This guest post is by Catherine Caine of cashandjoy.com.
There are people who can do the old slow-and-steady routine, but I am so not one of them.
When it comes to big creative endeavors, I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner: my new, best-ever-work physical product was created, start to finish, in one month. (That’s nothing! My first ever product was created over one weekend.)If you too are a creative sprinter, here are some techniques that can spell the difference between failure, mediocre meh-ness, and success.
Reduce all other commitments
Say, “Sounds great, but this is a busy month for me” to everything possible. This might include money-making opportunities, especially if they’re with draining clients or involve a lot of detail work.
“But … the money!” you say. It is very important! Absolutely. But it’s far better to turn down a bit of work (professionally) than to:
- turn up, do a distracted job, leave customers unimpressed
- have to push back the delivery six times because you underestimated how much time you could devote to the project
- get sick midway through because you’re neglecting your self-care to get the job done.
One of the keys to successful sprinting is to carry as little as possible. Over-burdened sprinting becomes desperate shuffle-jogging shortly thereafter.
Your memory is not to be trusted
Your brain is juggling as you create: the audience, the goals, the tone, the impact, the benefits, and a half-dozen more. Double-spirals, over-and-unders, your brain has it all covered.
Now imagine that I throw in a pile of confetti into your juggling. Disaster! While trying to keep track of the tiny bits of paper, the big balls fall everywhere.
To avoid having to juggle confetti, get everything possible out of your head. To-do lists are a must. Outlines and mind-maps and Post-It notes and tables of contents are your friends. Any time you think of anything extra—”Ooh, must get the banner image done.”—write it down immediately. It’s stunning how much mental bandwidth you regain by dumping everything into a Google Docs spreadsheet.
Get all project manager in the hizzouse
Okay, you don’t need to be a full-time project manager … generally you’re only managing yourself and one or two people. But the project managers have a few useful strategies to share.
One of the most heartbreaking sights in sports is ultra-marathoners who break down with the finish line in sight. We don’t want that for you, no sirree.
The most important resource you have … is you. Self-care needs to be scheduled, and scheduled before any other work. Yep, walks with the dog, buying fresh vegetables, regular reminders to get out of the chair and go drink some water … these are your first priority, not something that’s pushed in here and there as your schedule permits.
Of course, you need to manage other limitations too: a running budget avoids terribly unpleasant surprises later. But it’s not as important as managing you.
If you are relying on any other people—VAs, designers, beta testers, whatever—then make sure that you spend the extra time to be absolutely clear about what you mean on any terms that could be interpreted in multiple ways. “Soon” is a word that has destroyed many relationships. It can mean “in the next twenty minutes” or “before Friday”, depending on who you ask.
Other words to be careful with: usual, some, and any sentence construction that doesn’t make it crystal clear whose responsibility a given task is.
If you’re looking at your to-do list with a sinking sense of logjam and paralysis, here’s a fun activity. (Okay, it’s not actually fun for most people. But it’s effective and satisfying, which looks similar in hazy lighting.)
- Using a media where you can move items around—spreadsheets or Post-It notes are best—write down your action items.
- Sort through and see how many of them are items you could do right now. Put them in their own pile.
- For items that you can’t complete, figure out what needs to happen first.
- Make sure that action is recorded. Could it be done now?
- If not, what needs to happen first? Make sure that action is recorded.
- Et cetera.
Often what you end up with is fifty times more action items than you started with, but every item feels a thousand times more doable. “Sales page” is horrifying, but “Sign up for shopping cart provider” is easy, and so is “Create product listing”, “Copy button code and paste in sales page”, and every other small step that leads to a completed sales page.
Write the sales page early
Speaking of sales pages … if you are going to be the person writing yours, do it early.
If you’re a creative sprinter then you tend to burn all your energy in one glorious three-stage-rocket burn, and end up with empty fuel tanks after. If you’ve completed every single task on your list before the needle hits E, then good. (As long as you aren’t launching your new and shiny thing the next day, because you won’t have the fuel to do more than wave a flag weakly and say, “Hurrah.”)
But if you burn it all up in product creation and you’re still the only one who can write the sales page … well, we’ve all tried to write on the meh days. The results are often workmanlike, but rarely inspiring. You often end up with a glorious radiant kick-ass product, and a boring grey sales page to promote it. So no-one buys and finds out how much amazingness is inside. Booo.
Have fun with it!
Creative sprinting is amazing fun. Grab that idea and run! If you’re a creative sprinter, I’d love to hear your tips for making it work in the comments below.
Catherine spends her days helping world-changers create marketing from their magnificence. If you need a coach for your creative sprinting, she guarantees epiphanies within 15 minutes in her free 30-minute Marketing Check-up (or your money back!).