Monday Series: Closing the Gap


Many things make me anxious. Unfailingly, the largest thing has always been the feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do it. I take on too much. I have done this my whole life. The reason always changes but the problem remains the same.

It's happening again.

What's a girl to do?

Two things:

  1. Short Term: Close the gap between my "to-do" list and my "done" list.
  2. Long Term: Figure out why I keep doing this to myself and make a different choice.

Let's focus on #1 today because if I had an answer to #2, we wouldn't be here.

How does one close the ever-widening gap between one's "to-do" list and one's "done" list? Here are some thoughts.

Stop accepting new projects for a while.

I'm very bad at this. To some extent, as long as folks are willing to wait for work, there is no reason for me to stop accepting. This thought process is what got me into this mess in the first place. That and underestimating how long everything takes to complete. So there are a few ways to address this. When I accept new work, I have to increase my time estimation by at least 50% and I have to charge a higher hourly rate. This may turn some folks away because it will increase my pricing fairly significantly but I have to do it. I need to make more money and custom work takes up a lot of time and energy. 

Focus on completing the oldest projects first.

When difficult projects lag due to procrastination, de-prioritization, or flexible deadlines, I tend to feel worse about my productivity because I watch the same things sit on the list for weeks or months. I have to prioritize these and get them out the door. I know which projects they are. I always do. I just have to face them.

Protect time for forward-looking projects.

Within the next year or so, I'd like to explore new markets; specifically surface pattern design and licensing. I have a lot of work to do before I'll be ready for something like that though. Unfortunately, that work does not pay so it often gets ignored. Eventually I'd love to feel confident enough in the "to-do" list/"done" list ratio that I'll have more mental space to work on these forward-looking projects in large chunks. In the meantime, though, I have to schedule time for them because if it's not a concrete part of my day, it won't get done. 

The Plan

Ugh. All of this is stuff I already know and think about all the time. I just can't seem to close the gap.

So here's what I'll do. For now. I'm going to look at the commissions I've already agreed to as my gap-closers. Those are the projects I'm really talking about here if I think about it closely. The design contract I'm working on is hours-based so it can't be measured in the same way. At this point, the contract project is essentially a part time job so I'll think of it that way. I have a 20 hr/week part time job that affects the amount of time I have to spend on my to-dos. 

Ok so how many do I actually have lined up? Hold please...

20. Just counted. There are 3 additional projects farther out in 2021 that I won't count right now. So, 23 total. 20 in the immediate term.

Of the 20, 5 are officially in flight. One is just about finished, two are in discovery, and two are ready to begin drawing. 

This week, I would like to:

  • Officially finish the project that is close to completion. There is no reason to consider this in flight any longer. It needs to be done.
  • Complete R&D, thumbs, and roughs for one of the projects in discovery. It's a larger, multi-step commission with a hard deadline.
  • Continue email communication with the client for the other project that is in discovery. It, too, has a hard deadline.
  • Begin drawing one of the two that are ready for art. These are small and could be finished in one sitting if I'm focused enough. They have very flexible deadlines so they've been dragging.
  • Avoid taking on anything new!

If I nail this, the gap will close by 1 and progress will be made toward 3 more. It won't be a dramatic solution to my problems—but it will be an improvement.

Fingers crossed.


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