Project Binge! – A Time Management Experiment

Project 1: Stop using paper for to-do lists...

Project 1: Stop using paper for to-do lists…

Like most folks plying the waters of the artistic and self-employed, I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. Different projects that bring in different streams of income.  You can see from the menu header on this site the variety of things that I involve myself in.

My normal system of time management is to spend one day per week on stuff that needs large chunks of time and scattering the others through the week.  Some things need to be done more than once a week, of course.  Voiceover auditions and jobs, exercise, writing time, giving music lessons, etc.

The only problem with this system is that it often takes longer to finish projects that I’d like.  Sometimes I feel like one of those big corporations that moves at a snail’s pace to finish everything.

So I wanted to start the year with something a little different.  A project binge. There are still only so many hours in a day.  But I want to spend a week each on some bigger projects that I want to get going.  I honestly don’t know how this will go.  But after the first week I’m starting to get an idea.

What You’ll Learn

  • How I’m dividing up projects and why they’re in the order they’re in
  • Why this system can help shake up your routine and refresh your brain
  • How using this system temporarily can help you better schedule your normal daily routine
  • Why this system doesn’t work long term but is a good change of pace

My idea is to solely concentrate on each of these projects for a week, completely ignoring anything else that’s not a necessity that week.  Some things still need to be done: workouts, music lessons, bookings, and daily social media promotion (that is fairly automated these days).  That leaves me usually with at least 3-4 hours per day when I can concentrate on my projects.

Here’s what I’m up to:
Week 1: Recording my new single “Super Dan” and collaborating on the video with artist Jeff Sornig.
Week 2: Working on my niche sites and trying to jumpstart the flagging income there.
Week 3: Working on writing my Guitar method book for teaching.
Week 4: Writing.
Week 5: Voiceover auditions
Week 6: Planning the filming for my next DVD
Week 7: Tax prep

I put quite a bit of thought into the order of these weeks.  I wanted to kind of alternate things I find more creatively stimulating (recording, writing, etc) with things that aren’t so much (tax prep, niche sites).  I also needed to take into account other things happening in those weeks like holidays, gigs, and such.

I’ve already been through my first week, working on the recording of “Super Dan” and getting the video going with Jeff.  I knew we wouldn’t have the video done in a week, but I was hoping to get the song completely finished.  By Saturday, when I put in my last recording session, I had a pretty good mix of the song.  It still needs some tweaking and mastering.  And it still needs cover art and all the other stuff that goes along with releasing it.  BUT, I did get a fantastic start on it.  I went from a drum track and scratch vocal on Monday to a fully realized and mostly mixed piece by Friday.  Keep in mind, I’m doing the engineering myself and still learning the ropes on all that.  So it takes me longer than someone who does that for a living.

Jeff and I also got some great work done on character development for the video and he’s currently doing storyboard sketches for each scene that we’ll need to go over.

While I was happy with the progress I made, part of the reason I do what I do in life is because I like variety.  I don’t like doing the same thing every day.  By the end of the week, I wasn’t super excited about heading out to my studio yet again. I can manage a week, but I’m looking forward to moving on to something else.

I also have to figure out where I’m going to put the rest of the “Super Dan” project on the schedule. I’m hoping to release it in mid-February.  I should be able to finish the track with another 2 hours of work.  Once Jeff has the art done for the video, I can probably knock that out in about 3 hours.  Another few hours for the cover art and web stuff to go with it.  You can see I’m almost looking at another week of work on it. Right now I’m relatively finished with my part.  So I’m going to put it on the back burner and see what happens when it pops up again.

I had thought to switch the weeks for working on my guitar method book and my writing week.  Niche sites and the guitar method are two less exciting weeks in a row.  However, during week 4 I’ll be on tour.  That will leave me with nothing to do but write, perform, and drive.  Plus I’ll have plenty of opportunities to try out the new material I’m working on.  I do enjoy being really in deep in that mode when I’m on tour.  So it’ll be interesting to see what new material arrives in my brain that week.

Towards the end of the project, I put things that are likely to take less than a week to accomplish.  That will give me some extra time to fill on other stuff that didn’t get finished as well as ease me back into the one-day-a-week routine I’ll be going back to.  Voiceover auditions shouldn’t actually take more than two hours or so each day.  My tax prep probably won’t take a whole week.  Though it will take a bit of time and I need to find a new accountant this year.  The initial planning for the DVD also probably won’t take a week.  But that will be a hefty amount of work scattered over the year.

What I’m really hoping to get out of this experiment is two things: A change of pace from the norm.  And to jumpstart the projects and being able to fully concentrate on them, which should yield more progress in a shorter amount of time.  It’s not a long term system.  I can’t be coming back to a project every month on a regular basis or it’ll never get done.

We’ll see… I may end up not producing anything more than I might have before.  But the change of pace is doing my brain good.

Update:

I’m in week 5 at the moment and this has been an interesting experiment.  I’m finding out that some things take longer than I thought, some shorter.  For instance, this week is voiceovers.  Auditions for the most part.  And I’ve discovered that I can knock out 3-4 auditions in an hour or so. Which means I’ll be able to keep up with them a little better than I have in the past.

Other things didn’t work as well.  My writing week was while I was on tour.  I figured I’d be able to really just dig in to doing nothing but performing, driving, and writing for a week.  Turns out I don’t write as well when I’m exhausted after an 8 hour drive. 🙂  I wrote a lot of stuff, but nothing that I think is good enough to go on stage.  A couple tweaks to some previous things turned out well.  I’ll be getting back to writing daily soon.  And that works better.

For the longer projects like websites and the guitar book, I discovered that I can actually put 3-4 hours a day into projects like that.  By the time I’ve accounted for things that need to be done each day like eating, exercise, social media upkeep (about an hour), giving lessons (3-4 hours), etc… That leaves me with 3-4 hours to really lay into a project.  Now that I have a better idea, I’ll be able to schedule my time efficiently to maximize what gets done in those 4 hours.

I’ve switched the last two weeks.  Taxes next week, then DVD shoot planning.  I want to get the financial stuff out of my brain so I can concentrate on producing the show.  I’ve also added a week of contacting a certain type of convention that I want to book gigs at this year.

As I’ve been doing these, I’ve also developed some checklists for finishing the projects over the next few months.  Sometimes the last step is “figure out what comes next on this checklist”. But at least I have something to work from.

Final Update:

As of last Friday I finished this little experiment.  It has its pros and cons.  On the pro side, it did a lot for my mental health to be able to really focus on one project at a time.  Even with all the daily stuff that needed to be done and new opportunities that popped up along the way that needed to be dealt with.

And I think having that mental freedom to concentrate helped me to come up with some really good stuff in each of the projects.

On the con side, almost nothing was actually finished.  I got the taxes done (and had to write a big check at the end….).  And some of the stuff like writing and voice auditions don’t have an ending.  And my week of concentrating on voiceovers did result in one gig that paid me $300 for a couple hours work.  The others are still in motion and I got a lot accomplished, but they didn’t get finished.

At this point, I’ll looking forward to going back to switching things up during the week.  I generally devote one day each week to separate facets of projects like mini binges.  And it still takes time to get everything done, but I like the variety.

There’s a good chance I may do a 4-6 week version of the project binge once or twice a year to clear the work palate a little bit and then go back to my normal way.

By the way, if you’d like to follow along with the preparation for my next DVD filming (week 6’s project), I’ll be tracking the progress on this post.

How do you deal with juggling multiple large and/or ongoing projects at the same time?  Leave a comment below and share. 🙂


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