What are you delivering?

It is essential to ask yourself this sort of question, whether you are doing knowledge work or physical labor. Knowledge workers don’t often immediately create a physical product as a result of manual labor. Rather, their work is more “virtual.” Physical work generally results in something tangible. They both deliver something. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Knowing what you are delivering lets you know when you are done.

Some simplified examples of professionals and their deliverables:

  • Auto-body Mechanic/Technician - a fixed axle on a car, returned to the customer
  • Web Developer - optimized, valid (x)html files, uploaded to the server
  • Print Designer - high-res CMYK PDF, sent to printer
  • Marketing Coordinator - bulleted list of marketing mix strategy for next year
  • Novelist - 300 pages of manuscript

Now, art is a weird hybrid between manual labor and knowledge work. You can end up with a physical object like a sculpture. Or you can create something abstract like a song, experienced in the moment and described even more abstractly with coded marks on paper. Often enough, though, the final result reaches physical form somehow. The end product for poetry is likely to be some sort of bound volume with those poems in print. And music? Well, it can come in the form of a compact disc, a digital download, or a concert with concert-goers clapping their hands enthusiastically.

If you’re still with me, I realize you may be saying, “All right, Captian Obvious, it’s pretty plain that a painter will end up with a painting and a novelist will end up with a novel.” Right. But this kind of thinking will help you focus on your end product and not get sidetracked, as we artists are wont to do.

The bottom line is, this is outcome-based thinking. It helps you know when you’ve reached your goal because you were specific about it. You have created the promised deliverable, whether that promise was to yourself or someone else.