A Simple Checklist to Manage Your Creative Projects

Running a great creative project requires discipline.

You need a clear focus on the results (1).

You also have to anticipate what’s ahead of you–to know what you need to make happen and what could go wrong (2).

“Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success.”

— Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto

The following checklists are here to help you run your creative projects by (1) focusing on the results and (2) anticipating what’s going to happen.

1. Focus on the results of your creative projects

What’s the purpose of this project?

When someone hires your product or service, what are they hiring it to do?

Who is your audience, user, or customer? Who are you trying to change by doing this work? From what to what?

How will you know if it’s working?

Is this project worth it? Why?

What’s your vision of success? (Define the ideal.) What does good enough look like? (Spot the possible trade-offs for shipping faster.)

What does failure look like?

Plus it! List 10 things you could add that would improve your project.

Minus it! List 10 things you could subtract that would improve your project.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
― Abraham Lincoln

2. Plan to anticipate what’s ahead of you

List every task and event that needs to happen by when. Who will be owning each of these items?

Are there similar projects or proxies you can use as inspiration?

What’s going to be the difficult part? Spot the future pains. How much time and focus will you have to spend on the difficult part?

What part that is not under your control has to happen for this to work? (To what extent do you need to be lucky?)

How can you reduce the risks?

How much (time and money) is it going to take to find out if you’ve got a shot at this working out? What’s your burn rate for validating the opportunity?

What assets do you already own that you’ll be able to leverage?

What assets do you need to create or acquire?

After the project launches, what new assets will you now own?

Who can help you?

What gates will you have to get through? List every element of the project that needs to be settled, designed, or approved before you can ship.

Who are the key influencers and gatekeepers? Who is essential to your success?

This checklist has been inspired by my work at GoudronBlanc, and resources such as The Checklist Manifesto and The Ship It Journal.