The Small Design Studio with Big (Green) Plans
Emails, drafts, news, and music. Design is a complicated and busy profession – but there are some things that you can do as a designer to make life easier.
Think you could save 1 hour a day? What about 10 hours per project?
You might be surprised.
Here are a few little tips that might help you get started on saving time:
Oh how we used to love having my email client open at all times to see exactly when a new message hit the inbox. Those days are over, friends.
Cutting your email time down to twice a day is one of the best time-saving tips that we can offer. If you have a 24-hour guarantee like we do, that’s still within 24 hours of any point in time that somebody could send you an email. Amazing, isn’t it?
For extremely important issues, make sure your clients have your phone number, but let them know that phone calls are for emergencies only.
This one is tricky, as it can make your day very volatile. Basically, try to deal with everything in your day once.
This means that when you check your email, reply to all emails that need replies.
When you read your RSS Feeds, read each article that you find interesting, don’t bookmark it “for later.”
When you’re only dealing with everything once, you don’t have to worry about it later. When you don’t have to worry about it later, you’re less stressed and less scattered.
Essentially they’re the same thing, except a brain storm is usually done with a team.
We highly recommend having a sheet of paper ready at all times for inspiration, and especially when you’re speaking with a client, but we usually have a mind mapping application open (FreeMind) in the background at all times, too.
Being able to string thoughts out in an organic manner has been eye-opening. We hate lists, now (except for To-Do Lists, we still use those). We want to see how things relate, so we make mind maps.
Mind mapping as part of the design process definitely has perks, too. You can see very clearly how abstract ideas in a project can become related, giving rise to some interesting ideas at odd times.
People have been reading on the can for years, why not make it productive reading?
Keep your software training books in the bathroom. Maybe some cheat-sheets for software keyboard shortcuts or books about your profession in general.
This is all “stuff” that you’ll need to learn or refresh yourself on anyway. It also makes you more efficient at your profession since you’re learning “off the clock” during your waste(d) time.
Turn your “private time” into “productive time” too.
Your calendar should be mostly open – keep your scheduled appointments and due dates in your calendar, but don’t plan out the rest of your day so strictly – it’s important to stay fluid.
Keep a daily To-Do List for everything else – but don’t be overly-ambitious.
Our rule is to make a to-do list item for every available hour of our work day, even if the task will only take 5 minutes.
Example: Josh has two appointments and a deadline due tomorrow – this takes up 3 hours of his “scheduled” time, leaving 4 hours of his work day. Now he can make a To-Do List of 4 items:
The key is to fill your time without pushing yourself beyond your limits.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed on any project when the project is simply “Build A Web Site for Client Z.”
So break it down into smaller chunks, then do it again.
It’s important that your “then” doesn’t take too long or it will get in the way of productivity. Check out this article on Conditional Events for more ideas.
This is actually two quick tips in one, but they make a HUGE difference in your work output.
First up – use an RSS Reader to find your work for you.
Instead of browsing job boards every day, enter a search term into your favorite job board and see if there’s a feed for your results.
Having your job board deliver jobs matching your criteria into an RSS makes scanning the jobs quick.
Second – Get dressed for work every morning.
But…but…I’m a freelancer. So what? Getting “ready for work” every day gets you into a mindset that it’s time to work.
Go shower, get dressed, and look nice for your clients on Skype.
If so, let us know in the comments. Any little tips and tricks we can put to use around the office are great.