And so my Spring travel season comes to a close. Like the annual monsoons in India, my Spring travel takes me to conferences and various shooting locations, as recounted in previous posts. The only problem with so much travel, is one needs to get into the swing of things to actually cut the videos and move toward project milestones and eventual completion. I have blogged before about project management, workflow and organization, but I feel it necessary, especially for independent contractors and some of the younger folks who read these blogs to reiterate the importance of being organized.
Getting organized can be easier than staying organized. I tend to change up my methods periodically. Whatever method I use, I follow one maxim: use paper. Perhaps it was the late 90's MS Project experiment that had me spending more time managing the MS Project file than actually completing the tasks which ruined it for me. So I call this a linear calendar. Rather than using a standard blocky calendar, or any of the online google-type calendars, I like a simple linear representation of about 2 months, all on one sheet of lined paper, with plenty of room to estimate time to dedicate to tasks.
This is an alternative to my usual sticky note lists of tasks to do. Simple lists of tasks are ok unless you have some specific deadlines. The linear method is flexible and shows me where I will have some free time, breathing room or bottlenecks. We will see how this works anyway. Actually getting the work done, regardless of the method, is of course the key goal. Write your tasks on toilet paper if it works for you.
After days and weeks of travelling, collecting spent tapes in my satchel, I am always faced with a week of digitizing. Technically it is capturing, since DV tapes are already digital, but digitizing is the word everyone seems to use. Here is the importance of having 2 workstations - one for digitizing and one for working in the meantime. For this particular project, I will take a deck home for the weekend, and once every 83 minutes or so I will look up from my latest issue of Creative COW Magazine and change tapes.
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As pictured here, I use a generic label, making the added Sharpie text look much nicer than it would on a completely blank disc. Once the editing actually begins, workflow is ever important. In the case of medical topics, we often shoot with 2 or 3 cameras. Setting up my Premiere sequence with the video synced up but visible like so helps expedite the initial edit.
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Sleeping past 7am can be a real treat. Make a cup of coffee as much as I like the convenience of highway gas station coffee, making it at home is so much nicer , eat breakfast whenever, and plan out my day. Now certainly weekend time is valuable and precious, however it is also an opportunity to be productive without working too hard.
Here's my home office setup for the weekend. The morning sunlight casts a comforting glow on my workspace, normally provided by fluorescent lights:. This gives the phrase Capture Window new meaning - it is nice to be able to capture video while looking out the window, reading, eating or catching up on a week of TiVo recordings. Other exciting tasks for the day include cleaning the kitchen, recycling cans and bottles and trudging out to my local grocery store for leeks and some cheap wine for cooking forgot them yesterday - so much for saving gas, although I suppose I could ride my bike.
So how does this fit into Workflow, or the COW in general? In my opinion, anything that increases efficiency, such as digitizing video while wearing my pajamas and watching the latest Dr.
Who episode is a desirable workflow improvement. The COW is, after all, about combining the knowledge and experiences of thousands of media professionals for the greater good. The greater good? What is this a Barack Obama speech?
No, what I mean is that our goals as media pros include making our businesses profitable, and if capturing video over the weekend, a task which requires almost no effort, can increase throughput of project work by a modest amount of time, then it is time well spent. After all, the video deck sits idle most weekends and evenings. Now if there were only a dishwasher that loads and unloads itself - I'm on my second load of the day already Mind you I do plenty of editing, but depending upon the project I am in fact managing, sometimes more sometimes less. But the particular responsibilities are no less important than the others.
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At the time, we had about 3 times as many employees, so I was also a department manager. There was some resentment, such as "can you do my job as the web master? As it turns out, in addition to learning how to evaluate the performance of others, I also had to learn how to fire people, not an easy thing to do. Given a leaner crew, I could focus less on personnel issues and more on figuring out how to juggle multiple projects and manage a few others, and delegate work to everyone, including to myself.
I have blogged previously about making lists and using the right tools to keep track of a project's process, milestones and deliverables. My favorite tool is a great new application - a calendar! Another tool I use a lot is the yellow sticky note pad - brilliant! We tried using MS Project and various other free and non-free pieces of software, but in a small organization you can easily devote hours per week just managing the tools you are trying to use to manage your work.
Alas, every organization is different and has different needs. What has worked the best is relative autonomy.
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Give someone a task and a deadline, and they generally only seek help when absolutely necessary. Everyone, however, has interruptions - many of which are unavoidable - and these lead to missed deadlines. We can all improve in that department. Project management, thus, includes a heavy dose of time management.
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Time management is an acquired skill and perhaps the most difficult one to master. In summary, project management can take many forms. Personnel management, time management, even equipment management all play a role in moving forward toward deadlines.
Some deadlines are a day or two, a week or two, a month or two or years in the making. Something useful yet cumbersome about breaking up a project into tasks, either in MS Project or on paper, is that you can fail to see the big picture - or you are so focused on only the major milestones, that you feel like you are not accomplishing anything, while in fact you are working on a 3 month deadline, which is itself made up of perhaps 50 smaller tasks.
But these 50 smaller tasks are not and should not be part of a big picture view of anything. This is the beauty of delegation - you can avoid micromanagement as long as you have a capable person working towards the goal - it is assumed the resource will hit each smaller task.
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If you're like me you have a million things to do. Oddly, none of those things happen to be writing blogs, but hey, I ticked off 7 items on my to do list today! As outlined in previous posts, in addition to shooting and editing video projects I also am a project manager. He has some interesting ideas and conversations, however he also spends a lot of time on preparing for the PMI exam and certification, and a lot of things related to being a full time enterprise level project manager.
Having culled all I could from these podcasts, I turned to this great new thing which apparently existed even before the oh so revolutionary Internet: a library!
My local library in Woodbury, CT not only gets a lot of great new books on business subjects, it also has great organized stacks of useful resources. Having flipped through several of the old classic books from Tom Peters and some of the new classics from guys like Jack Welch, I stumbled upon one of the "who moved my cheese" style books, the On Time on Target Manager. This is what I call a 1 hour book, because you can read it in 1 hour or so, and it is written as more of a parable than an actual story. The simple lesson from this book skip this paragraph if you do not like spoilers is the following:.
Do things for the right reasons, in the right order, with the right people, and want to do what you do. Brilliant, yet simple. Oh sure, it sounds too simple, but when your To Do list resembles a take out restaurant menu, it can be overwhelming to keep your brain focused on the most important tasks. Long before I read this little gem, I had been making to do lists. However these lists are often just a collection of unfinished, difficult to finish projects, rather than tasks. Obviously I will never check off any of these tasks in the short term, especially if this is a daily list.
A list like this can be written on a marker board, well out of my line of sight.