How do you stay focused on a project when you keep having new ideas?
January 7, 2005 11:44 AM   Subscribe

How do you stay focused on a project? [+]

As a writer I've several different ideas I want to work on at any given time. One, a flash animation project which just needs to be animated, should be my main focus, but now that the story is finished, it's not as interesting to me. Instead, I'm far more interested in the other ideas. How can I regain my focus on the original project?
posted by drezdn to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: In the future, I'm going to avoid this trap by not getting involved in things other than scripting.
posted by drezdn at 11:47 AM on January 7, 2005

Give yourself a prize if you finish. Alternately, punish yourself for incompletion.
posted by ColdChef at 11:51 AM on January 7, 2005

You have to get a personality transplant.

Seriously, I would not suggest trying to suppress this desire to juggle projects; it's part of a certain personality type. Just make deals with yourself that you will do some of the less interesting work, and then the more interesting.

Have you taken the Myers-Briggs evaluation? It will tell you certain things you already know about yourself, but, as I found, re-characterize them as positives, rather than negatives. FYI, I'm an ENFP.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:53 AM on January 7, 2005

You ask this of MeFites?!?!?!!11!!111!!!?
posted by Doohickie at 12:11 PM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: I was an INFP.
posted by drezdn at 12:15 PM on January 7, 2005

Trick yourself. I find it nearly impossible these days to tackle a writing project if I think of it in those terms. But if I tell myself I'm just going to sit and write for a short period of time I can do that (and I usually go over time). The trick is to make that time commitment short enough that you'll actually do it. For me, now, that's 30 minutes.

I used to think that a writing block of less than 2 hours was worthless, but 30 minutes of writing is better than 2 hours of not writing (which is what I was doing before).

It's not that you have to "stay focused" on your original project, just that you have to return to it, and you're probably putting that off because it seems like a lot of work. So commit to a small work interval and see how far that takes you.

posted by zanni at 12:24 PM on January 7, 2005

Unplug the Interweb and get yourself a project hat.

When you wear the hat, you work on the project. Wear the hat every day.
posted by bshort at 12:25 PM on January 7, 2005

Yay! Project hat!
posted by metaculpa at 12:32 PM on January 7, 2005

The basic skeptical claim against the MBTI is that any conclusions made from the types are scientifically meaningless, since the claims lack falsifiability, which can cause confirmation bias in the interpretation of the results. It has also been argued that the terminology of the MBTI is so vague and complicated that it allows any kind of behavior to fit any personality type, resulting in the Forer effect, where an individual gives a high rating to a positive description that supposedly applies specifically to himself. Self-deception, a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and argument, may also play a role in any uncritical acceptance of MBTI's theory.
posted by orange clock at 12:34 PM on January 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

Paris and Zanni say what I'd say, mostly; Paris is right in that it's no good trying to ignore your strengths, but zanni's right in that you can strengthen your weak areas, and that the best way to do it is to not beat yourself up over it.

Put another way: Take a page from Suzuki method, and start with achievable goals (e.g., 30 minutes). Reward yourself in some small, not too interruptive way. Rinse, repeat.
posted by lodurr at 12:37 PM on January 7, 2005

I'm a bit like you in that I want to move on once I've got the interesting bits of something done. What works for me is to divide the remaining tasks for a project into parts that can be completed and then say "for each task I complete, I can then perhaps look a little into the new, exciting things". I guess it's kind of "the rewarding of met goals" others have mentioned, but I use working on the new things as my reward.
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 12:52 PM on January 7, 2005

Find a way to get somewhere (physically or virtually) where you have no distractions. It's amazing how much work I get done when I go somewhere with my laptop and leave my wireless card at home. Ideally, you should have only two choices in your new location: do what you've been putting off, or do nothing. Eventually, you'll do it.
posted by callmejay at 1:01 PM on January 7, 2005

For my projects (mostly software projects) I've always found getting someone else involved is key. Even if they are just testing/using what I'm working on, having someone else care about my work makes it a lot easier to do the boring drudgework that every project needs to go from neat idea to something worthwhile.
posted by aspo at 2:11 PM on January 7, 2005

Another trick (or two).

When my motivation flags on a project, it's often useful to talk it over with someone else (a meeting, if that's appropriate, or just a conversation with a friend). Not so much for anyone else's ideas but just to get the juices flowing. What got you turned on in the first place (to start it)? How great will it be when it's finished?

Also, as lodurr and theFlyingSquirrel said: subdivide. I've tried rewarding myself with things for completing a task, but nothing is as satisfying as putting a tickmark in box on my list of subtasks.
posted by zanni at 2:11 PM on January 7, 2005

I would say the problem is that you are not able to focus and finish projects outside of the elements that appeal most to you. You're a finicky worker who perhaps enjoys the writing part best, which may explain why the animation production end is lagging. I'm not saying you're lazy, just selectively enthusiastic, and things like writing obviously require a lot of work as well as enthusiasm. I second with the rest of those who said play to your strengths and maybe collaborate with someone who is passionate about animation?
posted by mrs.pants at 2:37 PM on January 7, 2005

INFJ here.

(I would wager that a larger portion of Mefites are NT's or NF's --people who felt like they didn't fit in high school, found out they were really special in college, became l337 haxx0rz after college)

I juggle my clients by music. Seriously, I have different music for different clients. I set one song on "repeat" (or just one or two songs) and listen to them over and over. It's like a metronome.
posted by Hands of Manos at 3:43 PM on January 7, 2005

Honest to Pete, this stuff truly does help me focus on my work. It's slightly bitter, which I actually like, but a tiny bit of honey takes the edge off. Anyway, this is the only substance I've found that actually somehow focuses my thoughts on the task at hand. Plus, now, I really like the taste of it.
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:04 PM on January 7, 2005

You sound like you enjoy the creative process, or at least certain stages of it, but you don't have much investment in the fruits of your labor. This is actually fine, imho, since the creative process is part of a healthy life, and can be stimulating and enlightening even if you never actually produce an end product to show to anyone else.

But if you want to actually complete an end product to show to someone else, I suggest you try to get hooked on the fruits of your labor, not just the process. If you derive pride from positive feedback, or just enjoy making other people think/smile/weep then you will have to follow through on your ideas. Half-finished projects don't do any of that for anyone.

So, I guess, in a nutshell, try to get yourself a taste of those fruits. Finish something, unveil it to the world, feel good about it. Then focus on making that feeling happen again.
posted by scarabic at 4:58 PM on January 7, 2005

Realize you have to get it done and do.

Honestly. Somehow time compresses, often, for me in this realization, but I complete the goal. Just do it. No magic rub, no powdered slope, just and uphill climb.
posted by sled at 6:05 PM on January 7, 2005

The most interesting part of any project is the beginning, the "wild enthusiasm" phase, when there is plenty of low fruit to pick. When you've been working on it for a while, though, it can get tough to finish because you get involved with other things and the next thing you
posted by Doohickie at 7:56 PM on January 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

I comfort myself with the knowledge that once I start doing what I think is going to be tedious work, unforeseen obstacles are inevitably going to arise, and the solutions to those are going to be interesting, so I'm not out of the woods yet. i.e. in your flash project, you *think* the story is complete, but there are problems that you won't notice until you move forward, and you've got to get to those while the work you've already done is still fresh in your mind.
posted by bingo at 7:30 PM on January 8, 2005

Patching your personal suck
posted by jacobsee at 10:35 PM on January 16, 2005

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