I’m a nerd, and one of my favorite things to do when I’m faced with a big project or a big goal is to map out a plan and work that plan until I accomplish it. I know, that’s some serious nerd alert there. So when it was finally time to re-record my entire online course, The InDesign Field Guide, I knew I needed a good plan.
This process could work for a lot of different types of projects, not just creating or re-recording an online course. I’ve used this same method to write my first book, launch new offerings (products or services), and create new programs.
But why did I decide to re-record my entire course in the first place? My course teaches creatives how to use Adobe InDesign for their business and I originally recorded it in 2016 on the CS6 version of InDesign, right before Adobe came out with their new Creative Cloud subscription option. Over the last 3 years, they’ve made several software updates and changes to the interface. I’ve made updates to the course videos as the changes are made to InDesign, but it was feeling a little pieced together in some places, and it felt like the right time to do a nice big overhaul and create a new + improved 2.0 version.
Before I dive into the nitty gritty of all that went into my process, let’s drop some stats for what I was up against:
Number of existing videos to re-record = 44
Number of new videos to add + record = 3
Total time of existing 44 videos = 8.5 hours
Average length of each video = 12 minutes
Total time to complete the project before the next launch = 8 weeks
8.5 hours of content may seem like a manageable amount to record in 8 weeks, but I have limited work time during the week thanks to my daughter’s preschool schedule, and I’m a team of one. I have a virtual assistant who helps with miscellaneous tasks, but I knew the bulk of the work would be on me alone. And I’m glad I gave myself more time than I thought I would need because I had LOTS of wrenches thrown into my perfect plan (I’ll get to those later).
Step 1 — Make a list.
The first thing I did was split my monstrous project into some general phases. Think big here, nothing super specific. For my course re-record project, I split it up like this: audit current videos, record new videos, edit new videos, upload new videos, replace old videos. Another example — when I was starting the process of writing my book, I split things into these phases: outlining, writing, editing, designing, launching.
Once I had a bird’s eye view, then I broke it out into more detailed chunks. For this project, it made sense to break it apart by lesson — audit lesson 1, record lesson 1, edit lesson 1, upload lesson 1, audit lesson 2, record lesson 2, edit lesson 2, upload lesson 2, etc.
And the last part of this step is to break it down one more level into very specific tasks. These are the tasks that will go onto your calendar later in our process. I broke it down like this for just lesson 1 — check old video outline, add new content, print video outline, prep video slides, record video 1, record video 2, record video 3, edit video 1, edit video 2, edit video 3, upload all 3 videos, then on to lesson 2, etc.
It depends on your specific project, but you may only need to break down your lists twice, and not three times like I did. The goal here is to keep getting more specific until you have the most practical steps listed out.
Step 2 — Time yourself.
Usually my next step is to dump all the specific tasks into my calendar, but I really wasn’t sure how long each step would take (mainly the recording and the editing), so I decided to time myself. I took just one video from my list of nearly 50, and timed myself to do just that one from start to finish. I found that the recording time was about 1.5 times the actual video play time / length (and I could go off my old video times to get an estimate of how long that video would be), and the editing took about 2-3 times the length of the video.
For example — Video A was 10 minutes long originally. It took me about 15 minutes or so to record the new version of it, and about 30 minutes to edit it. Add on maybe 15 more minutes for prep time, rewatching parts of the original video, and any other unexpected hiccups, and that gave me a nice, even 1 hour to do Video A, start to finish.
Now that I could better estimate my time with each video, I could have a more realistic way to dump out my tasks onto my calendar. Look through your list and see if there are any repeatable tasks that you can estimate your time on. If you know how long one task will take, you can do the math or have a simple formula to follow like I did to repeat that task throughout your process.
Step 3 — Schedule it out.
Now that I had some times attached to my tasks, I could start dropping my specific tasks into my calendar app of choice — Asana, duh! I went one lesson at a time, and created new tasks in Asana like this:
I found it easier to put general RECORD days on my calendar for each lesson (knowing I could only record Monday, Wednesday, Fridays – when my daughter is in preschool), and general EDIT days (knowing I can do that on Tuesdays + Thursdays when she’s home). Within each of those tasks, I broke it down a bit more into the specific tasks like the second image here.
Once I started recording, I found pretty quickly that the max I could record in one sitting before losing my mind was about 60 minutes. So I looked at my master list of videos + run times (shown below), and broke it all out into roughly 60 minute chunks or less. So there ended up being multiple record days and multiple edit days for lessons with more than 60 minutes of video (which was 3 of the 5 lessons!). It helped, too, to put the estimated time for each of those chunks of videos right into the Asana task so I could see at a glance my time chunks which made it easier to move things around when I needed to, as well as scheduling other parts of my life + business on the same calendar. Having these time estimations helped me see realistically how much I could get done in one day, one week, etc.
Other tips as you work your plan:
build in margin + buffer times
Leave some empty days or light days on your calendar, I promise they will fill up as you get to them! This helps you avoid burnout and gives you extra time if some tasks end up taking longer than you expected.
factor in all the other things going on
Consider other projects you’re working on, your day job if you have one, family schedules, when kids will be out of school, family in town, etc.
adjust your schedule as you go
After the first week, I made some adjustments to my schedule to help the following weeks + tasks more realistic. The editing time was taking me WAY longer than expected, so I spread things out a bit more to give myself the extra time for that. I wish that was my only hiccup! About halfway through the process (somewhere around the end of Lesson 3), I had some family emergencies come up and company stay at my house last minute, and I ended up with house guests for nearly the entire last half of the project. I could edit my heart out with someone else in my house, but recording got a lot trickier. I had to shift around my schedule almost on a daily basis at one point. But I’m so thankful I did the work upfront to see how long certain tasks would take me, it made dragging + dropping tasks around in Asana a lot more realistic and manageable. I ended up having to record all of Lesson 4 and 5 straight through, then go back to edit later due to a house that was rarely empty + quiet! So if you’re working a plan like this, make sure you’re okay with flexibility and moving things around on your calendar if life gets in the way.
So there you have it! A ginormous plan broken down into manageable tasks. As of today, I’m all done with the recording + editing + uploading, and just have the big task of switching out all the old content now. If you have a big project you’ve been putting off for awhile because you’re overwhelmed about where to start or how to approach it, try this 3 step system: Make a list, time yourself, and schedule it out. Take it in small chunks so it’s more manageable, and don’t be afraid to rearrange your tasks if you need to.
If you’re curious about other productivity tips + processes / systems I use, check out these posts:
How do you approach giant projects like this? Have you ever tried timing your tasks to help you schedule things out on your calendar? Am I way too nerdy for you, now?