How to tackle a large project


I started a new digital art project a couple of days ago. It's an idea that has been queued for quite a while because I found the amount of detail involved overwhelming. I always had a problem with leaving things unfinished. I'm good at the initial stage, generating ideas, but once I figure out how to do something, actually doing it becomes uninteresting. For me, finding an efficient way of dealing with big tasks took a long time, but these are a few helpful things I learned so far.

Break it into small, manageable steps

It seems obvious, but in my experience, doesn't come naturally. When faced with a huge task I either want to dive right in, or worse, feel overwhelmed and just not do it. So I make a to-do list and break the big scary task into smaller friendlier tasks. "Clean the kitchen" turns into "do the dishes", "sweep the floor", "clean the counter" and "organise the top pantry shelf". And my big scary "finish the vector art" task became "draw the surfing turtle" and "draw the magic humingbird".

Plus, to-do lists make me feel more productive. There's a wonderful sense of satisfaction in crossing something off the list, no matter how small.

Don't strive for perfection right out, make a draft.

One of the things I learned in my Philosophy class came from essay writing. When you are posed with a big question, it's impossible to address all the nuances (or at least the important ones) right off. You can't just dive in, start writing and hope it comes out okay. Make a draft. A draft was a mandatory part of the essay. Me, I made two drafts. The first was always just brain vomit, getting every single idea or point down on paper. In the second draft I dismissed the stupid or irrelevant points and applied structure to my argument. Only then was I capable of writing the actual essay.

To me, even the draft was too big of a project to tackle right on. I had too many thoughts and the brainstorming, while it usually had a lot of useful bits, just wasn't structurally sound. I need a filter.

It does not apply to every project. When planning spring cleaning, per example, a draft is pointless. But for me, it is indispensable when writing, drawing, painting or embarking on anything creative.

Do one bit at a time, when you have the time (or the willpower) 

There's no need to give up if you run out of steam. Just pick up the project when you have time, or as mentioned above, the willpower. Do a bit of it and when it becomes too tedious, leave it and pick it up again some other time. 

I've been upcycling this old pair of jeans for a few months. They had an unbeatable stain at the bottom so I decided to turn them into shorts. The embroidery is taking a while, but as they say "Slow and steady wins the race".  I'm determined to have it done by the summer. To wear for that whole week when the Dutch have sun. 

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