I do this for my video work. After a day or two, my brain is refreshed and I start catching all these little mistakes that I made.
Why You Should Let Your Project Cool Off Before You Turn It in
Before you really dive into this article do me a favor. Open up your freelancing weapon of choice, whether it be a writing, designing, or development program. Go ahead, get it going (if it’s not already running in the background) and open up a recent or current project. I’ll wait…
Okay, now quickly hit the save button then open up your e-mail and fire off whatever work you have completed so far to yourself. Don’t stop. Don’t check your work. Just e-mail whatever you have so far. Please enjoy this process as much as you can, because if I have anything to do with it this will be the last time you ever get a chance to… ever!
Is this process a familiar one to you? Is this how you deliver projects to a client? If it is, then quit it! Stop it right now!
Look, I understand where you are coming from. You want to get your finished comps and final products out the door and to your clients as soon as possible, right? As a freelancer, it builds up your rep to have a quick turnaround. A quick turnaround is a great thing right? You get paid faster, clients get happy faster and life gets better faster!
Well, fast turnaround may not be as great as you think it is. Moving too fast can be a detriment to your reputation and your work, but maybe not entirely in the way you might think. In this post, I’ll explain the dangers of turning your work in too quickly.
The Two-Day Rule
For all of my design work I have a set rule for a project that reaches the finish line. That rule is to stop work and do nothing for two days. You don’t have to completely stop doing everything but do not, I repeat, DO NOT send this project off, work on this project, open the folder for this project, or even think about this project. Preferably the break time is two full days, but at least stop working on it for one day if you can’t do that.
Following the two-day rule will improve the quality of your output tremendously (and you don’t even have to put much effort into it).
As a professional you should always pass all of your work by your biggest critic first, which should be yourself. Unfortunately, you won’t always have the best project perspective looking from the inside out. In case you haven’t guessed it yet the worst time to critique your own project is right after you finish it. Bringing a finished product back up after two days of not thinking about it can provide a surprisingly fresh perspective.
Now, I know how stubborn you are and how difficult it can be to take the advice of others because even though you have been told to forget about this project for a few days I know you are going to keep working over the details of it in your head. You may do this intentionally or you may think about it subconsciously because even while you sleep your brain works over these problems for you. (Thanks brain!)
After Two Days…
Okay, you’ve behaved and not touched your project for two days… now what?
It’s been a few days now. You have now pretty much completely forgotten there even was a project. (Just kidding, please don’t really forget about the project.) What’s next?
Fire that bad boy (your freelancing tool) back up and let the sparks fly!
Do you have the feeling of “Oh project, I’ve missed you so much! Our time apart has only made you more beautiful?” Or, is your feeling more like “Oh project, our time apart has only made me realize that I just can’t handle your flaws?”
Just like magic your first reaction tells you that this is a good looking project and after maybe a tweak here and there it’s ready for feedback. Or, your reaction may tell you that you have a lot of upgrades you want to try. Either way you can now have confidence that you are producing your best work.
What’s the Point?
The point is to make sure that everything you produce is always top notch and as the talent behind it you can deliver with pride. Taking the time to step back and really review your work keeps you on top of your game and will prevent you from passing on something you aren’t entirely proud of.
This practice isn’t just to boost your own self-confidence either. Your confidence will be apparent to your clients when you make a presentation knowing that you are offering the best solution possible your clients will believe you.
Share Your Thoughts and Ideas
Have you tried this method before? How else do you go about making sure that the work you produce is always top notch?
Image by spree2010
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July 8th, 2010 at 8:41 am
July 8th, 2010 at 8:58 am
Definitely good advice – having a short break from the project can really change your perspective on it, and show up any flaws you missed before.
At the same time, it can also do the reverse – help you to see a project as a whole, rather than a collection of small details. You might find that the minor thing that was niggling you two days ago isn’t an issue after all, you were just overly fixated on it..
July 8th, 2010 at 9:01 am
Thanks for the sound advice, I use a development environment to test before moving to the live server.
July 8th, 2010 at 9:27 am
I definitely agree with this concept – of STEP AWAY from the work!
Take time out, come back to it later or if you have 2 days – and see how it looks with fresh eyes.
But I also agree with Kris that it can have the reverse effect – I’ve just presented a logo to a client – and had a few days in between design, when I came back to it I carried on with other versions that had been nagging at me – only to have the client love the first one I had started with…
July 8th, 2010 at 9:41 am
I love how this began. I even opened up my weapon of choice and sent the email to myself and everything. But then I stopped listening once I realized I’d need 2 days+ to go through this entire article this way.
Anyway it was a great article, full of great advice. I remember doing something like this once but I can’t remember exactly how long of a break I took in between.
isoJuly 8th, 2010 at 9:45 am
Good advice for designers, but not for coders.
July 8th, 2010 at 10:03 am
This is actually an article I enjoyed reading… very good job!
July 8th, 2010 at 10:14 am
I like to keep my stuff hot because it is more excitement to it
July 8th, 2010 at 10:29 am
Totally agree, let it sit for a day or so and look again. Great way to catch typos and make final layout tweaks. I do a similar thing with logos. I paste all my logo comps up on the studio wall before I end the day. First thing I do the next morning is to look at the ideas from yesterday – this helps a lot to eliminate the not so great ones quickly.
July 8th, 2010 at 11:15 am
This concept usually works really well for me if I’m developing code for a website and something isn’t working right… I try and try and try different ideas and if I get broken pages or a messed-up form I will try to “forget” about it for the rest of the day.
9 times out of 10 I will wake up the next day with fresh ideas on how to code in a different way to get the results I need. Your brain really DOES keep working, even after you go to sleep (sometimes even better since you don’t get in your brain’s way too!)
July 8th, 2010 at 1:20 pm
Whenever I am writing a blog article and have just finished working on it, I do get a temptation to immediately publish the blog post. However as per suggestions from a guest post on Copyblogger as well as from this blog post, we must allow at least a day to pass by and then review our work. It can be surprising how much we can improve on our work by keeping it aside for a day or two. Many of the flaws become quite clear and we find it much easier to fix them and create a better quality work.
So always when you create your work especially writing, let it remain for at least a day. Then come back to it and improve upon it. The quality will increase by a great level.
July 8th, 2010 at 1:50 pm
But clients are notorious at needing things urgently – I rarely have the opportunity of two days for putting my work to one side. Overnight, yes, but not two days.
July 8th, 2010 at 5:56 pm
I understand that you may need to get away from a project for a while to see it with fresh eyes, but if you hold on to a project for two extra days, you dedicate two extra days thinking and worrying about it.
It’s ok to sleep on it, but two days? No way.
So it goes…
July 9th, 2010 at 12:40 am
I started this habit 25+ years ago as a reporter. I would always let a major story sit overnight before turning it in. I just did it again tonight — wrote the first draft from 10 to 11:30 p.m. so I could let it sit overnight before reviewing it in the morning and meeting my deadline before my day gets too crazy.
Unless I’m backed against a deadline wall, I keep this habit for whatever work I’m doing: writing, photography, design. I don’t always have two days, but overnight works for me.
July 9th, 2010 at 1:38 am
I remember one of my co-writers who I worked with in the school publication who calls this, “fermenting the work”. Though this is excellent advice when upping the quality of your work, I find it difficult to do this. One because I usually edit my work right after completing it and two because I usually get revisions done pronto the moment the client has problems with it. Thankfully, I’ve received minimal needs for revisions so far.
July 9th, 2010 at 4:19 am
This is great advise! In the passed i have experienced work being sent back a number of times due to mistake that i missed or need upgrades. i have not yet tried this method but the email is sent and the work has stopped.
July 9th, 2010 at 4:25 am
Great Tips! I absolutely agree with you! It’s better to just don’t look at a design for a couple of days and then finish it off. I do that a lot for my private projects, at work on the other hand, it’s a bit difficult, because usually I don’t have those 2 days (most of the time I only have one day to finish a project :)). But if I do have the time it’s a good method to get another view on an existing work. As Clifford says, you will more likely find mistakes and little things that aren’t quite right yet.
July 9th, 2010 at 9:56 am
As a photographer, my clients come to me because I have a reputation for making people look beautiful. Sometimes that can mean pretty extensive retouching, which I tend to overdo. I have made it a habit to let my “finished work” sit for a least a day, at which time I almost always come back and dial it back to a more realistic image.
some guyJuly 9th, 2010 at 12:10 pm
hahahaha! …it would be nice to have the luxury of 2 days, but things on my desk have to be at the printers the same day. lol
July 9th, 2010 at 12:14 pm
Thank you so much for writing this post. I really enjoyed the advice and how you presented it! So glad I clicked on the link Tweeted by @DesignDepot to find it!
July 9th, 2010 at 12:18 pm
The Two-Day Rule could be 3-day or 4-day Rule.
I also practise it.
It is more than necessary, it is a MUST.
July 9th, 2010 at 1:00 pm
i’ve more recently started to let my designs sit for at least a day before reviewing them again and sending them off. not only has this helped me catch any little mistakes or rough edges that i may have originally missed, but coming back to the designs later on with a fresher perspective has definitely helped me to quickly identify any elements i’m not 100% on (but may have let by the night/day before) and then to make the necessary adjustments. as a result, my designs have been better and i also have more confidence when presenting them to clients.
thanks for the article!
July 15th, 2010 at 12:12 am
I do this with both my writing and music. Certainly pays dividends.
July 28th, 2010 at 11:48 am
This is a nice article! I think everybody want to have that break at the end of a project – but as i’m sure a lot of people will agree with me, its difficult to find the time – even more difficult to find a client that is happy with an extra 2 days on the project. But i am an advocate of this non the less! Thanks for posting!
October 30th, 2011 at 11:15 pm
I’ve been guilty of this and mistakes have been known to pile up. The client comes back and lists a few “stupid” mistakes that I probably would have noticed had I checked my work.
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