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5 Ways to Become More Productive as a Designer or Business Owner

Bryan McAnulty - Thursday, October 28, 2010 |

Becoming more productive can help you get where you want to be with your business, but the answer to what you can do to become more productive usually isn't staring you in the face. We often get used to our workflow and make a habit of it. It takes effort to identify where bottlenecks are and to take action on improving your process to become more productive as a designer or business owner.

There are many different little things you can do to become more productive, ranging from meditation to exercising to learning how to speed read. We have outlined what we think are the five most important techniques that will have the greatest impact on your productivity as a designer or business owner. Following, reviewing and conditioning yourself to these five strategies will help you to optimize your workflow so that you can get more accomplished each day.

POTD 02/1/07 - Pulse of the city
Photo by: sparktography

1. Automate:

Don't spend time working on things that an application do on it's own. With computers and technology advancing so quickly there are more things that can be automated everyday. A few examples are simple repetitive tasks like file renaming, batch image cropping or resizing, hard drive backups, website backups, sending out reminders to clients and more.

Screenshot: Automator for Mac

You can get started with this by using tools like Automator for Mac, the actions palette in Adobe Photoshop, and Actions for Windows. Next time you are doing a simple task like this, think to yourself, do I really need to be doing this or can my computer do it for me?

2. Optimize Your Equipment:

Having the proper equipment is important for being productive as a designer and can make a huge difference in how much work you get finished each day. For example, if you do a lot of masking and drawing it probably makes sense to invest in a tablet which would allow you to complete tasks like these many times faster than with a mouse. Updating an outdated computer or adding a second or third display to your workflow can help tremendously too.

Photo by: DamnedNice

Upgrading your outdated equipment may seem expensive and not ideal, but if you can be two or three times more productive by doing so, then it is well worth it. You almost can't afford to not upgrade if you want to be able to grow your business beyond it's current state. When you are optimizing your equipment to remove large bottlenecks you are making a wise purchase that will have a large return on investment. The final benefit that an optimized work area and equipment provide is they can help you to have more fun. If you are having more fun you can be more relaxed and will want to spend more time working since you enjoy it more.

3. Get Things Done:

This may seem like a really obvious one, but many people don't spend enough time actually getting things done. Many times designers and business owners struggle to just complete the items that come up during the day and end up not really progressing on the tasks they need to work on to move forward.

Look at what you have been getting done and do not just what comes up during the day, but make sure you do something that advances you or makes your business grow each day.

Getting Things Done by David Allen is a great method and book for any freelance designer, developer or business owner. The principle is that a person should get tasks out of the mind by recording them somewhere. Once you have done that, the mind can stop thinking about everything that needs to be done and actually focus on doing it.

Screenshot: Things

Organize what you need to do for the day in a to-do application or on paper. Make sure that you have separate list of only the tasks that you need to complete for the day so that you focus on only what you need to do at the moment. To-do lists help to get everything out of our heads instead of trying to remember what can sometimes grow to be hundreds of different tasks. Finding what you enjoy and what fits your style best, whether it's an app or a moleskin notebook, is important and will help you stick to the process and make it part of your routine. I like using an app called "Things" by cultured code. It fits the GTD workflow well, I enjoy the interface and it has mobile apps so I can always write something down that I will need to do, no matter where I am when I think of it.

4. Know Where Your Time is Going:

One of the most common productivity issues is when designers don't realize how much of their time they are spending on things that they shouldn't be. There are a couple easy things that you can do to find out where your time is really being spent.

Rescuetime is a great web app that will track everything you do on your computer while you work. It then shows reports and graphs so you can see how much of your time is spent being productive and how much you are distracted. It does a good job of recognizing what applications or websites may be distracting based on what you input as your occupation and it can be further customized manually.

Screenshot: Rescuetime

There is another similar application called Slife automatically tracks where your time is spent on different programs and webpages. Like Rescuetime you can set goals for yourself within the app. It exists now as a web app, but there is also an open source desktop client available.

One final app, a desktop app called Concentrate will help you stay on task by preventing you from visiting certain distracting websites and applications. It will even set your instant messenger status to away to avoid incoming distractions.

Using apps like these can be very useful in letting you see where you are spending your time each day and then take action to really focus on what you need to. Oftentimes you may be surprised in how much time you spend on things you did not expect, like email, youtube or twitter.

5. Review What you Can Cut Out or Outsource:

Look at the things that aren't important and can be cut out of your daily workflow. Find where you can cut out, automate and outsource so that you can spend more time on what is important in your business, design. After you focus on seeing what you are actually doing with your hours each day it will become more apparent what can be cutout and isn't really getting you anywhere.

Photo by: Velora Studios

Outsourcing is another complex topic on it's own, but today it is more common than ever for freelancers, designers and small businesses to outsource some of their work part time so that they have more time to focus on the things they want to get done. Invoicing, email, support and research are just a few examples of things that a designer could outsource to become more productive and spend more time on their skills and what they enjoy, design.

Endnote: Almost everyone will have at least a few things they can adjust to become more productive. Think about what these things are for you and get started today. Each day continue to focus on making those changes and you will gradually adapt to your new more productive workflow.
Do you have a productivity tip to share? If you do leave a comment and let us know!

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Eko S commented on 31-Oct-2010 10:48 PM
Very useful tips, and helpful for me, because I am still struggling to be productive. Thanks...
Bryan commented on 01-Nov-2010 01:55 AM
Hey Eko. I'm glad that this post is helpful to you!
Hanz Ray commented on 08-Nov-2010 03:15 AM
Thank You for the tips. I'm having a hard time being productive because of the destruction around me.
Prakash commented on 01-Dec-2010 08:29 PM
Thank you so much for these tips which are very helpful to me. I agree that the tips you given were very useful for the Designers/Business owners. Will follow these tips to become more productive.

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