How 20 Minutes a Month Can Save Your Struggling Creative Project

Ervin SinclairCreativity, ProductivityLeave a Comment

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FREE Monthly Review Worksheet
This article comes with a FREE Monthly Review Worksheet, which guides you through the step-by-step review process discussed in this article. Download it here

The time comes in every creative project when you sit back, look at your work, and ask yourself, “why?

Why am I doing this?”
Why isn’t this working?”
Why did I think this would matter?”

It’s tempting, at this point, to think, “Is this idea worth the effort, or should I move on to something else?”

But that’s the wrong question to ask. Because the problem might not be with your project at all—it might be with your process.

Ignoring Some Old Advice

So what is the right question to ask?

Remember that advice you heard as a kid: when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

That advice came in many forms:

  • Climbing a tree: don’t look down.
  • Learning how to drive: keep your eyes on the road.
  • Playing sports: keep your eye on the ball.
  • At school: make the grade.

All of the advice focused on moving forward. On charging ahead.

But what if charging ahead isn’t working? What if you’re not even sure you’re charging in the right direction?

What Successful People Know

While some people might tell you to stay focused and suck it up, truly successful people know something different:

In order to move ahead effectively, you have to stop occasionally and look behind you.

Sometimes you need to look in the rearview mirror.

You don’t look behind you to dwell on the past. You look behind you to move forward with purpose.

  • You look behind to give yourself credit. Credit for the accomplishments you’ve made. For the things you’ve achieved.
  • You look behind to be honest with yourself. Honest about your struggles. About your challenges and shortcomings.
  • You look behind to set goals. To discover what didn’t work and what you’re going to do about it.

The 20-Minute Monthly Review

If any of this has resonated with you, don’t scrap your project just yet.

Take a few minutes (20 at most!) this month to set your work aside, take a breather, and look at where you’ve been.

It’s amazing what a change in perspective and focus a quick monthly review can give you. Many times you’ll see that the problem hasn’t been with your project at all, but with your process.

A monthly review will help you answer the questions:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What do I intend to do about it?

The Monthly Review, Step By Step

Preparation
  • Download the free Monthly Review Worksheet .
  • Write the name of the month you’re reviewing at the top of the paper.
Step 1. What’s Working?

This question is broken down into two parts: Milestones and Methods.

Milestones are major achievements on your way to success. They’re things you did that you’re really proud of, like launching your website or finishing a tough chapter in your novel. These are things you look at and say, “yeah! I’m proud of that!”

  • Write down three milestones you met last month, along with the dates you achieved them.

Methods are things you did that made your milestones possible. They’re the routines that you followed that made you successful. Things like getting up early or drinking a green smoothie each morning.

  • Write down three methods you used last month that you want to keep using this month.
Step 2. What’s Not Working?

This question is broken down into two parts: Roadblocks and Hurdles.

Roadblocks stop you dead in your tracks and make it near-impossible to complete your goals. They’re things like procrastinating your work, or wasting time on the internet. Usually at the end of the day, you look back on your roadblocks and think, “I shouldn’t have wasted so much time doing that.”

  • Write a sentence describing the single biggest roadblock you faced last month.

Hurdles are natural challenges that arise with any project. They’re things that slow your progress, like spending too much time researching, or getting distracted by alerts on your cell phone. While not necessarily bad, hurdles take more effort to overcome and can make you less effective.

  • Write three hurdles you had to leap over last month.
Step 3. What Do You Intend to Do About It?

Look back at your Milestones, Methods, Roadblocks, and Hurdles. Now think, what single change can I make that will have the biggest impact on my creative goals this month? Put some real thought into it. This goal is known as your “Looking Forward” goal. It refocuses your efforts from the past to the future.

  • Write down the one single change you can make that will have the biggest impact on your creative goals this month.
That’s It!

Now that you’ve completed your monthly review, post your worksheet somewhere prominent and then stop at nothing to achieve your “Looking Forward” goal.

Now It’s Your Turn

If you haven’t already, you should download the Monthly Review worksheet. It’s free and it guides you through the monthly review process step by step.

What did you learn by doing your monthly review? Is there anything else you think is important to consider. Share your ideas in the comments.

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