Goal-Setting for Creative Projects | Monika Kanokova | Skillshare

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Goal-Setting for Creative Projects

teacher avatar Monika Kanokova, Community & Content Strategist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Project task: Write a project brief


    • 3.

      Start with curiosity


    • 4.

      Have a figurative goal


    • 5.

      Set yourself a deadline


    • 6.

      Create a clear project outline


    • 7.

      Self-imposed peer pressure


    • 8.

      Give the project a purpose


    • 9.

      Self-imposed public pressure


    • 10.

      Final words


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About This Class

When you’re a creative, it’s likely you have many ideas for projects. While some projects get realized, more often than not, other projects might stay hidden in a drawer. 

Based on examples from my own life, I explain the framework of projects that get realized. In this short class, I look at what sets projects that get realized apart from the projects that never make it past the idea stage.

In the past, I’ve published three books to help creative freelancers combat the day-to-day craziness of freelance life. These books have been featured on Girlboss, 99U, Creative Boom, Design Taxi, and others, and have led to the opportunity to give a TEDx talk.  


Meet Your Teacher

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Monika Kanokova

Community & Content Strategist


I work as a freelance community and content strategist with clients such as Kickstarter, Virgin Money via Hanzo Studio, Veganz and many more. Learn more about my work on http://mkanokova.com. You can also find my insightful guides for creative freelancers on Amazon, or get to know what I do every day on Instagram.


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1. Introduction: When you are creative, it's like we have many ideas for projects. I'm definitely guilty of keeping a backlog of ideas and projects I want to do in a drawer, but have never actually finished or even started. But there are also a number of projects I've managed to finish, publish, and get a lot of great feedback on. I have published three books to help creative freelancers combat the day-to-day craziness of freelance life. I have two of them here. These books have been featured on GirlBoss, 99U, Creative Boom, DesignTaxi and others, which obviously I'm super proud of. They've also led to the opportunity to give a TEDx talk. As you can imagine, publishing a book isn't something you do overnight. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication. How did I manage to write these three books and not manage to finish my small projects that are still in a drawer that I mentioned. What is the secret framework, the secret sauce for the projects that get realized and what sets them apart from the ones that well, don't. We'll explore that in today's class. I really hope you join me and that you'll soon managed to start or finalize the projects you've always wanted to do. 2. Project task: Write a project brief: I have uploaded a template for a project plan you can fill out when start planning a personal project or a side project you would like to work on. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out. I respond to all my students here on Skillshare. If you would like to get feedback from others, don't forget to upload a picture of your project plan to the project gallery. I'm already really looking forward to looking for what you plan to accomplish this year. 3. Start with curiosity : When you follow your own curiosity, you are much more likely to accomplish what you've set out to do. I'll give you some examples from my own life. Then, writing this year will be different. My main driver was that I wanted to understand how freelancing works. I decided to turn it into a project that I could reference from my own work. With my creative side business, I was questioning how freelancers build scalable income streams to create more predictable income in their business. To give you a third example, when I published the architecture guides to Berlin, I wanted to explore Berlin and actually feel like I know more than just my neighborhood and the mainstream sightseeing spots. I wanted to have some fun facts ready, for when I meet people. I figured that if I knew the stories of 50 buildings in the city, I will feel more like the local. When you look at these free projects, you'll realize that first of all, I was not an expert in what I decided to pursue as a project. Second one is, and now, I'm doing the European second, two, my motivation was to learn. The third one is I always get help from others in order to finish, which is something I'll explain more about later on. My first question to you is, and I hope you have your piece of paper writing, what is something you're curious about? What do you want to get better at? Now, write it down. 4. Have a figurative goal: How do you feel about New Year resolutions? Things such as, this year, I will play more sports, or this year I will draw more, or this year I will spend less money. All these goals are fair and most likely a realistic to accomplish, but they probably won't get accomplished if they're phrased like this. I'm sorry I'm the one who's breaking this to you. If you can't measure your success, you will most likely give up and never accomplish what you first set out to do. When you think about what you want to create, you should always attach a number to it. It's far more realistic to say you'll finish 20 drawings or draw for 20 minutes every day if you know what you're supposed to do and for how long in your day-to-day you should do it. In other words, if you have a figurative goal, you'll know what you're working towards. It's one thing to have an overall figurative goal, it's a very different thing than you have a goal that focuses on the process instead of the outcome. Let's say you have decided to set a goal to draw for 20 minutes, from my experience, it's probably only going to happen if you assign a specific time of the day to it. By that, I don't mean that you say every day at 4:00PM, I'm going to draw. You're much more likely to accomplish your goal if you attach that activity to something you're already doing. That would mean I will draw for 20 minutes every day after I've brushed my teeth in the evening. Why is that? Because you're already brushing your teeth everyday in the evening, hopefully, and having an attached activity to something you already do makes it much easier to plan for implementing such a new goal into your schedule. I for example, cook myself a lunch box every single morning and the only reason I manage to make it work is that I know it's the first thing I'll do after I get up, and it's the only time I also listen to podcasts, so I actually really look forward to that early morning cooking session. If it's not the first thing I'll do after I get up, I'm just not going to do it. 5. Set yourself a deadline: I would say there are two types of people, those who have prepared weeks before the deadline and those who would never finish anything unless there's a deadline. A deadline is actually always essential if you want to get things done and especially when you're working on your own projects and not just other people's projects because well, they tell you when you should hand over. Try to set a deadline you can actually meet, if you're planning to do something that requires endurance, aim for 30 days. It's long enough for you to feel like you've accomplished something, but it's also short enough to actually push through. If your plan is to do something much bigger such as writing a book, you might need much more than just a single date as the deadline, you'll need a clear project outline, and I'll get to that in the next video. 6. Create a clear project outline: Depending on a project, it's always good to have a plan for how you will get to the finish line. I'll give you two examples of how to create an outline based on the projects I've worked on with my students and how I have created outlines to manage my own self-initiated projects. Then writing this year will be different. I wrote down the names of the people I wanted to interview. Then I had a separate list of the tasks I needed to accomplish to turn what I learned from the interviews into a book, transcribing, editing, having someone else edit all these tasks. I did have a separate list of the topics I wanted to cover so that in-between chapters. I also mapped out what help I needed because obviously the freelancers they need to be booked in advance to reserve time for you. With my students, I gave them the assignment to create the project and work on it for a 100 consecutive days. If someone decided to draw for a 100 days, I told them I wanted to choose a specific topic and a technique. The thing is if you have to think about what you want to do every day, it's not only demotivating, but also takes too much time creating a specific list of requirements and what you want to accomplish on what day they'll help you pull through even on the days when you don't really feel like it. To organize my projects, I like to use Google Sheets and Trello. In Google Sheets, I usually track people's contact details and more organizational things. On Trello, I like to create to-do lists for everyone, so it's like everyone gets a column and I fill them with tasks and deadlines to keep everything organized and what's important to me I keep it transparent. Every time you sit down, you should just know what there's to do in order to work and continue with your project. If you first need to think about what you could do, you'll have a much harder time getting going because this uncertainty will make you feel blocked. If on the other hand, you know exactly where to pick up every time you sit down, you'll be much more confident in your process. There's one other thing that has always kept me going when working on projects, which is something that I'll talk about in the next video. 7. Self-imposed peer pressure : One of the effective motivators I like to use to actually finish projects is to work with other people who I pay and who are dependent on my output. If I have reserved that plan, then I need to make sure I take my own deadline seriously. I do not want to let other people down because I know how much time they have reserved for me and many expect me to hand things over. I have done a number of Kickstarter projects, which is something that I've discussed in another class here on Skillshare. It is also how I have paid for everyone's work. While involving others and paying people is obviously not a must, having someone who is dependent on your delivering will definitely make you buckle down, and I really think that is a good thing. If you do not want to hire a team, you can always look for or start an accountability group. You can look for people who want to accomplish something similar to your projects and keep yourself accountable of your regular check-ins. You can, for example, set up a video call once a week and discuss your progress. Aspiring writers, for example, and I have learned that in one of my classes, often sign up for writing classes because they have to deliver pages and give them to others for feedback several times during that course, which usually, in Berlin, takes two months. You can find groups by googling, or very often on meetup.com or in Facebook groups. 8. Give the project a purpose: I personally believe self-initiated projects are important if you want to move your career in the right direction. They give you the opportunity to learn more about the topics you deeply care about, which simultaneously helps you become more knowledgeable, and in higher demand in a few you like so much. However, in order to stay motivated, you also need to know why you're doing this project? Why is it important? Having a clear answer will help you push through whenever you are in doubt. So it might be that other people are dependent on your project. It might be that doing this project will help you gain access to something that you wish for. Then, working on this year will be different, I wanted to finish the project because I wanted to learn about freelancing, and also because at the start of freelancing, I urgently needed a reference I could attach my name to, because so far I had only worked at companies, so there was nothing that was truly mine. Having those two reasons helped me push myself day after day to finish things as fast as possible. With the travel guide I produced, I wanted to show my students that it's possible to produce something with just a smartphone and software that's worth € 30. I wanted to prove that you don't need fancy equipment to create something of value, and because I needed to have the project finished before my class ended, it also gave me a deadline. That's what worked for me, and maybe that's also something that works for you if you already think about what is your why, why are you doing this project? 9. Self-imposed public pressure: Usually, once I'd tell others about my projects, I'm more likely to finish them. It might be that it still takes forever if I don't set a deadline, but generally I spell aim to finish those projects, which is why a deadlines is crucial as I mentioned before. For me, asking people for money up front has always been enough of a motivation to finish things as quickly as possible. That's why I've done so many kicks off orders, I noted a lot of people who offer online courses don't actually finishes a course before they announce them. They publish a launch date and ask people to sign up and only once they've reached a certain number of sign-ups that's where they start working on what they've promised. Some people publish Google ads to test how many people are interested in something they are thinking of creating. What I'm trying to say with these examples is that many people need this public pressure to actually prove through with projects, even if they've already announced them as if those projects they're a finished thing. 10. Final words: I hope this class help you making more concise plan for pulling through with your projects. I believe that as a freelancer or someone who wants to establish themselves in a field, having side projects and things you've done under your own name is crucial, and it will help you a volt in the direction you want to go. I would appreciate if you would rate this class, if you would like to hear more stories of how freelancers render businesses, I would recommend reading my books. This year will be different, is great if you're starting. My pretty side business is if you want to learn more about building multiple income streams and work trips and road trips is for you if you have worked as a freelancer for a bit and just need a general sanity check and to hear how I just manage to take vacation and travel. I hope to have you in another one of my classes here on Skillshare. For now, I wish you good luck with your projects.