Project Planning for Creatives: Getting Things Done with Less Stress and more JOY | Jessica Sanders | Skillshare

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Project Planning for Creatives: Getting Things Done with Less Stress and more JOY

teacher avatar Jessica Sanders, Artist | Designer

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

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.

      Why Plan


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Step 1 - Ask These Questionss


    • 5.

      Breakout Session - Pre-planning


    • 6.

      Step 2 - Brainstorming


    • 7.

      Breakout Session - Brainstorming


    • 8.

      Step 3 - Workflow Setup


    • 9.

      Breakout Session - Identifying Main Ideas


    • 10.

      Breakout Session - Ordering Steps


    • 11.

      Breakout Session - Set Up Project Tracker


    • 12.

      Tips for Scheduling Your Time


    • 13.

      Step 4 - Do the Steps!


    • 14.

      Challenges You May Face


    • 15.

      Review- 4 Steps to Successful Project Planning


    • 16.

      Project and Thank You!


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About This Class

Hi, I’m Jessica Sanders, a self-taught watercolor and mixed-media artist who loves exploring art, and sharing it with you!

Welcome to Project Planning for Creatives: Getting Things Done with Less Stress and more JOY!

As an artist and  entrepreneur, I’ve struggled to find faster, easier, less stressful ways to get projects done.  I’ve found a way that works for me, and I believe it can work for you, too.

In this class for any level, I share my process for getting things done - also known as productivity

I am a prolific artist. I’ve painted hundreds of paintings - large and small-, and created more than 25 designer tutorial projects in one year - all while teaching online!  I’m good at getting things done. I would love to share my process with you. Whether your project is big or small, you can apply this process to make it achievable, and flow smoothly with less stress, and more joy. 

In this class, we will learn:

  • 4 Steps to Successful Project Planning
    • Pre-planning questions to ask yourself before committing to a project
    • Brainstorming/Mind Mapping
    • Workflow Setup
    • Do the Steps

We will also have Breakout Sessions where I share my approach to the steps with an example project.  I will also give you helpful tips for scheduling your time, and overcoming challenges you may face along the way.

Planning  your project takes the guesswork out of your daily schedule. You know what to do, and when to do it. You know which step comes next. You can see how far you’ve progressed. You can get it done! 

When you complete this class, you will be ready to plan a creative project, such as an art challenge, a series of paintings, or even a creative project for a client!  You will have the skills and tools you need to complete that project with less stress and more JOY! 

Meet Your Teacher

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Jessica Sanders

Artist | Designer


Jessica Sanders

Artist, Instructor, Designer

Illustrated Journal: Fill a Sketchbook with Butterfly Inspired Art


Hello lovely, lovely creative friend!

My new class is up and going!  I hope you will join me as we go on a journey together, filling a journal with lovely butterfly inspired art.  I just added a new page spread, Explore Texture, which is covered in 15 bite size lessons (13-27).  

I can hardly wait to see your project!!

Happy Painting,



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1. Welcome: Welcome to Project Planning for Creatives. I'm Jessica Sanders and I'm here to help you get things done with less stress and more joy. In this class for any level, we'll talk about why creative should plan a project in the first place. Then we'll move straight into how to get that planning done. The four steps that I use personally for project planning. Along the way, we'll do breakout sessions. In these sessions I'll share with you how I would approach certain aspects of the planning process and work through some examples. Let's get started talking about why we should even plan in the first place. 2. Why Plan: So why should creatives plan anyway? That's not the most interesting thing to do. Sometimes it's the most boring thing to do or something we just don't enjoy doing. So why should we do it? Well, I'm here to tell you that planning results in less stress and more joy. It will make your projects go more smoothly. Whether you're working on an art challenge or an artwork or some other type of project for your creative pursuits, planning ahead will help you do it with less stress and give you more joy in the process. How is this possible that planning results in less stress and more joy? For one thing, the hard work is done before your project even gets started. You'll have the freedom to create without the pressure of the decision-making. The who, what, why, how will all be answered before you even start your project. That just takes off a load of stress. Without the stress at decision-making, creativity just flows more easily. It's like you can make that shift much more fluidly to creating into that creative flow if you don't have the stress of trying to figure out what am I going to do? When am I going to do it? How am I going to get this project done? You know what the creative flow means. Creative flow means joy. It's why I'm in this creative world in the first place because I love that experience of creative bliss, of creative joy, of that flow, of just being lost in an art project, and I think that that's true for you too. So let's get started talking about project planning for creatives and an easy process for getting things done with less stress and more joy. 3. Overview: There are four steps to successful project planning. Ask pre-planning questions, brainstorm or mind map, set up your workflow, and do the steps. It's just that simple. 4. Step 1 - Ask These Questionss: Let's talk about step one. There are four important questions to ask yourself before you even accept a project. You should ask yourself, do I want this project? Is this project something that I'm interested in or something that really want to do? Does this project fit my brand or style? This is a very important question because if you take on a project that doesn't fit your brand or style, it could be a problem. Personally, I have done that. I took on a year-long project, it did not fit my style, especially and the way that I work. It was very difficult. I did complete it. I made a commitment and I completed that project, but it was difficult. Let me tell you I had basically I struggled the whole way of thinking of ideas and creating new different types of projects that I was really unfamiliar with and wasn't really that interested in. Please take this question very seriously and ask yourself, does this fit my brand and my style? Next, do I have time to devote to this project? Be sure and check your schedule. Check your planner. See where you have open time slots or not. Or if possibly you want to do this project and you can set something else aside during the time you're planning on working on this project. Then ask yourself what may be the most important question out of all of these? Am I excited about this project, does this project light me up? Is it going to be great for me? Is it's something that I want to work on and will enjoy. For me that is probably the most important question to ask yourself, because that's going to give you so much momentum throughout the project. Believe me, during a project, especially if it happens over time, a month, a year, whatever, your momentum will go up and down. But if you know from the beginning that this project really sparks joy as Marie Kondo with say, then you'll know this is a good project for you. If you answered yes to being excited about this project, then you need to also write down your why. Why am I excited about this project? What about it seems like it will bring me that joy and creative flow that I really want. It's very important that you write this down because later you will need it. Now if you answered yes to all of these questions, then this project is a good project for you. I hope that you'll dive right into it. If you answered no to any of these questions, then you may want to think about whether you really want to accept this project or not. Maybe it doesn't fit you. Maybe you don't have time for it right now and you may take it on later on down the road or maybe it's just not who you are and it's okay to say no to certain projects even if, say you're a freelancer, you're accepting projects. Sometimes it's okay to say no to something, even if you're going to get paid for it. As Marie Kondo would say, ''Does this project spark joy?'' 5. Breakout Session - Pre-planning: For your first breakout session, work on your pre-planning worksheet. Now these are the important questions that you need to ask yourself before you even start your project or even accept it and don't forget to answer the very important question, why? If you said yes to the other questions. I used the planning sheet for world watercolor month as a sample for you. 6. Step 2 - Brainstorming: Step 2, brainstorming or mind mapping. Now that you've decided that you're accepting this project, that it's something that you're very interested in, you need to get your ideas out of your head and onto the paper. That's what this brainstorming, mind mapping step is all about. It's not about judging what you're writing, it's about putting it all on paper. I want you to set aside 10-20 minutes for brainstorming. You don't want it to be too long of a time because then you might get stuck in your head. This is not about overthinking things. This is about pouring it out. Grab a big piece of paper and a pen or pencil, or you can use the printable that I've provided for you in this class and then just get messy. Like I said, just pour it out. We're going for quantity, not quality. We're not going to judge these ideas whether they're good or bad or fit. It doesn't matter. Right now you're just pouring it out, you're just writing it down. If you prefer, there are apps and there are, or you could make a bullet point list. Whatever works for you. I personally like the big piece of paper. I feel more freedom to just write whatever I want, however I want and to make a mess with it. But if you prefer something a little bit more structured, like I said, a bullet point list or something like that, then please by all means, do that. Do what works for you. Quantity over quality. Just right. There is no right or wrong, just right. 7. Breakout Session - Brainstorming: For this breakout session, let's work on brainstorming. I pulled out my big paper pad of newsprint. I got on my phone, my pantomime pencil, and I'm ready to get messy and pour out all of my thoughts for world watercolor month. The first thing I did was, I took my phone and I looked at the world watercolor month or website, then I wrote down the main ideas and schedule from the website, which included a few things like the dates, the point of doing the challenge, and things like sharing and hashtags and things like that. Don't forget to set a timer for 15-20 minutes before you really get started. What to write down when you're brainstorming is the main topic or the main idea. In this case, it's the world watercolor month challenge. I put that right in the middle of the page in a big circle. Now I'm just drawing outlines and writing out more thoughts about it. I'm thinking about the who, the what, the why, and the how for doing this project. Those are the important concepts to think about when you're brainstorming. The idea here is to let the ideas flow freely. One word may lead to another word, may lead to another idea, and you just chain them together. Right now, we're not worried about categorizing, although I do some of that along the way. But we're just concerned about just getting our ideas out on paper. Sometimes nice to just have music in the background or something like that if it's not too distracting. As I go I'll put boxes and circles around ideas. Usually the boxes seem like bigger concepts to me and then the circles are smaller ideas that go with the bigger concepts. That's just part of the process for me, but don't feel like you have to do that at this point. The main thing is just to pour out those ideas and get everything on paper. Some of it may not make sense right now to you, some of them may not even fit, but that doesn't matter. We're not judging it right now. We're not deciding if it's good or bad idea or whether it works for our project right now, we're just putting those ideas, everything out there and then later we'll go back and pick out the ones that we want to use or that are important to us. I work all over the paper, I hop around. Wherever the idea fits on the paper, it goes with another idea. I connect it with a line. I'm not thinking too much, I'm just moving instinctually out; this goes with this, this goes with that. Sometimes things connect to something else. I may draw a line that is an arc that will connect those two ideas because they fit together to me. You want to build these connections and these ideas. It will just make sense to you because it's flowing naturally from your creativity and from your mind. By the way, if it doesn't make sense to you right now, don't worry about it. You don't have to use these ideas. These are just getting everything out onto the paper, out of your head so that you can pick and choose the things that speak to you the most. 8. Step 3 - Workflow Setup: A project workflow is your plan for getting your project done. What you're going to do is look over your brainstorming page and decide the things that speak to you the most. Pick out the things that are most important for the project. From your brainstorming page, you've answered questions like who, what, why, how, those kinds of things, and you may discover that you haven't covered everything and have to add to it a little bit. That's okay. But at this point, you just look over your brainstorming page and you decide what speaks to you most. What's the theme for this project, and how are you going to carry this project out. Then you're going to break down the steps as much as possible. So for our challenge of world watercolor month, we're going to look at the elements of that challenge and we're going to break down the steps of our plan as much as possible. For example, if your plan is to paint a painting, there's more than one step to painting a painting. It seems like when you first think, I'm going to paint a painting. There's just one thing, but in fact, there are several steps the painting a painting. First, you have to decide what you're going to paint. What you're such a be, you'll have to decide what type of media you'll paint with, whether it's watercolor or acrylic wash, Ink, whatever you like to use, you will have to set up an area for painting. If you don't already have one setup and you'll have to decide when you can paint that project. There's more than one step to even some things that we think are small. So try and break your steps down as much as possible. Then you're going to put those steps in order. On your brainstorming sheet, once you've picked out the steps, then you can number them like 1-5, 1-10, whatever, and if you need to and say you have number of six and it should be number 12. It's okay, just mark it out. Again, this is a messy kind of process of ordering and finding out what your steps are from your brainstorming exercise. Basically you're narrowing down your brainstorming to what you actually want to do, and then you're breaking those steps down and then you're putting them in order, and then you're going to set up your tracking sheet. For example, your project is 30 days, you would have maybe 30 boxes to just check off the list. The tracking sheet is really about an affirmation that you are doing thing that you're working on and a way to keep track of your progress. It gives you that physical way of checking something off a list that says, "Hey, I've got this step." It's just a good way to keep track of your progress and help you to work on your project as you go. I have provided a printable tracker for you, and then you're going to take those steps and you're going to put them in your planner and you're going to block out time. Now I'll share with you some tips for scheduling your time. 9. Breakout Session - Identifying Main Ideas: Now, for this breakout session, let's identify important ideas and steps. Now, I've gone back to my brainstorming session, and I've got a couple of markers. I have a blue and a pink, something that stands out on the paper. I'm circling the ideas that sound the best to me, or that seem important for doing this project and getting it done. You see me put an X there, that means no, I don't want that idea. I've already decided they don't want that. I'll put circles and boxes around what I think are important ideas, smiley faces for things that make me happy. You can spend this time, figuring out and basically narrowing down, selecting what you really want to do out of all of those thoughts, that you put on the paper. Feel free to use circles, lines, boxes, ovals, hearts, smiley faces, whatever you need to do to visually indicate the ideas and concepts, that you want to use for your project. 10. Breakout Session - Ordering Steps: In this breakout session, we're going to put our steps in order. Now I'm going to use a different color pen, and in this case pink, and I'm going to basically pick out the steps that I have on my brainstorming sheet and put numbers beside them. This is my way of putting things in order or organizing my ideas and thoughts. Now, if you need too, you can always reorder these steps later, so this is just basically a first pass at putting things in order. Notice that I put the word always there, and that means that's something that I want to think about throughout the whole entire projects I want to keep that at the forefront. At this point, I realized that I had left some important steps out of my brainstorming. The step-by-step process that I just didn't need on the paper when I was brainstorming, it didn't come to me, so now I'm adding a little to-do list to my brainstorming. There's nothing wrong with adding to your brainstorming after you finished your brainstorming session or anytime during the process. This is a fluid process, it changes, it moves, and grows, and it's very flexible and you want to keep it that way. Take some time to look over your brainstorming, pick out those to-do things, those ideas that you want to carry forward for this project number them and put them in order if at all possible, and then move on to the next step. 11. Breakout Session - Set Up Project Tracker: For our final breakout session, let's set up our project tracker. The printable Project Tracker can be used for different kinds of projects. I left space for you to write the name of your project. In this case, it's World Watercolor Month 2019. Basically what I'm doing is I'm pulling my ideas from my big brainstorming sheet and putting them onto my project tracker. What I want to do is put down the key concepts that tell me the overall idea for this project. I'm putting down the time. I'm putting down the things that I want to remember like this is about joy, this is about doing something that works for me. In part of doing that, even though World Watercolor Month is 31 paintings in 31 days, I'm actually only going for five payments per week, which would be 23 paintings. Make the project or the challenge work for you. Because if you don't, you may not complete your project or complete the art challenge. In this section a bit about this project, I'm adding some bullet points to the notes I put there. I'm not worried about using complete sentences or anything like that, but if you like complete sentences, then by all means use them. The main thing is to get the concepts and the ideas down. They're going to frame your project and that will help you stay focused. The bottom section of our tracker, I'm going to add in basically the days of the month since the project is July 1st through July 31st, I decided the best way for me to track my progress was just to use a calendar idea. I numbered the boxes one through 31. I have some extra boxes here, that doesn't matter. I made the weekend boxes have smaller numbers because I'm not requiring myself to paint a painting on those days. At the end of each week, I have the word celebrate. Don't forget to celebrate all of your wins, all of your progress throughout your project. Even if the celebration is small, it's still important to acknowledge the progress that you've made. Now, look how much planning we've accomplished together. We're almost there and ready to start our project. 12. Tips for Scheduling Your Time: Here's some tips for scheduling your time. First off, use the planner that you're currently using. Whether it's digital, whether it's paper, whether it's a bullet journal, Google calendars, whatever you happen to be using to track your time and your schedule and your appointments, even if it's your personal appointments, then use that because you're already familiar with it. There's no need to get something new and different just for a specific project. Use what's already working for you to start scheduling your time and setting up your workflow. Block out time daily or almost daily. It's a very important step to block out your time and set aside time daily or almost daily, whatever fits in your schedule. If you're already using this planner, then you'll be seeing that and you'll know, oh, it's like an appointment. You've already made an appointment with yourself to work on this project at a certain time on a certain day and a certain number of times a week. When you're scheduling your time and setting up your workflow, be realistic. If you already have a lot of commitments, then it's important to try to not over commit, but to think about what can you actually do if you only have 15 minutes a day to work on the project, please don't schedule yourself for an hour to work on the project because that just makes you feel like you can't get it done. You may feel overwhelmed or you may feel like even like a failure because you're not working that entire hour or you're not getting the project done like you wanted to. It's important to be realistic with your schedule if you only have 15 minutes to work on it per day then just schedule 15 minutes. But do it regularly, do it on a daily basis, whatever works for you. The next thing is to be flexible. Some days something might happen and you can't work on your project and that's okay. Let your in date, beginning date, if possible, be like an accordion. It can move back and forth and you can change it as you need to. Unless the project has a hard deadline for your business, you can change that in deadline if you need to. Be sure to remember to be flexible and make your project a priority. The things that are important to us, the things that are priorities are the things that get done. Make your project a priority. 13. Step 4 - Do the Steps!: Now that you've said yes to all the pre planning questions and you know this project is for you. You've done your brainstorming, you've gotten it all out on paper, and you've taken that brainstorming and you've used it to create a workflow and put that in your planner. The last step in project planning for creatives is to do the steps. This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. This is where you're going to work your plan and do the steps that you've created. The hard part is really done. Now you've made all of those decisions and all that's left to do is do the steps. So I have four tips for you for getting those steps done. First off, make it a priority. Whenever you need to do to make it a priority, maybe put it at the top of your to-do list, maybe do it first thing in the morning or to mentally know that this is important task for you to accomplish, this is an important project for you to do and that you are actually going to love it. We've already decided that. Next, be sure to track your progress, use the project tracker, use your planner, that's what they are there for. They are your tools to help you get your project done, so be sure you use them. Keep things visible. Sometimes for me at least, things get pushed to the side and I have multiple projects going on at once. Something may slip through the cracks because I'm focused on other things, so in order to make sure I don't lose track of the different projects I'm doing, I make sure and keep those projects visible. For example, keep your project tracking sheet at the top of your planner or out where you can see it, even on your refrigerator if you need to, whatever works for you for that, but make sure you keep it visible. Then break down the steps even more if necessary. Sometimes you may find that you're not doing something that's on your planner and it may just be because that one task needs to be broken down into more smaller tasks. If you feel a little bit stuck and you see you're not making progress, take a look at the step you're stuck on and ask yourself, is there a way I can break this down into smaller steps and then do those steps to finish this step? 14. Challenges You May Face: With every project, there are challenges you will face. We all face them, professional artists, professional creatives, hobbyists, any person doing a task. Everyone experiences challenges in their work, in their job, in their projects, and you will too. You can expect that to happen. Don't be completely thrown off track when challenges come your way. Challenge you may face is time. Time is our most precious resource. We all have a limited amount of time. There's only so much that you can do in a day. Time may be an issue, if you're struggling with time spent, then flexibility is key. It's very important to remember that this is not written in stone. You can change the timetable for your project. Even if it is a professional project and you have a specific due date, you can work with your client to change the date if needed. Don't get too overwhelmed by feeling like you don't have time to do something. Remember to be flexible. Another challenges you may face, is perfectionism. Perfectionism comes in many forms and that's a whole topic on itself, but just remember done, is better than perfect. We can always keep tinkering and changing and perfecting something, but eventually we just have to call it done. Keep that in mind when you're working on your project. You may also be challenged by falling off the wagon. This means that you've been working on the project, but you missed a day or you missed two days or maybe you missed a week working on your project or more, and you feel like, "I can't do it now, I've missed this much time. What am I going to do? Just forget it." You don't want to do that. You have committed to this project. This project is something that you wanted to do in the first place. We ask those questions at the beginning. If, for example, you miss some days, you fell off the wagon and you're feeling behind, then I suggest that you just start where you are. If you need to, rework your planner, start where you are at the next best step, and go forward. Don't worry about trying to make up the time or double up on your schedule and that sort of thing, if it's possible. The next thing I suggest if you've fallen off the wagon is to be kind to yourself. We all have ups and downs. We all have things happen in our lives, in our jobs, in our work, in our creativity that affect the things that we're doing. Those things may affect your project. Just be kind to yourself, and remember that you are human too and it's okay. You can move forward from here. The other thing about falling off the wagon, to consider, is your why. Remember at the very beginning, we wrote down why we think this project will bring us joy, why we want to do is project, what's important about this project to us, we wrote those things down. Revisit your why and think about it and let that spark joy. We're back to Marie Kondo, but it's very important [OVERLAPPING] Let that that spark joy within you. Let your why influence. I don't know, you need to soak yourself in your why and absorb it, and then go back to looking at your project, seeing wherever you need to start, and go from there. For me, the reason why I'm doing creative projects, to begin with, the reason I'm a creative business person, is because it brings me great joy. I do things for the process of art, but it also helps me to bring joy to others. I want to remember that that's why I'm doing the project in the first place, because it brings me joy, it brings me happiness, it's good for my mental health, and it's good for other people too. That's the real reason why and you can get in touch with your real reason why you're doing art.. Maybe it feeds your soul and it helps you to feed the soul of others. Creativity is a different job. Being a creative business person is different than the a "normal job" because it just requires you to pour yourself out. You're pouring yourself out into your painting. You're pouring yourself out into your work. To me that's different than doing the math, so to speak. I've done drafting, which is an engineering type job, and it's just not the same process as doing a creative thing. You have to remember to just be kind to yourself, to give yourself time and space, and to revisit the reason why you're doing something and how that brings you joy, and how that helps you to fulfill the needs of your soul and the needs of others. Do the steps. Work your plan and little by little, day by day, your project will come to life. 15. Review- 4 Steps to Successful Project Planning: Let's review the four steps to successful project planning for creatives. First-off, ask yourself those pre-planning questions. Does the idea of this project spark joy? Next off, brainstorming or mind mapping, getting those thoughts onto paper. Then setting up your workflow, breaking down your brainstorming session into steps, and scheduling your time, and then do the steps, make that project your priority. Put it at the top of your to-do lists, and get your project done with less stress and more joy. 16. Project and Thank You!: Thank you so much for joining me for project planning for creatives. I know this class but a little bit different than my other classes on watercolor and mixed media. But I hope that you've liked it and I would love to hear your comments. If you want to leave reviews, that will be wonderful. That helps me know what to teach and what you're interested in. If you found this helpful, that would also be good to know. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the discussion section below. Or you can even message me on Instagram. I'm @jessicasandersart on Instagram. For your project, for this class, we have two options. First off is just to pick any project that you're interested in working on and go through the resources I've provided for you, go through the process of planning for that project. Now it can be a real project or it can be just a made up project, just something so you can practice. Your project could be something like painting a series of five paintings and then you go through the project planning process for painting five paintings and just see what happens, just try it out that way. The other option is, which I think would be fabulous if you would join me for World Watercolor Month. I'm using this process to plan for World Watercolor Month. There are some segments in the videos that you may have seen and that's what I was planning for. I would love it if you would use this process to plan for world Watercolor Month and join me for World Watercolor Month. I'll be posting on Instagram and we'll use along with the #worldwatercolormonth, we can use the #jsaskillshare, and I'll be able to follow and see your projects that way so that would be fantastic. If you would post photos of your planning in the project section or here on Skillshare, that would be fantastic as well. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. I can't wait to hear your thoughts about the slide and see your planning projects. Thank you so much. I'll see you very soon. Go out, do the steps, work, your plan. I can't wait to see what you do.