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How to Actually Get Big Projects Done

When new projects comes along – especially those you’ve started yourself – it’s hard to accept anything less than perfect. It feels like every detail will be judged and inspected by everyone you know (and some you don’t).

At this point I could say a few things you may have heard over and over, like “there’s no such thing as perfect” or “just ship it”, but the truth is fear is hard to get rid of and words only go so far.

It takes a Mindset Shift

A lot of what we’re worried about is defined how we perceive them. Is the glass half full or half empty? How you choose to see problems like may seem trivial, but your outlook defines your approach.

When you’re working to move past perfectionism, it’s most important to keep in mind that one project is tiny in comparison to the big things you’ll do in the future.

The more time you spend laboring over a single project, the less time you have to spend practicing and growing. And it’s the collective sum of everything you do that really defines you.

Sounds easy enough, right? But it’s not…

Back in late 2015 I had a lot of people asking about my color choices. I was happy to share but there were so many pieces to my process that it didn’t feel right to simply write an article. So I started making a guide book.

In early 2016, I asked everyone following along to let me know what they would want out of this guide and the response was incredible! The only problem was, I learned there was more I needed to cover than I realized. So for months I worked on what was slowly becoming a book until I finally made the decision to turn the material into a course (if you curious, here’s a link).

It was mid 2017 before I finished the course, almost two years after the project began. My perfectionism kept the it from reaching completion and turned a simple guide into a huge production. But I managed to complete it when I set a due date.

When It’s Due, There is No Turning Back

Went you give yourself due dates, there’s no room for perfectionism. You get it done by the time it’s due and ship it. The feeling of “this needs a few more days” might cross your mind, but the due date doesn’t care.

At this point you might be grumbling about how much you despise due dates and, to be fair, nobody really likes them. But due dates define what you need… an end to the project.

Do You Really Need More Unfinished Projects?

Do you keep big ideas tucked away in a notebook? Will they ever be finished, or has the pressure of “the biggest project of your career” forced you into an endless cycle of perfection?

An attention to detail is the mark of a great designer and it’s great to strive for perfect. But a keen eye for detail doesn’t come from one big project, it’s the result of repetitive training over time.