Raise your graphic design game with these time-saving, work-enhancing, output-boosting productivity tips from leading designers.
1. Spend time getting a full brief from the client
Rework is costly, unproductive and disheartening. Avoid it by taking extra care to ensure you fully understand the client’s objectives, preferences, desires and messaging. The time spent upfront will save time and frustration later.
2. Be proactive when choosing client relationships
Often, we know whether we are going to work well with a particular client or not. Don’t accept work from clients with whom you know it is going to be difficult to work – it may end up affecting your own professional reputation. If you feel you must, price the extra time you’ll need to manage the relationship into the equation.
3. Define daily and weekly success goals as well as project goals
Breaking a large task into a set of smaller deliverables will help with planning. And it can make the task seem less daunting. The sense of achievement you get from striking each job off the list makes this more than worthwhile.
4. Eat the Frog
If you start your day by completing the most stressful or difficult task on your to-do list, the surge of positivity you get from completing it can boost your energy and positivity for the rest of day. If necessary, come in early when the office is quiet and strike that job off your list before anyone else arrives at the office.
5. Dedicate your time without distraction
The digital distractions of daily life can be a real hindrance to the creative process. Designate blocks of time where you will switch off your phone and emails and concentrate solely on creative work. Studies show one to two-hour blocks followed by a twenty-minute break are ideal for optimum concentration.
6. Impose order
If you’re working with layers, be sure to name them intuitively. Similarly, in InDesign, take the time to define your styles. Yes, it can be time-consuming, but you know it will be worth it when you come back to work on those files later. It’s also kinder on your colleagues!
Similarly, organise your files and backups so you can find and share what you need to easily.
7. Creative block calls for a change of scenery
If you are struggling to make progress with one project, give yourself a complete break before coming back to it. Whether that means just randomly doodling, going for a walk around the block, or picking up a design book for inspiration, switch off completely for a moment.
8. Track your time
Use automated tools to track the time you spend on each project and for each client. It is easy to underestimate how long you spend on a project and having a clear understanding of what you’ve done when and for whom will make it easier to bill clients – and can help you price future jobs more accurately and profitably too.
9. End the day on a high – and a plan
Ending the day on a high – something that gives you a real sense of achievement – can be a great way to ensure you start work the next day from a good place. This might be something as simple as writing out your task list for the following day, so you know exactly what you need to do and what your priorities are.
10. Prepare for problems
While you plan, think about the problems and distractions that might hinder each task on your to-do list and formulate strategies for dealing with them in advance. This way, you can deal with and dismiss them more easily; forewarned is forearmed.
11. Collaborate and communicate
The myth of the artist as lone genius doesn’t work in an agency setting – or when you are working for a client. Communicate quickly and often. Being open to ideas and prepared to change direction will not only help to ensure a smooth-running client relationship, it can help you produce your best work.
12. Build a library of cheat sheets and tools
As you discover tools and develop processes for extracting a brief from your client or managing different aspects of your projects, create a library of useful tools, templates and documents so you don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel each time.
13. Think positively
Thinking positively helps to stimulate creativity. Look after yourself – schedule time for exercise, stay hydrated and eat well – to enhance your mood, concentration and creativity.
14. Establish boundaries
Failing to establish boundaries can lead to unrealistic expectations on the part of your clients and, ultimately, leave you feeling burnt out. As feelings of burn-out grown, your creativity will suffer – so draw clear boundaries from the start.
15. Take a sabbatical
New York designer Stefan Sagmeister closes down his agency and takes a sabbatical every seven years to ensure he remains connected with his creative impulses. Watch his TED talk on the subject here.
16. Learning is a lifelong process
Learning is a lifelong process and nowhere is this more true than in the field of graphic design. Staying updated about new trends and techniques is a vital part of the job – so make sure you make time to do so.
As with the rest of the items on this list, committing to lifelong learning isn’t just good for you – it’s good for your clients too. Find your course.