Time Management Tips for the Wired Designer

I have been asked by a few readers how I manage to do so much. Actually I do have a lot on my plate and actually don’t get too much done!
But seriously these days balancing between being a stay home Dad and running my team off site, really needs a lot of discipline and using these tested time management strategies I have found that helps me get things done.

Leverage on technology

It is the sole responsibility of the internet and technology that things like product development and industrial design all move at such a fast pace. Frankly if you do not keep up with the technology, you will get left behind. Other people more well versed in the advantages of technology will get ahead because they do things quicker. Its as simple as that.
Therefore get yourself a good 3G phone to communicate via email or sms text message, Skype for talking to people around the world, and a damn good laptop for doing work on the run. Also do learn to use some sort of PIM or personal information manager to track your digital life. The PIM tools like Outlook (not email though), Palm Desktop, 37 Signal’s Basecamp, or Google Labs are all software sophisticated enough to have tools for multi-user collaboration, organizing of schedules and meetings, and tracking of how things get done.

Day or Night?

Have you hear about the term morning people? Well you need to figure out if you are a morning person or a night one. This is not only about knowing when to work, but also knowing the best time for you to concentrate on the job at hand and getting it done.
I know I’m not a morning person and thus always organize meetings after 10.30 am, also I have found that I do my best design work at night, when I’m most alert and clear headed. Finding your critical time could up your efficiency!

Use an alarm clock

Typical designers are always late because they can never wake up. Come on admit it! That’s right people need that extra hour, well you need to party less hard the night before and wake up an hour earlier. Well sleep and hour later also works, note the previous point before you decide.

Prioritize your work

Often people have a bad habit of doing everything else but the most important. Such warming up activities need to be kept to a minimum. For example, I know of designers who clear up their desk before they start sketching.
Also you need to organize and prioritize your work to determine which tasks are the most important. You know which it is as it’s the one that’s most difficult of the one you don’t want to do. Another way to decide when you are faced with a task dilemma, ask yourself if it has to be done now, if so its high priority other wise its not.

Be prepared and be an opportunist

There are many names for this, and the best I’ve read calls it “Dead Time”. Its that time standing in line for tickets, waiting for a bus, sitting at the departure lounge, it’s time that can be killed.
So be prepared, have a notebook, that elusive business novel, your PDA, and for designers your sketchbook. Use this time to get work done, clear emails (3G phone?), or brainstorm that design sketch. Audio books make that iPod into a much better time management tool. In fact this post was drafted while minding my sleeping son when my wife was shopping for groceries.

Quit surfing for Porn

What else would you use broad band for? For work perhaps? Actually surfing for Porn, or playing World of Warcraft or other “time suck” activities like Soduku, eat away your time that could be better spend doing and getting things done. Sorry but this also includes going our and partying less.

Do a weekly plan

This perhaps is the most important tip and strategy I use in getting things done. Every Monday I list out either mentally or on a To-Do list on your PIM all the things you would like to achieve that week. Write them out and keep them handy.
Then on Friday do a week end review on what you have and have not done. Check them off your to-do list. Those that you failed to complete, analyze why, and then include them in the following Monday’s planning session.
A quick word of advice please be realistic and don’t bite off more you can chew. Create project milestones with long term objectives and use that to keep you inline in your weekly plans. It takes some practice to get use to this system. If you have to, use your PIM to remind you to do your Friday review, after awhile you would find you would look forward to that Friday review as you can feel a sense of satisfaction when you check all the activities off.

Conclusion

Regardless of all the time management tips I or any one else can give you, if you find you are working more that 60-80 hours a week, (day and night for all you multi-taskers) you are working too much. It’s then a good idea to cut back to prevent yourself running the risk of getting burnt out. It happened to me and I can tell you it’s not a nice feeling. The best way to find out the hours is to keep a work diary, and log in the time spent on all your activities in that day.
All the best and good luck in your goal of getting things done!

2 Comments
  • Donna Vitan - Freelance Designer

    January 15, 2007 at 12:49 pm Reply

    Hilarious Look At A Designer’s Time Management Strategies…
    I am always on the look out for a time management system that will work for me. Getting organized with my own time management has been and continue to be a battle for me. I find myself writing down hours I’ve spent on a project in a notebook, not…

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