Someone tweeted recently about making great progress on a creative project on which he was working when he suddenly hit a creative block. His experience prompted me to tweet in reply that sometimes a creative project is “done” even though outside project management indicators (i.e., the deadline, the completeness of expected deliverables for the creative project, etc.) suggest otherwise.

Multiple Ways to Be Done

When you are working intensely on completing a creative project, it is easy to block out anything other than the deadline and the steps you have identified you need to complete to measure your progress.

If that is the case though, you may miss that despite the fact that even though the calendar deadline and the steps for project completion have not synced up, your creative effort is effectively done.

As a recovering perfectionist, I have become particularly attuned to my own and others’ incessant tinkering on a project that could clearly be considered done. It’s the “just can’t leave it alone” syndrome in project management which sometimes leads to improvements on a project, but can just as easily translate into wasted time that you could apply to a new creative effort, if you were just willing to move on to something else.

8 Signs a Creative Project Is Done

The Twitter exchange got me thinking about these eight project management tips to suggest where a project is “done” even though the calendar and your perceptions of the level of completion suggest it isn’t done:

  • You bit a creative block and can’t advance the creative effort any further –even if the calendar says it isn’t done yet.
  • The strategic direction for the project from management has changed to a new path.
  • Your support team has mentally quit on you and/or the effort.
  • Your options in continuing to work on the project are worse than your options from stopping work.
  • A stakeholder tells you he/she is happy with its completion and outcome.
  • Everybody has gone home - physically, mentally, or virtually.
  • You have run out of time to complete it and can’t negotiate for any more time.
  • Others view the effort as a success, even if you don't quite yet.

These were the first eight I wrote down; surely there are more than this.

What Signals to You a Creative Effort Is Done?

Do you wrestle with the ability to back away from a creative project that’s effectively done? When does this remain a project management challenge for you, and what project management tips do you use to stop torturing yourself for a level of completion no one is expecting? – Mike Brown


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