Organizing Your Projects Visually

Guest Blogger: Sally J. Smith

After your teleseminar with Carolyn Edlund, I was inspired to map out a system that would help me manage all the details of my very full list of goals.

I sat down and wrote out what my ultimate goal was and then the various opportunities I have to get there. Then under each one of these projects, I described the steps needed to get me to completion for that particular activity.

Sally J. Smith's Visual Organizer
Artist Sally J. Smith shares how she organizes her projects.

I realized that having this information written down in list form wasn't enough. I wanted a way to track my progress, so I made this visual organizer.

On a piece of foam core, I made trajectory lines for each project. Dots mark specific steps that need to be taken to get to complete that project .

As I complete steps, I move the colorful “markers” from left to right, dot-to-dot, along the timelines until I am completed. (The markers are simply pencil erasers fitted over a pushpin. They work quite well!)

It looks like there are a ton of projects/items, and there are. But now it is all documented and not raging in my head. It feels much better.

When I tried to organize my projects in the past, I never added “follow up” after X was completed. Thanks to you and Carolyn, I understand that this was a simple but huge piece that was missing from my business practice.

Now “follow up” is added to almost all of my projects, just as a reminder that this is a weak area for me.

This has helped me understand the steps I need to take to sell more images and products.
Do you organize your projects visually? Please tell us how in a comment.

Sally J. SmithAbout Our Guest Blogger
Artist Sally J. Smith is a watercolor artist who recently began creating environmental sculptures (regardless of the weather) near her Adirondack mountain studio.

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11 thoughts on “Organizing Your Projects Visually”

  1. hmm. I like this. visual and in color. and getting it out of my brain and into living color. I want to think of way to adapt this to my organizing style. thanks.

  2. Hi Sally – Thanks for sharing this visual way of organizing your projects. We artists definitely need something we can see. I have been thinking about building an inspiration board with some of my goals on it, but I like how you’ve taken the time to write down the steps that will get you there. After doing this, did you feel relieved that you mapped it out, or overwhelmed that you have lots to do? Also, did you set time frames or dates for these?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Julie: I want Sally to speak for herself, of course, but the general consensus is one of relief – because it’s out of your head and on the paper.

  3. My big problem with visuals like this is that I put the thing together before it’s actually ready for that stage! Right now, thanks to Alyson’s Artist Conspiracy Breakthrough Weekend I made a very effective start on my Marketing Plan. I am presently at the point where I am designing a timeline for the goals, objectives, actions and tasks. I have insufficient experience with this to be able to do it in one quick sitting but I expect to have it finished this week. Because of all the back and forth and changing of this and that (and occasional “other things”) I will be waiting before I do my color coding.
    Sally’s method of moving markers had not occurred to me, but I really like drawing lines through things so I will probably stick with that saving one specific color just for that. I do love all that color on that board, though!

  4. For a few years now — (is it since I started reading you Alyson?), I have made huge lists when I have a big project. I make lists all the time — every day for the day. But if I’m preparing art for a trip or big exhibition I make a list in colour — using different colours of markers to help me see the whole picture. I cross things off as I do them. Thanks for reminding me of this. I like the sliding erasers too. But I think I’m going to start using the big lists for the week, or month.
    Follow up is my problem too, so I’ll put that on the lists. Thanks for this.
    XO Barbara

  5. This is great. I have been trying to figure out how to keep track of things — keep track of my lists (online? on paper? both are helpful…) and they just end up scattered around, out of sight out of mind… I like the timeline idea — with vertical lists it is hard to keep track of the steps after you cross something off. Thanks!

    1. I am going to make colored markers and start moving them today !
      So far, I am making lists for a day, and for the project. I just cross stuff when done.

  6. Christine Sauer

    Thanks for this post! I am going to create some version of this in the next week for the many goals and tasks I have for an upcoming show. I have alot swirling about in my head which is stressing me out. Colorful and chartlike is better than the list in my folder that I am currently using!

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