How to Tackle a Big Project
I have been working on my long-term photography project for over two years now, and I am still working on this project and I hope to finish by the end of 2016. Although no project is alike, below are some thoughts and tips that have helped me keep going on a very long-term project.
1. Stay Organized: Due to the nature of my project, there is a lot of information to keep track of, monitor, and synthesize. Without my spreadsheets and lists of everything outstanding to complete, I would literally be lost and I would needlessly waste a lot of time looking up information, etc. Depending upon the week, I update my lists of tasks at least weekly in order to have a visual to easily see what is outstanding — this saves me a great deal of time.
2. Break Your Project into Sections: It has really helped me to break my project into six main parts (coordinating; photographing; collecting data; selecting and editing images; drafting copy; and proofing), which helps me not to feel as overwhelmed, and within those six main parts, I have smaller projects/tasks to complete comprising each main part.
3. Set a Work Schedule: I have found it easier to set a work schedule specifically for this project, which helps keep me moving forward. I set a work schedule, and I do everything possible to protect and guard this time. Everyone works differently, but I have found setting work hours each week is very helpful to ensure progress is made.
4. Set Target Dates: Due to the nature of my project, I have set general deadlines/target dates. However, things do not always go as planned for a variety of reasons. My main mantra is to keep working each day in order to continue to make progress.
5. Back Up Material: When you are working on something for a long duration of time, it is always a good idea to back up your work. I back up my work in two to three places to help ensure my work is not lost after spending hours upon hours creating work.
6. Reviewers: While working on a project for a long period of time, I find that it is helpful to have someone/people you trust to review your work along the way. I find that it is helpful to receive feedback periodically while working to help improve the body of work and refine the work/idea, etc.
7. Take Breaks: It is helpful to take breaks when needed. Sometimes there are times where I am too tired or need some time to step away from the work. These breaks provide space and help provide perspective once returning to the work.
8. Be Persistent: Even though it is a ton of work to undertake a large endeavor, which takes several years to complete, it is important to keep at it and finish. There are definitely days where I feel burned out and wonder how I will finish, and wonder how it will all come together. However, no matter what, I always know that I must finish.
9. Be Open: While you are working on a long-term project, the work and direction often changes. Therefore, it is important to remain open. Some of the best and unanticipated gifts come from being open.
10. Keep the Faith: Having faith is probably the most important component — to work on something for an extended period of time takes faith and trust. You must have faith to carry you through any large undertaking and show up each day and push through and move further than you think that you can go with your work. At times, this is terrifying, but I have learned to lean into it to get through it and to trust the process.
“Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of an uncertain outcome. And fear hates an uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.” -Elizabeth Gilbert