If you're lucky enough to be working without a deadline, you can take your time in the post-production process and spend days making all the little changes to make your project perfect. But even fast editors who know all the tricks often make some concessions in order to get their final edit in on time.
Prioritizing your edit workflow is extremely important to ensure that the project you submit is one you're proud of. The real trick is learning the difference between the quick touches that make big differences, and the time-consuming touches that casual viewers aren't even likely to notice. The first step in my workflow is to put together a rough cut. I pick out the best takes, ignoring any audio and video issues that may need some work. I put them is sequential order on the timeline, without worrying too much about the timing between the clips. This allows me to get a sense of the timing and length for the entire project. I like to do this as early as possible to ensure nothing needs to be re-shot, and that the final length of the project is on target.
Once the rough cut is done, I tighten up the edit and address the major, unacceptable issues first. This includes primary color correction of my clips, and covering up issues that can't be fixed. Next I eliminate the distracting audio issues. Finally, I make my way through the motion graphics for the project. I start by creating the basic look for the graphics, and then move on to all the lower thirds and full screens. I resist the temptation to create very complex graphics at this point in my workflow. Once I'm sure that all the graphics are in place and working in concert with the rest of the project, I'll fine tune my audio and add music.
At this point, even though there are improvements I'd like to make, the project is ready for submission. If I've budgeted my time properly, I'm able to use my remaining time to color grade my video, and make the graphic work really shine by adding all those little touches that I resisted taking the time for on the first go-around. I'm not sure if I've ever gotten the opportunity to make everything perfect on a project with a deadline. Using a smart workflow can really help you focus on the important fundamentals first, so you can let your creativity flow, when the time is right.