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4 Secrets to Help You Manage Multiple Creative Projects

Writer’s block, boredom, hitting a wall—all are terms creative people use when they run out of ideas. One of the best ways to overcome those moments of terror is to work on multiple projects at once. In fact, multiple projects may be the best remedy for creative block. Plus, I’ve discovered that if you actually want to make a living with your creative profession, managing multiple projects becomes a necessity. But if you struggle with simultaneous creative efforts, here are four keys that should help:

1. Invest in better creative tools. I’m always shocked at the number of writers, musicians, filmmakers and other artists who skimp on apps and other resources. For instance, my favorite writing tool is Scrivener, which makes it incredibly easy to work on multiple writing projects at the same time. It leaves apps like Microsoft Word and Pages in the dust when it comes to productivity. Here’s my challenge to you—if you want to be a professional, then act like one and start by investing in yourself. Don’t let another day go by without getting your hands on the tools that will help you focus on ideas and stop struggling just to get those ideas captured.

2. Find natural places in the work to pause. At any given moment, I’m working on a couple of books, a series of blog posts and a handful of magazine articles—not to mention scripts for our Cooke Pictures clients. But I’ve discovered that I need to find a bit of closure on one before I can switch gears to another project. Get to the end of a section or chapter, complete a rough draft, or create an outline before you stop one project. Finding that natural stopping place really makes a difference when you pick it up later.

3. Know what time of day you peak creatively. When you understand how your internal clock works, then you can better prioritize your projects. For instance, books and long form articles are the most challenging for me creatively, so I work on them in the morning when I’m at my creative best. Scripts or blog posts are a bit easier so I can do them in the afternoon or evenings. From time to time, I’ll have an unexpected creative burst, but I never forget that real creativity isn’t about inspiration, it’s about routine.

4. Create a “parking lot” for your other ideas. Managing multiple creative projects means that as you work on one, ideas for your other projects will suddenly pop into your head. That alone scares some creatives and causes them to feel they have to stick to a single project at a time. But the solution is simple—just create a document, whiteboard or notebook to “park” those ideas into until you have the time to think about them. This is another area where Scrivener works well. I can just create an idea file where wild, out of context or unworkable ideas can be quickly recorded so they’ll be handy to work with later. Never forget that ideas are the most fragile things in the world. If you don’t write them down, you’ll lose them forever.

Managing multiple projects isn’t as difficult as you think. In fact, it could be one of your greatest creative techniques. And if you’re already doing it, I’d love to know if other techniques help you manage your project list.

Any suggestions?  

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Phil Cooke, Ph.D, is a filmmaker, media consultant, and founder of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California. His latest book is “Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking." Find out more at philcooke.com.