16 Productivity Tips Every Designer Needs to Know

By on Aug 12, 2016 in Business
16 Productivity Tips Every Designer Needs to Know

Staying productive can be difficult for everyone—there are so many things in the world that seem to be made just to help you procrastinate. But when you’re working in an industry ruled by deadlines and creativity, staying focused becomes an integral part of getting your job done properly.

For designers, productivity is essential. You need to be able to brainstorm and ideate concepts, troubleshoot problems, keep your online portfolio up to date and finish your projects on time and on budget. These 16 tips, just for designers, can help you boost your productivity and stay focused during your workday.

1. Create habits

Initially, it is easy to see “habits” as something that deters you from your creative endeavors. But if you focus on the right kinds of habits to help make your life run smoothly and open up more time for creative activities, sustaining your habits could actually have a positive effect on your work.

Chose behaviors that will help you focus on your creative work and make a commitment to stick to them for two months—the average time it takes to form a habit. Once you’ve created a good habit, you’ll see it’s just as hard to break as a bad one!

2. Make a list

A good, old-fashioned to-do list can work wonders for your productivity. Whether you are a pen and paper kind of person or you prefer to keep your lists online, lists can help you map out what you need to do and prioritize each task. You can make multiple lists—think one per project—or you can work from a master list that you reference every day to decide what you’ll complete that day.

3. Learn the shortcuts

If you haven’t already memorized keyboard shortcuts, you’re in for a real treat. This may be one of the simplest ways to squeeze out a bit of extra time in your day. Use Command-Tab to switch between actively run apps on your Mac or Command-Shift-3 to take a screenshot of your entire screen. Even better, create your own keyboard shortcuts for Photoshop to save even more time.

4. Track your time

If you’re prone to spending more than a few hours a day on social media, watching YouTube videos or stuck in a Reddit hole, tracking your time can help you reclaim some of it. It’s also a great way to ensure you are billing correctly for your creative work.

There are tons of great apps that will help you schedule your hours and track your work. Check out Timely and Everhour for inexpensive solutions to keep your time management on track.

5. Check in daily

As a designer, it’s more than likely that you have become a master of multitasking—on any given day you can be found juggling multiple projects with ease. But with all those projects in the air, it’s important to set out some time each day to project manage. Set aside 15-30 minutes each morning to go over your tasks for the week to ensure you’re on the right track.

6. Take a break

Spending eight to ten hours sitting in front of a screen every day is a perfect way to destroy your productivity. Make sure to schedule in regular breaks during your day. Even five minutes to go for a walk, grab a coffee, or to read the newspaper will help you reset your brain and come back to your work newly focused.

7. Be heard

When working on a design project with a client or team, share your opinions early and often in the process. To succeed, a design team needs to be flexible and welcome to change so make sure your voice is being heard.

8. Disconnect

This one might sound a bit terrifying but if you’re having trouble focusing on the task at hand, eliminate the biggest distraction—the Internet. Shut off your Wi-Fi, or turn off the apps that are draining your time and watch your productivity soar.

9. Listen to music

From heavy metal to classical jazz, finding the right music can set the tone for your workday. Find something that you enjoy that also allows you to concentrate on your work. Music should help you focus, not distract you from your work.

10. Start small

If you’re stuck in a design rut, take a step back and think about the smallest first step you could take on the project. By scaling back your process and finding the simplest solution, you can refocus and productively move forward.

11. Work by the clock

Working towards a deadline can be stressful and for some, brings out their worst procrastination tendencies. Force yourself to focus for a set amount of time without any distractions. Set a timer for a few hours and put 100% of your attention to your designs during that time. After the timer goes off, give yourself a break before you set your next timer and start again.

12. Write it down

Whether your ideas come to you in words or images, write them down. Keep a notebook or sketchbook with you at all times—this way no matter when inspiration strikes, you’ll be ready to capture the idea and keep your head clear.

13. Look on the bright side

Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping yourself in a positive frame of mind.

When you find yourself faced with a problem or situation that seems unsolvable, remember there is no such thing as an unfixable issue. Optimism will not only make you a happier person in general, it will also help you approach problems productively and save you time in the long run.

14. Focus on the organized part of “organized chaos”

Organized chaos is how a lot of us would describe our work areas—paper, pens, notebooks and coffee cups abound, but it’s all organized, right?

Save yourself some time and distraction by tidying up your workspace and your desktop. Close the 500 tabs open on your browser and clear off the dozens of downloads and images cluttering up your home screen.

15. Give yourself permission to relax

It can be hard to walk away from your work, but as a designer it’s important to remain innovative. Spend some time working on a personal project, visit an art gallery, go on a hike or read a book—keep your mind agile and alert by engaging in other creative endeavors and you’ll see the benefits in your work, as well as your mental well-being.

16. Take advice with a grain of salt

Not all advice works for everyone and this goes for the previous 15 tips, too. Don’t let the pressure of a prescribed way of working become destructive to your creative process.

Not every designer works in the same way and not every designer will use the same methods to work efficiently. Assess each of these tips and find out which ones work best for you. If you find they are causing you more stress or they simply aren’t saving you time, leave them behind.

Format is a portfolio website platform that caters to tens of thousands of creative professionals. Photographers, illustrators, designers and artists in over 140 countries use Format to showcase their work online and grow their careers.

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