More on the Incomplete Project List


This article is the 4th in a series related to completion:

1. The Magic of Completion
2. A Quest for Completion – introducing a plan on how to get there
3. Creating an Incomplete Project List – it was harder than expected
4. More on the Incomplete Project List – categorizing, prioritizing and more – this post

More to come as I work through my plan for tackling my incomplete projects

1. Create a list of incomplete projects (spending about a week to do this)
2. Categorize them – complete vs. let go (I might have a “I’ll revisit this in a year” pile also but maybe not – I like to be clear and make decisions as it gives me momentum.)
3. Create and hold some type of ritual to let go of the projects that don’t make the cut.
4. Prioritize the projects I do want to complete
5. Work through the incomplete projects one at a time as the year goes by
6. Celebrate each completion

7. Repeat as needed when I feel my energy being drained – complete completion isn’t something I believe I will ever achieve, instead I think it is a process to be enjoyed (hence the celebration step).

The Backlog

In my day job, I work as a project manager for a large software team. To keep track of all of the work the team needs to complete, we create a long list of things that need done. This long list of things is called the backlog. It’s a todo list.

When the team finishes up their current work, they go to the backlog and get the next thing to do off of the list. Which indicates this list of items is kept in priority order, the most important thing at the top of the list.

The incomplete project list that I created the last few weeks for my art business is essentially part of my backlog – all the stuff I need to do for my art business. (The other part of my backlog for my art business are all the future projects I want to complete.)

I’ve made a decision to prioritize the unfinished projects at the top of my to do list for my art business and life. The goal being achieving some completion as too many projects have gone unfinished the last few years).


This week I went through my unfinished project list and categorized the incomplete projects. The choices were

1) complete this year
2) complete next year
3) toss it and forget about it
4) put it on my future project list and worry about it later

You can see my categorized list here: Incomplete Project List.

It was a fairly simple task to categorize this list. I had a pretty good idea of what I did and did not want to complete.

There was 1 item that required a bit more work, and that was dealing with my draft blog posts. I had to look through them all and decide which ones were worth keeping and which I could toss.

Most didn’t have much meat to them so I tossed them and added the topic to my ongoing blog post ideas list (which I maintain on as it is accessible anytime I’m online).


After deciding which projects I wanted to complete, I put them in priority order. So when it comes time to work on a some new art or a home project, I can just go to the list and take the first item from the top.

When prioritizing these items I considered several things:

1) Duration – How long will it take to complete. Putting a few of the quicker items at the top of the list makes for some fast completion and sets up good momentum.

2) The business value. Doing the most valuable things first is usually a good idea, leaving the less important stuff for later.

3) Resources required. Some times the resources required to complete a project aren’t yet ready. For example my come as you will be party requires that I have some landscaping in my yard and more importantly, a sidewalk up to my front door, before I throw the party. So this is put fairly low down my list as it will take a while for the landscaping to be completed.

Using my Incomplete Project List

In many time management disciplines, it is recommended that a single list to kept for all outstanding projects. I don’t do this. I like to organize my list into multiple lists as creating art isn’t the same thing as working on my house.

If I put those items on a single list and tried to prioritize them, I’d personally find it near impossible, as it is like comparing apples to oranges.

I make time each week for art, art business, personal and my home. I keep a separate todo list for each of these areas so when I complete a project in one area I can move on to the next item on that list. When I complete a piece of art, I don’t want to move on to organizing my basement, I want to make more art.

By having 1 project (and at most 2 projects) current in each of these areas, I can maintain some balance in the different areas of my life.

Not that each project will get equal attention at all times, but having something to work on in each area allows me to move each forward at a speed that is appropriate at that time.

For example, my current project list at the moment is:

Art: create new artwork to enter into a big international juried show
Art Business: planning for the fall and entering fall juried shows
Home: Landscaping my yard
Personal: Helping my son prepare to leave for college

At the moment the last item on the list is getting most of my attention, as my son leaves in just a few more days. Much shopping, packing, talking and soaking in as much time with him as possible is my priority. Once he his gone I’ll turn my attention to the other areas and a new project (the one at the top of my unfinished project list for personal).

Wrap Up

How do you manage your backlog of items you want to complete? Do you even have a list?

I invite you to become a fan of MakeBigArt on social media where I’ll be sharing additional tips and comments.
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In addition you can also find me here:

My Blog
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Lisa Call – Textile Paintings Fan Page


Thinking Big about Art

One thought on “More on the Incomplete Project List

  1. SusieR

    All terrific thoughts, inspiring me to make my own list. But categorizing… this one’s a tough process for me. I can’t seem to let go. I also can’t tell if I’m having difficulty because I really want to finish the project, or I have a problem with giving up (feeling that I’ve wasted time and money if I let it go and that I should suck it up and finish it – whether I want to or not). How do you decide?

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