Useful Productivity Tips for Designers

Productivity and time management are really important elements of our work as web designers and developers. Today I would like to share some useful productivity techniques that work for me. I will also be sharing some tips from other designers.

Most of the listed tips can be applied for any creative person. Hopefully, you will find these tips to be useful and they will help you to save time and get more done. Please also share your own productivity tips in our comments below. We’d love to hear them and I know our other readers will find them useful.


1. Planning

Planning is certainly the best way to save time and be more productive. You have a lot of things to do, right? You start immediately thinking that in this way you’ll do everything faster and better. Wrong! You should spend some time on planning your priorities and then decide which work can wait. Personally, I use planning and sketching before every tutorial. First I create a simple sketch with my pen or pencil in my notebook, after that add more details, make corrections and voila! A lot of wasted hours designing and experimenting just on composition and visual details are saved!

2. Use To-Do lists

To-Do lists help to stay organized and focused on important things. It is also a great tool to remember things that you usually forget to do. I’m talking about small tasks such as phone calls, email replies etc. You can use a real post-it notes or virtual (for example hott notes).

3. Get rid of distractions

Sometimes it is really hard to start your work because of a lot of distractions that take your time and attention. If you really want to be productive and focused on work turn off Skype, TweetDeck (or other app that you’re using for Twitter). Also email and Facebook checking every 5 minutes are the biggest productivity enemies. Distraction can be your TV, radio, pet or even family. So find a place where you will be as productive as possible and start working.

4. Create a discipline

Create a realistic discipline and more importantly, try to work on it. For example, set a time to check your Facebook, Twitter and email accounts. Set time limits for reading blogs, news or other stuff that you like.

5. Do not work too much

Yes it sounds crazy but working less time you’ll be more productive and the quality of your work will be highest class. Don’t try to work 12-18 hours/day because in the end you will be slower, your minds will be somewhere out of work and what is most important quality of the work will be lower.

6. Work in short periods

I have read a lot of articles about productivity and time management. I really liked the Pomodoro technique or just 25 minute work technique. Just create a period of time 25 min, 30 min or 40 min and work. Just focus on work. Yes it’s hard, but later you’ll have a break, a cup of water or a fresh breath of air outside, isn’t it motivating?

7. Always focus on a single task

If you’re creating a business card, keep doing it, don’t try to write a blog post or code a website at the same time. First, quality will be low; second, you’ll lose focus; third, you’ll spend more time doing these tasks, because you spend few seconds switching from Photoshop to your text editor or blog dashboard on your browser, etc.

8. Think about your goals

Before starting the work, think about goals that excite you and motivate the most. For example, you want to go to Egypt for your next vacation so you think about the sun, pyramids, pharaohs. Now think about what it will take to get there and you’ll enter your working mood and will be more productive.

9. Listen to music

Music listening doesn’t always work for everyone. If you are the person who likes to listen music while working read on. The most important thing is that you should choose a genre that doesn’t distract you and doesn’t take your attention of the work. Music should help you to be more productive or creative. Personally I’m listening to a trance music with a low volume. Now is playing Dash Berlin with Cerf, Mitiska & Jaren – Man On The Run. Make sure to stay away from songs with a lot of lyrics you know if you are writing. You will get distracted by this.

10. Stay organized

You’re designer, developer, illustrator, or whatever, you use resources. Textures, fonts, icons, vectors, photos and all that stuff are somewhere in you hard disk. Every time you’re trying to find where they are you spend a lot of time. Create a few folders, for example: Design, Code, Graphics and place all the files to these folders. Don’t be too organized, don’t create too much folders because it’s not smart and you’ll spend seconds opening and closing these folders. These seconds become minutes and even hours in the long run. For example, you have ten unnecessary folders, you spend 0.5 seconds to open it and 0.5 to close it. If you use them daily: 10 folders x 0.5 sec x 2 x365=~1 hour/year just for opening the folders! Think about it.

11. Use Templates

Don’t try to reinvent a bicycle every time. If you’re a web designer, create an empty PSD template in common resolutions, add guidelines, grids, create groups and save this PSD for future projects. Think about how much time you spend every time doing mentioned tasks.

Let’s see what productivity techniques suggest other designers.

Edgaras Benediktavicius (@edgarascom)

You have to learn how to appoint your working time just for exact work you need. Set aside all other disturbing stuff like facebook, twitter, skype, msn etc. Do have a strict timetable for every task you make. Thus you will save your own expensive time and will keep your overall work on track. Have an often 10 min breaks every 45-60 min work.

One more often problem among people who work on computer – they just simply forget to eat. So include your regular eating time into your timetable.

Mike Lane (@mlane)

My best tip to maintain productivity is as follows: the absolutely most valuable way for me to stay productive is to schedule appropriate downtime. Time where one can be away from work entirely to recharge creative batteries, find new inspiration and engage in passive distraction. When I schedule a couple of days off … (especially as extensions to holidays), I find that my desire to get back to design increases exponentially, along with my inspiration and the quality of work. As creatives, we especially need to have time to disconnect and recharge as often as possible.

Shawn Borsky (@anthemcg)

Block out time sprints in which you shun all distractions ( Twitter, Facebook, People, etc.) You would be amazed how much you can get done if you just sit down and seriously focus for 2 hours. The pomodoro technique is very effective for this type of time management

Also, organize your layers AS YOU MAKE THEM. Seriously, this is more helpful than you think.

Michele Angeloro (@micheleangeloro)

Make a to-do list, it helps you save time.

Sri Ganesh.m (@animhut)

Music listening, clean environment. Don’t argue with parents or loved ones (it affect you mentally), take a walk.

Rich Perez (@imperez)

Plan out in a sketchbook and do some research before you even think about opening up PS.

sortofselective (@sortofselective)

Use instapaper to quickly clear out your browser tabs from the long lists of 5 tips that will save you etc. When you later use instapaper, its easier to ignore much of those articles and read the good stuff.
Also don’t make lists to do every step on your list but to get all that stuff out and away and move on with the stuff you really need to do :)

Josh Littlejohn (@joshlittlejohn)

I’m just going to expand on what Shawn Borsky (@anthemcg) said about layers, but my biggest time saver is organization in general.

Having well organized resource folders containing stock photos, icons, templates, organizing code snippets, etc. In the time that I’m not designing I am trying to better organize things so that when that next project deadline is bearing down on me I know where to go for what I need.

Roberto AlanĂ­s (@r_alanis)

Knowing the shortcuts AND adjusting the preferences of any application you’re using.

John Rocela (@jmrocela)

If you have the cash. Go with multiple monitors. Organize your workspace then.

Images credits: Peter Lindberg and Arsene.

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