A friend at work recommended a blog by creative guru Jessica Abel. I checked out her site and read through a long, long, long post about why I should pay her to help guide me through an 8-week sprint to get a creative project done. I read – and read, and read – and thought, “I don’t need a coach. I just need to do the work.”
Here’s the plan I came up with for my 8-week sprint.
Pick a project
This seems elementary, but it gets to the heart of the issue many of us face: we have so many things we’d like to do or are already working on, but we don’t get big projects done. I looked over my list of eight long-term projects I’d love to get done. Choosing one was like Sophie’s Choice. How could I choose one over the others? But it’s just for 8 weeks, and I went with what felt most compelling: Turning my Organizational Zen talks into a book.
Your project might be creative. Maybe it’s something at work you’ve been thinking about. It could be starting an exercise routine. Or starting to eat healthier food. Or decluttering part of your house. The goal is to go with something that the idea of finishing lifts your energy.
Set up an 8-week sprint schedule
Look at what you have going on for the next 8 weeks and plot in time to complete your sprint. It’s hard to guess exactly how much time you’ll need, so start at the opposite end – see how much time you can devote to this and block out that time so you don’t schedule on top of it.
A key part to creating a schedule that works is to think about what worked for you successfully in the past. Do you work best in long blocks of time? In short sprints? Do you work better in the mornings? Or in the evenings?
Be sure to start your schedule with whatever you need to complete your sprint. Books? Computer? Paper? Decluttering supplies? If you plot that on Day 1, you’ll have nothing holding you back once you get started.
For my schedule, I reminded myself that last time I got a book written I did pretty much all the writing in the mornings. Recently, I’ve tried to get to my larger writing projects after work. Thinking about what worked for me in the past made me realize why I’m not getting to my writing. My creative juices flow best in the AM! So my new schedule is for 4 mornings a week, including both weekend mornings.
If you’re a morning person, there are a couple of cool things about getting fun work done first thing in the day. First, you will get to the other stuff you have to get done. Trust yourself on that and don’t start the day with phone calls, email, or cruising the web. You’ll catch up on all of that later. The second thing is that when you start off doing something you love, you feel energized for the rest of the day. You’ve already done great work and it’s still morning. The rest of the day is easy!
And remember that if you need to get up earlier to get to your work you also need to go to bed earlier. You can get by on less sleep for a while, but it’s not healthy in the long run. So get your sleep. Then do your work.
As you plot out your 8-weeks, be sure to check what’s happening the final week. How can you celebrate and with whom? Having a picture of that in your head helps as you work your way toward the finish line. For the OZ book, my mom will be here in 8 weeks to see a show I’m directing – which is perfect! Life is always a celebration with my mom, she’s wonderfully supportive, and she’s a terrific editor. Now I have to finish up by week #8 so I can hand a draft to my mom in person and ask for her help with a read-through.
It’s also helpful to tell someone what you’re up to. When you work on stuff that comes from the heart, it can feel weird telling anyone what you’re working on. But once you tell someone, the deadline becomes more real. It’s still your job to get the work done, but it’s nice having someone waiting for you at the finish line.
It also helps to track your work as you go. Did you do your 8-week Sprint work today? Check it off!
A weird side benefit of having a schedule to do this work is that it clears your mind from thinking you should be working on this. When I set up my morning writing schedule, it freed my evenings from any guilt of feeling I was neglecting my creative work.
Start this week
This is a sprint, after all, and it’s important to get off the starting blocks with speed. You have the project in mind and you’ve set a schedule. Now you have to decide where to work. Unless your big project is decluttering a room, you have choices. Do you work best in a quiet space in your house where you can close the door to really concentrate? Or do you work best outside the house – in an office, coffee shop, or library?
Once you start, be vigilant about sticking to your schedule, and protecting your time and energy to complete the work. And be kind to yourself. The plan you started off with may not lead you where you think it’s going. Make adjustments! Every scheduled date won’t work beautifully; reschedule and keep going! Whatever happens, your deadline remains firm. Don’t take on new commitments. Don’t stray from your #1 project.
My 8-week Sprint is due to my mom the weekend of 6/8. I’ll let you know how it goes.
What can you get done in 8-weeks?
I’m not distracted at all by the 7 kittens at Shirley’s house :). Here they are a couple of them at 5 weeks.
Want to see other posts on this blog? There’s a small link below to the left that will take you to the most recent post. Or check out the column on the right to see what other folks are reading. Please try the “search” box at the top of the page if you’re looking for something specific.
If you’re reading this on your phone, all of that is below.
I welcome your thoughts and suggestions for future posts!