For most Creatives, managing time, energy, and sanity is a struggle. There is never enough time in the day or a long enough alarm snooze as we look to the week ahead. Creative departments are fast paced and require juggling workloads, competing demands, and balancing deadlines with a laundry list of deliverables, meetings, and process overhead demanding attention. Here are some strategies for conquering your schedule.
1. Be organized
Don’t spend hours looking for things. Start by organizing your files and using naming patterns so files are easy to identify and locate. And when a project is done archive those files. Save often, save file iterations separately, and backup files to avoid losing work.
2. Create shortcuts for common tasks
Utilize templates, style guides/pattern libraries, and automate tasks that are repeated often—like photo filters and file backups.
3. Track your time
Get familiar with how long certain tasks take so you can better estimate future tasks. Time your breaks so you don’t find yourself accidentally captive by Gawker for an hour in the middle of a busy day. Get intimately familiar with your time by never going back and guesstimating how you spent your day. This is made possible by using a tool that easily transfers from device to device.
4. Make time work for you
Are you a morning person who jumps out of bed bursting with brilliant ideas? Then work on tasks that require focus and insight in the morning. If you have better ideas in the afternoon, then work in the afternoon. The right time is the time where you are most productive. By pairing the type of tasks you do with your natural daily rhythms and by knowing when to step away and return to it later you will reduce hours of unproductive time in front of the computer screen each week.
5. Get the right information
A Creative’s job is to solve problems creatively right? Yes, but without a clear understanding of the problem and identifying project details and goals it is unlikely the result is going to be magic.
6. Be realistic about goals
There are limitations to what any one person can achieve in a given time period. You don’t have to end every week strung out if you are realistic about workloads and selective about additional work you agree to take on. The solution: Break large projects into smaller manageable tasks. Build in a little bit of padding to your schedule for emergencies. Group similar tasks to get necessary reviews completed at one time instead of eating up time with back and forth. Delegate tasks to other team members. Address changes in scope immediately. No when to say no to new requests.
7. Prioritize by urgency and importance
Have a strategic plan for your time, don’t just dive headfirst into something because a particular stakeholder is anxious to see it—especially if it is a time-consuming and low-impact task. Instead acknowledge all time-sensitive tasks, critical review points, and prioritize from there. Avoid missing multiple deadlines to make one, multitask where appropriate to stagger milestones, and revisit high risk projects regularly to keep them moving forward. Start tasks you dislike early and don’t wait till the last minute to do mundane tasks that can add up.
8. Take breaks and avoid burnout
Good design takes time and focus but working too many hours without a break is not healthy or sustainable. Just like Writer’s Block, the suffocation of not easily landing on the right solution is a real thing. Avoid spreading yourself too thin by taking on unsustainable workloads and the resulting unintended consequences—To non-creatives burnout could be interpreted as laziness or lack of commitment.
9. Know when to recreate the wheel, and when not to
Know what the deadlines support. If there is only two hours set aside for icons, stock will fit the scope when there is not enough time to create original artwork. The reality is that sometimes the budget or need makes repurposing existing assets and creative the quickest path to achieve the goals. Make sure the team is clear on these expectations from the start and that the commitment is referenced often to minimize unchecked scope change.
10. Ideation THEN Execution
Know what stage you are at in the process and make sure other team members and stakeholders do too. Beyond breaking up larger tasks, there is a time where all the ideas should be in and it’s time to execute. No designer wants a concept or requirement brought to the table a day before the design is due and usually the stakeholder isn’t too happy with the resulting time and money that rework requires.
11. Learn to say no
Constantly pushing yourself to “do it all” can have some ugly side effects, results in mistakes and as a result quality of work suffers. It’s not just the chronically overextended that have to learn to say no. A designer with a reputation for meeting deadlines and obligations will often feel guilty when required to push back on unrealistic expectations or negotiate an unmanageable workload. Get out in front of your schedule. Keep a watchful eye on commitments, communicate clearly and often, and be prepared to bring solutions for ways to get things done—especially in an Agile environment.
I hope some of these approaches prove to be useful in solving the ebb and flow of the creative environment and the demands that come with it. To learn more about the Pop Art approach to design, feel free to get in touch or check out some of our recent work.
Source: Old Pop Art Site