A System for Getting a Grip on Your Projects

How would you like to feel more in control of your New Year?

Will Lineberger Eskridge, Time of the Season III. Oil on canvasboard.
Will Lineberger Eskridge, Time of the Season III. Oil on canvasboard, 5.5 x 5.5 inches. ©The Artist

Next week – between Christmas and New Year's – set aside at least half a day to review your commitments.

We're all juggling various projects that we compartmentalize. The steps we take to put together an exhibition are different from the actions required to fill a workshop.

Create a System

To ensure that you don't miss vital tasks that will make your project a success, take time to gather the details for each project in a single place.

There are a number of ways to do this. You could:

  • Make a page for each project inside a notebook.
  • Create a document for each project on your computer.
  • Create a database with a program like Excel, Numbers, or Google docs.

You could also use a program like Evernote or OneNote. I have a Projects notebook with a page for each project in Evernote.

I prefer electronic lists so I can edit the items more easily. However, don't waste time on trying to figure out the perfect tools. Your focus should be on the process.

2021 update: We use Asana for task management and Notion for projects and information.

Work Your System

After selecting a method, get to work. Write down every task required to make each project a success. Assign Due or Do dates to the tasks.

Look for holes in your plan and cross-reference dates to evenly distribute your energy.

Doesn't it feel good to be in control?

Tell us how you plan to spend the next week.

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22 thoughts on “A System for Getting a Grip on Your Projects”

  1. After Christmas, I’ll be doing 3 things:
    1. Reviewing my ‘Call for Entries’ binder, where I have the prospectus each event in which I’m interested, in a clear page protector, in chronological order, starting with the closest deadlines. I’ll review to see if I’m still interested/inspired/planning to enter, and take action accordingly. Those in which I’m not even remotely interested will be culled;
    2. Preparing 2 accepted entries for delivery to venues for their respective deadlines (one to be delivered in person on January 2; the other, to be shipped out January 4 for arrival at its destination on time — by Jan. 21); and
    3. Putting in studio time on a commission due January 23, 2011, to be delivered locally.

  2. 1. Review 2010 strategy plan against accomplishments. Formulate 2011 strategy. Analyze 2010 sales. (2010 was best in three years!)
    2. Completely redesign booth – new displays, graphics, etc.
    3. Create new inventory.
    (too business-like?)

  3. I’m going to finish moving into my new studio space and if I make it until next week without a break down then I’ll all the happier!! Otherwise I’m just exhaling and going with the flow.

  4. 1. Like Richard, I’ll finish reviewing the 2010 action plan against accomplishments. Plus planning out 2011’s action plan.
    2. complete some personal art projects that keep getting pushed to the back burner.
    3. spend quality time with out-of-town family.

  5. 1. Finish my website reconstruction.
    2. Get the new paintings ready for display on the artist’s feature wall in January at Gallery 11 in City Market, Savannah.
    3. Establish a local artists salon to market ourselves and focus on sales.
    4. Find new outlets for sales and display.
    5. Find a Nanny for the new baby so I can get more of these things done to help support our little man!

  6. I’m not going to start anything new while Mercury is retrograde. I used to laugh at people who believed that communications and projects started during Mercury retrograde get messed up, but now I’m a believer. I will make a plan for the new year after it goes direct Dec. 31.

    1. Julia: Who said anything about starting something new? I’m talking about existing projects. Do you just sit back and do nothing until the end if MiR ?

  7. Darice Machel McGuire

    1. Finish the two paintings that are sitting on my easel.
    2. Help and encourage my students to finish our public art group project for our local news paper.
    3. Clean the studio/classroom.

  8. 1. Complete my Strategic Planning for 2011 Worksheet, which I received at a small business seminar a few weeks ago.
    2. Start sketching out some ideas for 2 new collections of art geared towards the juvenile markets.
    3. Competitor research and update my spreadsheet
    4. Create a spread sheet of local stores that would be a good fit for my new kids decor line.
    Merry Christmas Alyson, and thanks for keeping me motivated !

  9. I plan to put the finishing touches on my hand-coloring e-book so my daughter can proof and edit it while she is home for the week. (I asked her weeks ago and she was ok with that…..) The rest of the time will be spent enjoying her and my son who will also be home for a couple of days.
    Have a wonderful Christmas Alyson and thank you for all you do for us!

  10. I’ve completed my 2010 inventory…loved that exercise…
    In the coming week I’m in the studio for the 2-6am shift preparing 20 new paintings for openings out of town (in March), including a group invitational and a solo exhibition at the National Park Gallery. I’ll present a weekend artist retreat (at the park) during that 10 day trip. This week I kick off all PR and task lists. This includes preparing PR and spread sheet to begin setting up appointments to see clients while there.
    The 3 Studios I offer start up at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia in mid January so I’m also sending out PR for those.
    Thank you Alyson… Happy New Year!

  11. Love this. I will be taking in all of your wonderful ideas as soon as
    Christmas is over. Right now. Gotta dash. Merry Christmas Alyson.
    Thanks for helping me be a better artist.
    I love your blog.

  12. Over the weekend I will finish grading for my online Natural Science class for UMUC. This will leave me free to delve into the details of the most important art projects as well as plan the steps of some care projects relating to my role as family caregiver for my mother. Sadly, this is especially difficult given the fact that while there are several useful programs the information about them is not easy to come by.
    Another task I have given myself is initiate what I call a “studio sweep.” I will be selling some small, older works that no longer represent where I am as an artist for deeply discounted prices. I am doing for three reasons. 1) To clear mental and emotional space, 2) to clear physical space, and 3) obtain income.

    1. Well, my goodness, I actually got my grading done (except for those final exams that haven’t reached me yet) and I also started revising listings for the studio sweep items. Good omens, these, as well as accomplishments as they give me encouragement to think projects actually can get finished. Sometimes things seem to go on and on and on. Such as trying to amass the necessary forms that serve to support other forms for things relating to my mother’s care. The VA’s Aid and Attendance, for example. It’s so not nice of them to have benefits for elderly ailing vets and spouses if they don’t tell anyone about them!
      Ok, getting past that (I think the snow has made me even more verbose than normal), I am ready to review projects I have ongoing and try to program their processes in more realistic ways.
      My niece will be graduating at the end of January from Douglas Education Center with her degree as a Special Effects Make-up Artist. I am going to get her Alyson’s book so she can start off her career right! I’m very proud of my niece even if she didn’t take the animatronics track. 🙂

  13. This morning I got up and wrote out an overview of what I want to accomplish this week, including goal-setting for 2011, replying to all outstanding emails, processing my paper inbox, and organizing my studio. I’m actually really excited to get it all done!

  14. I’ve first got to sit down and make a list/budget of what’s left to finish on my studio. Then I need to go over my sales and good/not-so-good art festivals for the year and last but not least do a year end list of gratitude and accomplishments for 2010.
    -Thank you for this post Alyson and thanks for including “Time of the Season III”

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  16. I have just sent out updates of my recent shows to various newsletters ( alumni, art associations). Next is to update my website of a recent acceptance of my work into the Philadelphia Sketch Club’s Works on Paper Show. Cleaning and organizing the studio will be the next thing to tackle. I took a few months off from producing art to navigate some health issues, so now it is time to re-ignite the creative fire.

  17. Alyson, thanks for all the inspiration and your great book.
    1. Finish incomplete projects, like 6 small fiber-art/mixed-media “shrine” wallhangings on specific topics of adoration (coffee, tea, the beach…), a fiber-art book of vintage photographs, etc.
    2. Update my to-do list. I use Outlook and categorize by one of six categories (including “Create” and “Promotion”). Prune the list of things I’ll never do so I feel less guilty.
    3. Get back on track with my duties as co-rep for New Mexico for Studio Art Quilt Associates. How can I make SAQA a richer experience for the members? What plans can I make so that the SAQA conference in May is an even greater experience?
    4. Send article queries to at least two magazines.

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