goal Oriented People Sometimes Procrastinate?

@pavector – Stock.Adobe.Com

You can fill a few shelves with books about procrastination. These resources are especially helpful for the chronic habitual procrastinator. What about the rest of us? Why do careful planners and goal oriented folks sometimes put things off?

Everybody procrastinates from time to time

I’m a program/ project manager. My main job duty is to make certain everything happens when it’s supposed to at the projected cost. Over the past year, my employer has asked me to create corporate project management training. Great opportunity, right? Meh. I hate writing nonfiction (respect to those of you who rock this genre). Weeks pass with no progress while the classes get uncomfortably close.

Exploring the “Why” we procrastinate

Here are my theories. Mind you, I’m not a mental health professional just an experienced observer of human behavior:

  • You don’t want to do it
  • You resent doing it
  • You don’t know how to do it and are afraid to ask for help
  • You lack the self-confidence to do it

@Anna Kutukova – Stock.Adobe.Com

Let’s take the first two bullets (they’re related) – I get it. Been there. Forced to wear the t-shirt.

“We have to tighten our belts, which means everybody has to help out by taking on more work. We just don’t have the resources, so can you squeeze it in? Oh, and I need it by Monday.”

Sound familiar? I could give you the same tired old advice to buckle down and just do it. BUT – I’m not. Rather, I’m suggesting you figure out what’s in it for YOU. Document what you’re doing and use it to get a promotion or a better job.

@aaabbc – Stock.Adobe.Com

A word about FEAR (aka the last two bullets) – Everyone experiences self-doubt when trying to do a new task. What you do with that fear defines you. Option One: Stay paralyzed with fear, don’t do the task and get in trouble or fired. Option Two: Seek out someone who can help you and be honest with them. I think you’ll find most folks are happy to give you a little help.

What if my procrastination doesn’t involve the day job? I’m experiencing the “I don’t wanna” symptoms on my creative project. My advice: This may be your subconscious trying to tell you the path you’re headed down is the wrong one. Take some time to examine what you’re doing and why.

Finished! Not Quite Yet

building-your-dreams

Congratulations! You’ve typed “The End” on your book. Listed “Fin” on that indie film. Played the last note of your glorious symphony. You’ve earned that great sense of accomplishment. Excellent job!

Hang on! You’re not quite done yet. Things to think about before you shut down your creative projects:

  • Putting Artifacts in a Safe Place – You worked hard to gather your research. Who knows when you may need it again?
  • Tying Up Loose Ends – Have you handled all the legal (or other) requirements associated with your project such as copyright or obtaining permission to use illustrations, etc.
  • Planning a Method to Evaluate Your Project – Are you planning to monitor social media or purchases, etc. to determine the performance of your product? Do you have a strategy to improve performance?
  • Improving Your Processes – Have you gathered lessons learned to improve your next project and avoid the same mistakes? See my post “What Can You Learn from Your Last Creative Project?”

Don’t forget the most important step. Celebrate your success!

Avoiding Frustration when You Hit a Road Block

building-your-dreams

Creative projects – by their very nature – should be fun. We race down the path, full of energy and excitement. It’s easy. The ideas flow and don’t stop (at first). Then you hit your first road block. Maybe you’re stuck on a problem or run out of cash to complete your project? Boom. You’re just entered Frustration Town.

If you caught my blog series, Planning Your Dreams into Reality, then you’ve made a project plan. It has the tasks you must accomplish to complete your creative project. Maybe you’ve even created a schedule (look at you go!). So what gives? How did you end up staring at your personal road block?

It could be any number of things. You may have forgotten a step. Perhaps the research you did was incomplete or inaccurate in some way? Or maybe the Universe just hates you! Kidding. Sometimes road blocks happen. It’s how you handle them that determines whether you’re going to succeed or fail.

Try taking a step back. Rather than looking at the Ultimate project goal, try coming up with a short-term goal. Don’t get me wrong. You should always keep the end goal in mind. However, smaller short-term goals make up the big project. Taking them one at a time can reduce stress and help you avoid frustration. Keep slamming out the little goals and before you know it, the big project is much closer to being complete.

 

I’ve Got It. Now What Do I Do with It?

planning-your-dreams

If you’ve been reading this blog for the past few weeks, you should have a boat load of information ready to go. No? How about a good idea for getting your hands on the information you need? For the purposes of this blog, let’s say you do. Now what? All this information is useful, but a bit cumbersome. Time to build your master plan.

Here’s a simple technique to get organized:

  • Picture each piece of information as a wooden block (or Legos if that works better for you)
  • Make categories to store the boxes. I’ll use writing a book as an example.
    • Yellow would be all the research I did for the book
    • Green would be creating the outline and all the other steps I must take to write the rough draft of the book
    • Red would be editing and the tasks associated with this phase of my book development
  • Make columns in your favorite word processing or spreadsheet tool. Color code the columns to match your categories
  • Think about how you’ll go about completing each category. Sometimes the categories may overlap (example: I may have to do additional research while I’m writing the rough draft)
  • List all the information or tasks in the order you need them to be accomplished

drawing1

 

There you go. You’ve just created your draft plan! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Then let this sit for a while. You’ll probably find holes in your plan as you review it more carefully.

Final step to the plan: Add Dates! Hold yourself to a schedule, but be realistic about time frames too. You want to see your goal become reality, but being too aggressive gets discouraging.

BEFORE YOU GO! Join me next week on DTJ for a sneak peek of my upcoming book release: The Obsidian Gates – Book Two of the Heart of the Warrior series!

Putting Legs on Your Idea

planning-your-dreams

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Dreams, Goals, Aspirations – they keep our hearts pumping and get us out of bed in the morning. Take yours for example. You’ve been daydreaming about it for months. If you’ve read my last post (Are You Ready to Get Started?), then you have a clear idea of what success looks like. Let’s put some legs on that idea!

Keeping your list of criteria (what success looks like to you) handy, let’s plot out the steps to achieve your goal:

  • Laptop or pen and paper ready to go. Check!
  • Motivational music. Check!
  • Stares at blank page and scratches head.

Don’t panic. Unless you’ve planned projects and programs for years, you can’t know the exact steps off the top of your head. It takes a bit of research and maybe a chat with an expert who’s done something like you’re trying to accomplish. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

  • Think it through – Make a list of the things you need to do before you can achieve your goal. Note – You’re just getting started, so you’ll have gaps.
  • Research it – Jump on line and start searching. Better yet, visit your local library.
  • Research it Hardcore – Hop in the car and visit a place that relates to your idea. Example – I’m writing a historical horror story. I plan to visit my local museum.
  • Research it Hardcore the Sequel – Contact someone who is an expert in the subject matter you’re researching. Most people are happy to talk about their favorite subjects.

Great work! We’ll talk it through next time on DTJ.

Are You Ready to Get Started?

planning-your-dreams

It’s almost the time of year when we sit back on the couch and reflect on the past year’s doings. Did you tick mark all the goals you wanted to accomplish in 2016? No. Don’t worry about it. You’re in good company.

The past is best left in the past. Let’s take another look at your unfinished goals list. Are they all boring home projects or do you have something special among the list? A childhood dream perhaps? Or a chance at a new career?

Pick the one you’re most passionate about. Can’t decide on just one? Here’s a check list to help:

  • Does your heart beat a little faster when you think about it?
  • Are you anxious to wake up and get started on the goal?
  • Is this something you can see yourself doing for at least a year?

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, then Bingo! You have a winner. Hold on now. Don’t just dive in. Take a breath. If you want this endeavor to be successful, then you should do a little planning first.

Planning 101 – Step 1: Determine What Success Looks Like

You’ve got a goal in mind. Now put on your visualization hat and let your mind wander. Imagine what the goal looks like when you’re done. What must your goal (object, process or career) look, feel, sound like? Are you happy with what you’ve decided?

Write down the criteria you’ve imagined and pin it up on the wall or get high-tech and put it on your mobile device. Keep the criteria in mind as you make decisions along the path to achieving your goal.

What Can You Learn from Your Last Creative Project?

Learning from our past successes and/or mistakes is critical for growth. Doing more of “what we did right” and less of “what we did wrong” makes a difference in our road to success.

In the project management world, the team holds a “Lessons Learned” session. We talk through the positives and the negatives. Each item is documented for future projects. The negative items are further explored to find ways to mitigate these flaming wrecks before they happen.

Here are a few ways you can do your own “Lessons Learned” for your creative projects:

Be as objective as you can: Pour a glass of wine or grab a handful of chocolate. Your intent in doing the lessons learned is to be better next time

Gather the folks you worked with on the project. Be respectful of their time (especially if you worked with an independent editor. It might not be the best idea to contact a publisher’s editor. You don’t want to ruin your chances for next time.) and don’t push. If they can’t meet with you, then ask them if they’d be willing to express their views via email

Write every thought down (whether you agree with it or not). You can sort them later

Step away from the list and take time to mull things over. Try not to be down on yourself for the negatives. This is a learning tool.

Take action. Hold on tight to the positives and make a plan to correct the negatives.

Remember though – you may not be able to “fix” everything the next go around. It’s a journey.

Road Trip Project Manager Style

First – I want to wish you a Happy Belated Project Management Day in Denver. It was on April 29th. That’s okay. I didn’t get you anything either.

I spent our special day at the Denver Convention Center (home of the Big Blue Bear) attending the 18th Annual Rocky Mountain Project Management Symposium along with 1500 + of my fellow Project Managers. Big Kudos and a Thank You to PMI Mile Hi Chapter for doing a phenomenal job putting this symposium together!

A special note to my fellow authors and other creative folks who are wondering what possible benefit they could glean from this post. Substitute the term “Team” or “Team Mate” with “Reader”, “Film Enthusiast”, “Patron of the Arts” or “Customer.”

Each time I attend a conference or symposium, I discover a common theme(s) I’m supposed to take away from the event. I’d like to share two of these themes or lessons with you, because I believe they impact all of us.

Theme the First: Observing my reactions to interactions with team mates and preparing for the next generation entering the workforce

Our morning keynote speaker, the very funny Connie Podesta, kicked things off with an enlightening session about personality types. She was spot on in my case. I’m one of those “heads down” and “get it done” type folks who absolutely hates small talk. Thinking about the interactions I’ve had with my own team, I realize we have each personality type she defined. It is my responsibility, as the Lead Project Manager on our program, to build a cohesive team structure. Sometimes you just have to look up from your work and interact with people (groan). Note: For more information about Connie Podesta, check out her website.

Building and maintaining team relationships can be difficult. One of the key challenges for a Project Manager is communicating effectively with a multi-generational team. Baby Boomers think differently than Gen Xers (my generation). Gen Yers or Millennials come from a different digital world. Now Gen Zers are about to enter the workforce. In her workshop “Gen Z and Beyond: The Trends that Will Shape the Workforce of Tomorrow”, Aileen Ellis from AME Group Inc. explains this generation is made up of the first true Digital Natives. Communicating and engaging them in our mission goals will require a different approach. Don’t worry. You can do it! Start by having a conversation with your new Gen Zer team mate.

Theme the Second: Seeing Myself as a Service Product

Imagine the anthem “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf booms out of the conference room speakers. The unmistakable roar of a Harley Davidson Motorcycle thunders against the walls as the door flies open. Riding on a beautiful motorcycle is our keynote speaker, Clyde Fessler. Recognize the name? If you’re a Harley fan you do. He is one of the marketing gurus behind the dramatic turnaround of Harley Davidson. It was fascinating to listen how his creative thinking helped this beloved brand not only survive, but thrive. NOTE: Check out Clyde Fessler’s website and drool over the Harleys a bit.

Considering the ways Mr. Fessler made the Harley brand an endearing and enduring part of American culture, I began to realize the importance of branding my product: Project Management and Leadership. What do I stand for? Quality. Professional Ethics. Strong Leadership. Creative Thinking.

What about you? What is your professional brand?