Why being extra organised results in higher work

Does your creative process sometimes feel chaotic? If you and your team are putting in too many extra hours to get a project over the line, the risk of burnout is real – and the work will inevitably suffer as a result.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to streamline how you work and get things back on track – starting with the practical advice to be found in Asana’s Ultimate Guide to Creative Production.

“Managing your team’s available hours can be tricky,” points out the guide’s author Ariel Ross, Integrated Creative Producer at Asana. “To strike a healthy balance between bored and burnt out, you need clarity around what designers are working on at any given time.”

GIVE YOURSELF A BIRDS’ EYE VIEW

In a busy studio environment with multiple projects running in tandem, this requires a tool that can manage all projects in one place, giving you an at-a-glance overview so you can smooth out any potential bottlenecks before they happen.

“Creative teams spend a significant amount of time and energy supporting other parts of the business,” Ross points out. “Sometimes that means executing a one-off creative request, but more often it means creating all the assets for a larger campaign. That work adds up.”

Dependencies were a black hole. It was a cultural shift into stress relief. Things flowed more easily

Ross’ advice to keep track of everything is to organise all related tasks in campaign-specific projects. “This provides clarity to both creatives and cross-functional partners, by serving as the single source of truth for that work,” she adds.

Before Discovery Digital Studios began using Asana in 2014, the team tried to manage the production of thousands of videos each month using spreadsheets and email threads. With no standardised process, deadlines were missed, and details were regularly overlooked.

“Dependencies were a black hole,” recalls Content Operations Director Mike Singer. By collating everything into a tool like Asana, that frustration evaporated. “It was a cultural shift into stress relief,” adds Singer. “Things flowed more easily.”

STANDARDISE COMMON TASKS

When things are busy, you can’t afford to waste time reinventing the wheel, duplicating work, or chasing up missing details. Streamline as many processes as you can to make sure you start off on the right foot.

“Creative requests are an essential part of the design process,” points out Ross. “But when they’re coming at you from all directions, don’t map to strategic team goals, and don’t include the information you need to kick off work, they can leave you feeling more perplexed than prepared.”

She recommends spending the time upfront to craft a standard intake form that captures all the details you need to kick off and complete a project – including goals, audience, deliverables, specs, timeline, and key stakeholders.

It’s been a lifesaver. I could easily absorb our previous Content Manager’s role by working off, and expanding on, her templates

And when a project is completed, create a clearly labelled central repository with templates for all the main creative assets, so they can be easily accessed and reused where appropriate when the next brief comes in.

For Gorjana, a lifestyle brand and jewellery company founded in Laguna Beach in 2004, the pivot from wholesale to e-commerce and in-store retail in 2017 required a major shift in how creative processes were managed, with significantly more consumer-facing creative assets required as well as several fast-growing online channels to manage.

Standardising processes in Asana helped smooth the transition significantly. “It’s been a lifesaver,” says Kenah Cooper, Gorjana’s Director of Brand Marketing. “I could easily absorb our previous Content Manager’s role by working off, and expanding on, her templates.”

GET EVERYONE ON THE SAME PAGE

Managing review, feedback and approval can derail even the best-laid plans for a project. It pays to make the entire process as transparent as possible, so stakeholders know what to expect at every stage – including when drafts or mocks will be ready for review, what the key milestones are, and who to contact with questions.

Relying on a mix of face-to-face meetings, emails, desk-side chats, and instant messages for feedback makes creative execution more time-consuming than it needs to be, with inefficient meetings wasting everyone’s time.

You can’t finalise an asset without input, yet it can be confusing and even frustrating for designers when feedback is vague or out-of-context

Stacey Kemp, Creative Services Manager at Dr Martens, has seen the drawbacks of an ad-hoc approach first-hand. Her team oversees everything from store window displays and outdoor ads to social media and digital marketing. Before switching to Asana, stakeholder feedback was gathered as hand-written notes on printouts. “They’d mark it up and drop it back on our desks,” she recalls. “It really wasn’t the most efficient way to handle feedback.”

“You can’t finalise an asset without input, yet it can be confusing and even frustrating for designers when feedback is vague or out-of-context,” Ross agrees. Her advice is to collate all notes, comments, and discussions in the same place as the original brief, so everyone sees the full picture throughout.

CUT BACK ON UNNECESSARY MEETINGS

Pausing the creative process to pull everyone into yet another status meeting to take stock of everything can be a real drain on time, resource, and morale. It breaks everyone’s flow and isn’t always necessary if the info can be tracked centrally in a tool such as Asana.

At Dr Martens, the shift to a fully remote workflow during the pandemic initially led to a significant rise in virtual meetings: “Our ‘face time’ went up, and productivity within work hours plummeted,” reveals Kemp. “To combat this, we had to get much better at giving clear instructions, feedback, and having discussions via written word.”

Every good status update should include several key bits of information: whether the project is on track, at risk, or off track; an overview of key milestones, or completed work; and a summary of any issues or challenges that have arisen. And with less time wasted discussing what they’re doing, the creative team has more time to do it.

Download Asana’s Ultimate Guide to Creative Production here


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