How to organize your creative workflow

Have you ever had to take over a project from a coworker and got absolutely lost? Time spent figuring out a project that someone else already understands is one of my biggest pet peeves.
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Well, I’m not perfect. The image above is a tiny screenshot of a very unorganised Blender file I made a while ago. And as they say, a better world starts with you (or me depending on how you look at it) so what I’ll try to do here is give you some tips on how you can organise your workflow so anyone can pick up where you left off (including you, of course).

It’s now or never

I want to start by bursting a bubble: tomorrow doesn’t exist. You won’t have more time tomorrow than you have today and you wont go back into that hundred-layer project and name every single layer later. So my first tip would be to make it a habit to name your layers/objects/folders as you’re creating them. Create folder structures and actually use the folders as you’re importing new assets into a project. Bonus tip: most software programs have the option to give layers different colors. Use this feature to create a fast visual overview when working in big projects. You’ll thank yourself later.

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What was I doing?

Do you have trouble starting up in the morning? When I just started my current job, I often found myself overwhelmed with my task list in the morning, it took me some time to plan everything before I could finally start. While I don’t believe spending time planning your day is necessarily a bad thing (I love planning and organisation) I do think I can be more effective if I do some of the thinking before I start my workday. I do this by taking 5 minutes at the end of every workday to write down 3 things:

  1. What I got done
  2. What I am working on
  3. What needs to be done first the next day

This has also helped me not working overtime everyday to ‘just finish this one little thing’. If I write it down I can get it done just as fast, if not faster, the next day. This means no energy or time is lost early in the morning and I get to go home on time every single day.

Two bonus tips:

  • It is helpful to know when you have the most brain-power and energy. For me, I am most focused in the mornings, so that’s when I plan the tasks that I need full attention and concentration for. In the afternoon I try to schedule only things I can do with half a brain.
  • I’ve read some articles that claim that people working behind desks only do about 4 hours of productive work in an average workday. This doesn’t mean we’re all lazy though, what I think this means is that there’s a lot of distractions at the office, and there are a lot of tasks that we have to do that we don’t see as productive. So the tip would be to not bite off more than you can chew: leave room for errors, feedback, coffee breaks, unscheduled meetings and other disruptions of workflow.
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I don’t want to do anything more than twice

The above image is a great segue into my next tip. This one is often overlooked and highly undervalued: use templates! I use templates in every aspect of my workflow. I have folder templates for starting up new projects, I have animation templates that I can easily share with my team and reuse, I have data overview templates on Facebook for quickly accessing different groups of metrics, I have templates for setting up campaigns and I use Notion page templates for anything you can think of and more. If you’re not sure if it’s worth it to create a template for a certain task simply ask yourself: have I done this exact thing more than twice? If the answer is yes, it’s time to create a template.

How did I do this again?

Have you ever had to Google the same thing twice? And did you then having trouble finding the solution you know you had found before? Well you’re not alone. It’s impossible to remember everything always, so chances are you will have to continue to Google stuff throughout your career. That’s why I would advice you to collect and archive the solutions you find (or note down where you found it) for easy access in the future. Chances are that either you or a coworker needs the same information later on. I use Notion to organise my learnings per category so I never spend time looking for something twice. This is even more important when a coworker is explaining something to you. We’re all busy and we all feel like we spend too much time in meetings anyways, so whenever someone makes the time to explain something to you, show them you respect their time by writing down notes.

Not everything needs a system

GASP. Did she really just say that? After writing this whole thing? Yes. And I’ll say it again: Not everything needs a system! While I love organisation and planning, I hate systems that don’t serve any goal. If no one has any use for your system, ask yourself why you want it to be done like that anyways? If a system is ill designed, it will distract from the work that actually needs to be done. I’m sure you can point to many systems at your job that sound great in theory, but don’t actually make your work easier or faster. If it’s not working, let it go. And if you have the time, design a better system.

Let me send you a link

The last thing I want to share with you is: write down all your workflow systems and organise them in a way so that it will be easy to find them again. Include explanations on how to use templates, how to name files, what folder structures you use and everything else that seems relevant to you, your work and your team. Share these things with your team. This will serve multiple purposes.

  • You’ll filter out the bullshit. If you can’t explain your workflow to convince yourself, it’s probably not really good.
  • It’s a good check to see if you’re all on the same page. It can be a great starting point for changing systems you’re unhappy with in your organisation.
  • It will make onboarding new team members so much easier.
  • It will make it easier to come back to a task or project you haven’t worked on for months.
  • And my favorite: You’ll get to unlock the magic phrase ‘let me send you a link.’ anytime anyone asks you any question about how to do something that doesn’t require a little bit of hand holding.
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While all these things work great for me, every person and situation is different. I would advise you to find out what works for you. And if you come up with anything life changing, I’d love to know about it!