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5 Tips for Staying Productive as a Designer


Success never comes easy, and it never comes at all if you’re distracted. For designers – freelance designers, in particular – finding a peaceful, interruption-free zone is easier said than done. That’s why taking a few productivity precautions is essential.

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1. Be unavailable

It may sound counterproductive, but it isn’t. Being unavailable is arguably the best way to minimize distractions on the job. And by “unavailable,” we’re talking about signing out of email and social networks, turning off your phone, disabling all notifications, and, if possible, turning off Wi-Fi. Sound radical? It shouldn’t. If you can’t focus on a client’s logo redesign because you can’t keep away from Twitter, you understand this problem all too well. After seeing to all email and social media-related obligations at the beginning of your day, turn everything off and get to work. You can always respond to emails and phone calls when you’re finished.

2. Use great tools, but don’t obsess over them

All the latest cloud apps claim to boost productivity, but that’s only half true. If you spend a lot of time reading blog articles about the apps, fiddling with features, and downloading nearly identical apps “just to see what the differences are,” the tools aren’t really helping you. By all means use apps like Dropbox, BaseCamp, and Xero. But after you’ve chosen and configured the tools, be sure to use them only for productive purposes.

3. Use a CRM application

If you’re a freelancer, one tool you should probably be using is a simple, cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) application. CRM apps help you: • Keep up with clients and prospects • Log all communications • Organize contact information, and • Gauge your sales and marketing success. A good CRM app will help you keep up with contacts and assignments in a timely manner. It’s a way to stay organized – and better organization means better productivity.

4. Keep a time log

As a freelancer, time is your most valuable asset, and you need to make sure you spend it well. So, how do you really spend your workday? How many hours do you spend on client projects? On Facebook? Checking email? Starting Monday, begin logging every hour of your day. Use a time-tracking app like Toggl, and log your hours each day for a week, and then analyze the data on Friday afternoon The point is to find out how many hours behind your desk actually count as productive hours and to determine how you can add more of them to your day.

5. Learn how to say “no”

Even when you’ve got a lot going on, the prospect of adding more work to your schedule – and, in turn, more revenue to your bank account – is tempting. Just keep in mind that while pulling a 60-hour week may sound good for your bottom line, it’s probably not good for your health. And what isn’t good for your health isn’t good for your productivity. As painful as it might be, you need to say “no” sometimes. In addition to helping you maintain a productive schedule, you’ll enjoy less stress and greater peace of mind.

Author Bio Luke Clum is a graphic designer and developer from Seattle. Find him on Twitter @lukeclum

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