Perfection vs. Procrastination. What's the difference?
At Zova, we have worked with HUNDREDS of different people in different positions. The majority of the time, projects and deliverables are completed without issue and on time. Occasionally though, projects are dragged on and on unnecessarily and the driving words behind these delays are always, "It has to be perfect."
Zova does believe in quality over quantity, but what is the difference between wanting perfection and just procrastinating? The truth is that there is no difference.
Perfection is an OPINION and is not quantifiable or a goal that can be accomplished. Every single project can always be improved. There is always something that could have been done better, but most of the time, pushing out an imperfect release is more important than spending crazy hours trying to tweak insignificant things based on your arbitrary view of what's good.
At Zova, the most common aspects of a campaign that get hung up in "perfection mode" are graphical creative (especially for on-screen actors), copy, and video edits.
Sometimes, the vision of perfection is the roadblock to completing a campaign, but MOST of the time, we've found that "perfection" is used as a scape-goat to mask the underlying issues of disorganization, lack of confidence in the project, or some other issue that organizers or business executives don't want to admit.
Although primary causes of procrastination are the underlying issues described above, this article is about how to combat procrastination and how to become more creative, expecially in careers where you may have to constantly be creative such as writing, graphic design, marketing, or music.
The first step of combating procrastination?
Get rid of the concept of "Perfect"
We covered that pretty well already, so we'll move on to the next thing.
I schedule EVERYTHING. Sometimes, my entire day is scheduled out to the minute. That may seem a little excessive, and it totally is, but it keeps me from wandering off and getting lost in my day. What's really important is to have a consistent schedule with the beginnings and the end of your day being as similar as possible. I recently read an article about trashing the concept of a "24-hour" schedule and adopting a "168-hour schedule" (or weekly schedule.) I haven't really explored this too much, but the premise of the article is that people get demotivated to stay on schedule if they can't cram everything into 24 hours. I agree with this, and that's why setting REALISTIC expectations of your day is important. Become introspective of yourself. I know that it's more difficult for me to get up in the morning the day after I write a lot. Why? I don't know, and I don't really care. What's important is that I'm aware of my habits and behaviors and I am able to account for them in my schedule expectations.
I am always including buffers and setting alarms. Many times, I don't get something done because I only scheduled 1 hour for the task before it when I really needed 2. So, I work 2 hours on task 1 and end up skipping task 2. What I've found to be effective is setting alarms at the times to move on to the next thing, much like school scheduled worked. Your teacher couldn't really hold you for too long in one class, or it would stop you from going to the next class. I think it's important to move on and then reevaluate all the things that couldn't get done and plan for the next day. The one exception to this would be if you're in a "flow state" where you're really hauling. If you're in a really great flow state and seem unstoppable, then do not stop. Flow states are difficult to get into and once you're in, it's important to not lose momentum.
Another issue that many people run into when creating a tight schedule is skipping buffers, breaks and other necessities like meals and personal hygene. I make sure to schedule these tasks realisticaly. After working hard for an hour, I need at least a 15-minute break or my brain will melt and stop working. That will make the rest of the day useless. Too many people try to hammer through without breaks and wonder why they didn't get much done. The brain has limits, and you have to work within those for effective creativity.
I also include buffers in my time management. I know I will get distracted, will wander off, will get lost in my own head at times, and I account for all of those occurances in my schedule. I also know that I need to eat, I need to sleep, I need to prepare my meals, I need a walk mid-day. This is all important to account for and schedule! Many people will take a 15-minute lunch break but forget that it will take them an extra 15 minutes to prepare their lunch. It is important to think everything through, and to account for all your time. That will help you to create an accurate schedule AND will reduce that rushy feeling that we all get when the end of the day is approaching and our task list is still full.
One of the most common phrases that I hear from my friends and colleages is "I don't have time." and that is really complete crap. If there is something that you really want to do, you need to make time for it. Not having time is really an excuse. Saying, "I don't have time" is really saying, "It's not a priority to me." If it's not a priority to you, just say that. Many times, you're going to spend more time saying, "I don't have time" over and over again to the same person, instead of just saying how it really is. And IF you do actually want to go get coffee or have that business meeting, make time for it! If Gary Vee can make time for all the things that he is passionate about, so can you.
Another strategy that I implement to control my time more effectively is to take control of my meetings with people. We all go to meetings that take way to long. Sometimes, meetings end up 5x longer than they should be, but there is a way to combat this. I learned this method from one of my good friends and business gurus, Patrick Bradley, CRO of Tixr. Whenever he starts a meeting with someone, he makes them aware of his time constraint by saying something to the effect of, "Hey, I've got until 3:30 until I've got to jump off the call, so just to let you know we've got about 25 minutes to talk about what we need to talk about." As the meeting progresses, Patrick gives time updates. He'll say, "We've got about 10 minutes left before I have to get to my next meeting, so I just want to make sure we talk about everything important before then." Does this ever come across too direct? No. It shows that in the moment he's giving his complete attention to you and he wants to make sure everything that needs to be talked about is, and that feels very respectful in meeting. When the scheduled ending time of the meeting comes, Patrick says he has to go and then does. Very straightforward. I have implemented this strategy, and it works wonders on cutting down unnecessary communication time with people in meetings.
Part of the reason that Patrick's meeting strategy is so effective is because during meetings with him, you've got 100% of his attention. He is not multitasking. It's always apparent when someone is not really paying attention in a meeting, and Patrick is always paying attention. This same concept applies to any task that you're trying to accomplish. Many studies have been done on multitasking and most have shown that it actually hurts your ability to get things done quickly and accurately almost every time. The moral of this paragraph is: do one thing at a time and don't multitask!
Marketers have a unique issue when it comes to time management, especially if they're a social media manager. Social media is very distracting, and it's very easy for social media managers to get caught in the endless cycles of content on their feeds when trying to execute on a client's account. The only advice I have here is to monitor your social media time. Phones and some internet browser extensions can track the amount of time that you're spending on different sites and apps. Take a look at that report every week and plan accordingly!
Project Management and Organization
At Zova, we use a project management tool called ASANA that keeps our team and our projects organized very well. Tasks are not forgotten, there is increased communication and increased accountability. Asana is not the only project management tool available though. There are literally hundreds of different project management tools all with different pros and cons. Asana just happens to be one of the cheapest options that has everything we need, so that's the one that we use.
In addition to using project management tools to organize tasks, it's also important to keep your email tidy. Having over 100 emails in your inbox is bad. A very simple tool that I use in my email box is to create folders. I create a folder for every client and also multiple folders for big topics in Zova such as Google, Facebook, Bank, and Finances. Once I am completely done with an email (at least I think I am) I then file it away in it's correct folder. It keeps my inbox tidy and organizes my emails if I happen to need them later. You should never delete emails, especially for work. They are a way to hold people to their word (in the emails), they create accountability, and for legal purposes you may actually have to dig back into your email to find information. Not to mention, many times you'll need to look back on an email, and if you deleted it, you'll have to have a duplicate conversation with whoever you need the information from.
Keeping your emails tidy is important and so is keeping your files. At Zova, we utilize Google Drive for this. I will admit that Google Drive is a little messy and can be a pain in the ass to organize unless you put a ton of thought into it. We have found a great way to make it work, which I won't get into here. The point is to have some sort of file organization method. Just like our emails I try to never delete files; you might need them later. Storing them in a cloud based system is great for accessing on multiple devices and for sharing. Whenever using cloud based storage or computing, you must have higher levels of security. Please, don't set passwords that are easy (yes, your pet's name and the street you live on is an easy password to hack), always implement 2-factor authentication, and be very selective of who you share files and folders with.