No one ever said they wanted a project to move more slowly. Inevitably projects get stalled at some point and the team has to find a way to make up ground (and time) to meet the original timeline, or even a revised and tighter deadline.
Speeding up a project can be one of the most difficult challenges creative teams face but it is possible. It takes a combination of planning in the early phases, trusting the creative team and letting everyone do their job and remembering to check in and evaluate milestones along the way. Letting a misstep get in the way is often the biggest project derailment.
Here are a few tips that have helped us keep projects moving along so you can knock those deadlines out of the park.
1. Collaborate with other teams
The key to keeping projects moving – from the creative brief to launch – is collaboration. Multiple teams across multiple disciplines, and maybe even in different locations, must function independently and as a whole simultaneously.
The first step toward successful collaboration is to trust everyone in his or her role. From the creative director to the developer, each person on the team should be an expert in their field and respected as such.
Second-guessing or trying to micromanage each part of the project will slow it down. Assemble a team that can work together with some synergy and feed off the energy of the project to keep things moving along.
2. Use box solutions and tools
Not every element of every project has to be created from scratch every time. (That is totally reinventing the wheel.)
Some projects work best – and get completed faster – when you can use a ready-made tool or solution or even hire a subcontractor to do some of the heavy lifting.
There’s no shame in asking for help or taking shortcuts. What matters is that the final project is what you (or the client) envisions. If using a UI kit to create buttons and icons gets you there in half the time, go for it!
3. Come into the project with a game plan
To finish a project with speed, it has to start with a plan.
Set goals and milestones that are attainable from the start. Outline these clearly so that everyone is on the same page.
At the same time, you can add a little slack time into the project timeline as well. Are there contingencies for if something gets delayed? How much time do you have to recover?
Allowing extra time can be vital for larger projects or those that rely on a lot of external factors, such as needing new photography or videography or branding. While it is best to start the project with these things in hand, we all know that isn’t always possible. (Even if you don’t want it to be widely known on the team, make sure you have a backup strategy in mind.)
4. Set small goals (that lead to big goals)
Every project goal doesn’t have to be a completion or launch date. Incorporating additional smaller, measurable goals can actually encourage the team to work toward them (and meet milestones) faster.
These small steps can push the entire project along faster.
No matter how small or large the team is, everyone loves that feeling of accomplishment and small goals are a good way to break large tasks into manageable chunks that end with small rewards.
5. Work in sprints
Go distraction-free. Even if you set a timer for just an hour at a time, turn off everything else and focus on the project at hand.
Pick a task related to that project to complete and hunker down and don’t get up until that work is complete.
Set aside small blocks of time throughout the day, week and entire life of the project to work in sprints. Block if off on your calendar like a meeting, close the door and get to work. Uninterrupted time can help you get more done and get the project moving.
This idea is scalable as well. Put that same hour in every member of the team’s calendar with a task for each person, so that everyone is sprinting simultaneously. You will all walk away with a sense of accomplishment and might even be more ready to jump into the next task.
Creating different work environments can be energizing and help engage the team to move forward with more urgency.
6. Keep moving
There will be imperfect elements and items that need work, don’t let them stall the entire project. Keep moving ahead on other elements while those issues are resolved.
Too often a small problem stalls an entire project. A color change, for example, isn’t a roadblock for the entire design project. Even while the color is being revisited, the rest of the team should be able to power on with other design elements – just make sure they know that the color is subject to change.
Work stoppages are mostly just procrastination. Don’t let any old excuse slow the project down. Sometimes moving faster, and finishing a project sooner, is a mental exercise in not getting caught up in the little things and continuing to push forward – even with some uncertainty.
7. Visualize the finish
Think about what it means to finish the project. Visualize how that win will look.
Pause and review your progress at milestones along the way to help keep the team focused on the prize – and project completion – at the end. Stopping to evaluate where you are and what you’ve done can show you how far you’ve come, making the work left to be done a little less intimidating.
A less intimidating project can lead to less procrastination and a quicker completion rate.
That’s a win for everyone.
Moving projects along faster is an entire team effort. Sadly, one person can drag and entire project down and make it start to lag.
It’s important to compile the right team members — whether you are in the same building or across remote locations — and create a unit that can work together and solve problems collaboratively.