Whether you work in a corporate office, small production house, or as a freelance designer, chances are you have a lot to do. As designers, we many times have multiple projects to work on, clients to find, bills to manage, research to do, meetings to go to, and more. If we aren’t careful, time can get away from us and we can find ourselves not accomplishing all that we hope to during the day. This article is a collection of time-management suggestions that are especially applicable to designers. Please feel free to add more to the list.
Plan out each day’s activities & stick to the plan
Every evening before leaving the office or every morning before starting the work day, make a plan. Set aside a specific amount of time for each activity to have to accomplish. Then stick to your plan. As you plan each day, be sure to fill each time slot with one meaningful activity and one backup plan. That way, if your original plans fall through for some reason, you don’t have to waste time finding something else to do. This will help you divide up your day and accomplish each task you need to.
Always have at least two major projects going at one time
While it’s not always possible, try to always have more than one major project on your schedule at one time. That way, when you are waiting for approval or feedback from one client, you can work on another project. This helps you avoid time “sitting around” and waiting on others to get something accomplished. If you freelance, go the extra mile to find another major client in order to keep your plate full. If you work in an office, ask your manager if you can have another account to keep you busy at all times. This will make you more productive and efficient.
Take the time you need to do a quality job
While it may take longer to do a good job in the first place, it is always better to go the extra mile in your original design than to cause extra client meetings, phone calls, and design time by getting it wrong the first time. As you take a little extra time to minimize errors, you will find projects get done quicker and more eficiently.
Force yourself to do the projects you hate first
When you are planning out your day, don’t wait til the last minute to do the projects you dislike the most. Find an even balance between “fun” projects and mundane projects and try to do the projects you aren’t looking forward to first. After they are out of the way, you will have more time to the projects you are looking forward to without the guilt of an unfinished project in the back of your mind.
Learn where you are wasting time and avoid those activities
There are a lot of things that waste our time without us even realizing it. Take for instance, email. Consider checking your email only once or twice a day. Inform your clients that you will be checking your email every morning upon arriving at the office. If they need more frequent contact, offer a telephone number or skype account option. Checking your email, as well as minimalizing activity on social media, blog reading, and more, will cut down on wasted time and you will be amazed at the work you can get done.
Break down large projects into smaller more manageable tasks
It can be overwhelming when a client comes to you and proposes you begin work on a new branding project accompanied with print collateral, a web site, and social media campaign. Sit down with your clients (or your creative director) and make sub-deadlines. This will not only help you manage the project more easily, but will also bolster creativity, limit stress, and provide an effective way to manage progress.
Get away and do something else
You might get stuck in a creative jam or simply wear out your body on a project. When this happens, get out and do something active. Run, bike, play tennis, or even just get outside, go to the theatre, etc. Anything that will help you get your mind off of the project will make you a much more effective designer when you decide to start up on the project again. (Granted, this is a little more easy for freelance designers, but some agencies or firms will let you take a break in the middle of the day just to help keep the creative juices flowing.
Find the right time for the right activity
Try out different routines. If you design better in the morning and research better in the afternoon, try that for a while. If you work better early in the morning, wake up earlier. If your best ideas come to you late at night, try the opposite. Whatever time of day your brain prefers, figure out what it is and give it a try. You might find your work going faster and turning out better.
Find your own creative ways to save time and be more efficient
There are plenty of other ways to save small amounts of time that really add up. Learn to type faster, get a wacom tablet, upgrade your computer, organize your files, learn computer keystrokes, and more.
What else would you add to the list of time management tips for graphic and web designers?
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