How to improve your work flow

As a freelance composer, I am constantly striving to improve my work flow. Work flow is the order or method used to complete a project. While each artist will have their own workflow, it can change depending on the project. Here are some tips on organizing, optimizing and implementing your workflow for whatever project you’re working on:

Break the project into smaller parts by mapping it out

While this might seem like an obvious starting point, have you ever taken the time to map out every conceivable aspect of your project? Have you researched the work flow of other people in your field? You’d be surprised at how complex a project truly is once you map it out. You may even discover a new aspect to add to it that you hadn’t considered before! You can use this flowchart maker to create a template for use on your projects. You can also create a simple list using evernote to accomplish this. Take a half hour to write out every possible aspect of your project that you can think of, research how other people map out their projects and then create your own project map.

The path of least resistance

Now that you have your chart ready, you can decide where you want to start. Look through your map and assess which steps are going to be the easiest versus the more difficult ones. Start with the easier ones. Who cares if you’re doing easy work first, you’ve got to get it done eventually, right? Once this is finished, move on to the next easiest item on the map.

Sometimes you have to do some of the tough work before you can get to the easier work; maybe you need to have a solid story line established before you can get into the character designs and mechanics. The unavoidable aspect of the path of least resistance is that it will always lead you to more difficult tasks. It is here that we find ourselves getting stuck or unmotivated. Check out my blog post on motivation for what to do if you’re not feeling motivated. For times when we feel stuck or intimidated by one of the tougher tasks, I like to implement the rule of three.

The rule of three

The most difficult tasks seem to be the ones that we feel the weakest on or have the least experience with. It’s while working on these tasks that I often implement the rule of three. The rule of three is the principle that you will always make at least three different versions of what you’re working on to give you different options to work with. Let’s say that you’re not sure what your character will look like, instead of doubling down on the first draft that you’re not too thrilled on, make two more different versions. Strive to make each version as unique from the others as possible. This will more than likely cause a breakthrough. If you still aren’t making anything that you’re happy with after following the rule of three, follow the rule of three again! If you don’t use these ideas on your current project, you can always save them and use them for something else!

Following the rule of three might seem like it’s slowing you down but the benefits are worth the effort. Not only are you giving yourself perspective on what you’re working on, you’re literally sharpening your creativity by giving yourself extra repetitions. It actually gives you more freedom because you know that you have multiple tries to get something right as opposed to being crushed by the pressure if trying to get something right on the first try.

The rule of three can be used in any aspect of your project, from what your character’s arms are going to look like to figuring out what type of game you want to make. You can think of the rule of three as a way to implement the path of least resistance on a difficult task.

Detachment

Developing a game, writing music or creating art tends cause us to focus in like a microscope lens. Its easy to lose perspective on what you’re doing after you’ve put in 3 continuous hours or work a day for several weeks. It’s critical that you learn how to detach from what you’re focused on so that you can gain a wider perspective on things. Perhaps the purest form of detachment is meditation. I simply think of meditation as sitting quietly for a few minutes while gently pushing thoughts away as they try to creep into my mind. You can use meditation virtually at any time and any place. Another form of detachment is getting feedback from someone you trust and respect. Reach out to someone to give you feedback on what you’ve made and try to take in as much advice as you can. If you really want some perspective, you’ll seek advice from several people at once so that you can see the contrasts or consistencies in the feedback! Don’t be afraid to ask for critiques, most people love giving constructive criticism and find it flattering that you would seek their expertise. Another way to detach is to defer to the path of least resistance. Temporarily move on to another aspect of your project in order to give yourself something else to think about (preferably something that contrasts with what you were working on).

Mapping your project out, following the path of least resistance, implementing the rule of three and learning how to detach are great ways to keep your workflow moving and will give you options when you are starting to feel stagnant or burned out. Thank you for reading! Good luck on your projects!