Done is better than perfect, and I needed to learn to get to “done” faster.
True confessions - rapid fire edition.
- I love working on teams.
- I love getting feedback on my work.
- I hate working alone.
Here’s the problem: Most of the time, I work alone, in an office digging away at code, video editing, graphic design, you name it.
My Shiny New Things
Early on in this environment, I found that I spent too much time alone with my ideas. I became obsessed with perfecting my work, so much so, that my work started to back up. I was so self-critical, that I didn’t let anyone see my work until it was nearly done. I tried to take ideas from concept to production all by myself, and became so emotionally invested in them that they absolutely NEEDED to be 100% perfect. My “new things” consumed me. I tinkered with them, polished them several times, even scrapped them, only to go searching among the rubble days later, trying to salvage something. I knew I needed to find a way to get more things done, more quickly, and without the fear of what others might think of my shiny new thing.
Has this happened to you? How about on a smaller scale? Have you ever spent 3 hours adjusting a social media graphic, only to decide later that the entire point/message of the graphic was off-base anyway?
So, did things get better? I finally realized that to improve the quality and quantity of my work, I needed to allow myself to fail, and fail gloriously. If you work alone in a creative communications role, you need to find a way to fail faster. Software developers call it “adopting an agile mindset.” Fail fast, fail often.
You’ve seen the memes, “I’ve learned more from my failures than my successes,” and "I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work.”
We need to approach our work like this. Be willing to fail and fail gloriously. Allow yourself to be detached from the ideas, and just present them to others, all rough and shoddy, just to see what people say. You may receive some amazing affirmation, and that’s great. You may even receive stunned silence. Either way, you’ll get feedback that you can take back to your desk/workshop/whiteboard.
Although it may seem to slow down the process, you’re actually saving yourself from wasting hours and days, if you find that the idea itself is not going to work. So let’s save some time and speed up our feedback loops.
An Agile Mindset
Being agile with your creativity does several things:
- Gets the concept out on the table
- Removes pride & the critics apprehension to be critical
- The project gets fresh eyes from the beginning, and helps us see new angles early
- Saves a ton of time in the long run, by getting feedback early on and allowing you to make small adjustments now, rather than large adjustments later.
How can you be more agile?
- Ask questions of others. Survey your constituents often to find out what they really want from you. Arm yourself with data.
- Rough out more ideas earlier. Don’t over invest in one design, one piece of copy, one email. Design and/or write a few, fast. That will lower your emotional investment, while increasing the likelihood that inspiration will strike on the fringes.
- Find 4 or 5 professional colleagues who are in the same boat as you. Express your interest to bounce ideas off each other. Start a private Facebook Messenger conversation with your group and share there.
- Find Facebook Groups like Lutheran Communicators or Church Communicators to share your ideas “out loud.”
- Hit the watercooler. Just because you are on a 1-person team in communications does not mean you are going it alone. Invite others in your organization early, to help get them invested in process. I’ve found that asking colleagues from all departments questions like, “How would you say….?” or “Which design makes more sense?” helps me cut out the fluff, and helps me simplify designs.
- Measure everything and be willing to let things go. Be honest with yourself and your team about projects and publications that aren’t connecting with your audience anymore. Identifying your metrics will allow you to break emotional ties with sacred cow publications and have more honest conversations about the use of your time. Freeing up time will allow you to explore new opportunities.
So go out there and fail! How’s that for a rah rah speech? The freedom you’ll feel in failure will make you more confident in the final result. Find out what doesn’t work, and make “it” - whatever it is - better.
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