25 Ways to be More Productive as a Designer

Articles October 1, 2008

The truth is no one is perfect and no one will ever be perfect, but life is all about improving yourself and being as productive as possible with the precious time you are given. Work often consume our lives, but if we can become more productive at work and adopt good habits, our personal lives, in theory should improve as well.

This list was created to help inspire you to make the most of your work days, become more involved in your career and be a healthier and more productive designer and person. Feel free to add your own suggestions for being a more productive designer to the list below.

25 Ways to be More Productive as a Designer

1. Make the most of your commute

If you have a long commute try making the most of your time. Read a book, get a laptop to start work ahead of time or plan out your day.

2. Keep a task list

Keeping a task list will ensure you remember everything you need to do. Organize your task list by importance and cross things out as you accomplish them, but accept the fact your task list will probably never end.

3. Become familiar with Adobe suite keyboard shortcuts

Learning essential keyboards shortcuts for programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator can actually end up saving you many hours in the long run.

4. Keep your computer software up to date, virus and spyware free

Since designers use computers on a daily basis, it is important to make sure they are running at their peak performance, so be sure to patch up your computer at least once a week.

5. Seek out sources of design inspiration

Inspiration is a huge part of any artistic career and there are plenty of places to find inspiration such as design shows, museums, online portfolios and graphic design galleries.

6. Become more involved in the design community

Joining design forums, commenting on blogs, writing articles and speaking at seminars are just a few of the ways to become more involved in the design community.

7. Go to design events, shows and learning seminars

Each year there are many design conferences, events and training seminars. If you work for a company they may even pay for you to go, so you can keep your skills sharp and network!

8. Read books on design history and theory

The number of books out on design are astonishing, so pick a topic that interests you such as design theory and get a few books to read in your spare time. One great book is “How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul”.

9. Read interviews on other graphic designers

Interviews are often extremely insightful and reveal many secrets and great tips about other successful designers. Its amazing how much you can learn from even the shortest of interviews.

10. Join graphic design organizations

Joining graphic design organizations can have many benefits and is a great way to get access to resources and network. The Graphic Artists Guild and AIGA are just a few of the organizations you should consider joining.

11. Learn to accept constructive criticism

This is a common issue with many design students and even professionals. The sooner you stop taking constructive criticism personally the sooner you will be able to improve as a designer.

12. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you don’t know how to do something, don’t waste time pretending you do. Kindly ask some one for help so you can get on the right track sooner.

13. Learn to outsource work and tasks to others

If you bit off more than you chew its often a better idea to outsource work to some one you trust then to stress yourself to death. The final project will often turn out better if you work as a team and delegate tasks to others.

14. Use Google Reader and follow design blogs

Google Reader is a great online RSS reader that will allow you to easily follow all your favorite design blogs.

15. Use Google Calendar to keep track of important events

Google Calendar is an awesome free piec eof calendar software to help your organize all your important events.

16. Set your email client to check for new emails less often

Checking emails every 5 minutes can be very distracting. If you check at set times you will get a lot more work done each day.

17. Create standard contracts ahead of time for clients

Its a good idea to have a lawyer help you create a set of standard contracts ahead of time so you are prepared ahead of time and don’t have to worry or waste time having contracts created later.

18. Create a standard invoice and estimate template

Having a nicely designed invoice and estimate template is professional and can be customized easily for any new client. be sure to print copies for yourself for filing purposes so you can refer back if needed.

19. Create mailing labels

Typing for so many years has really degraded my hand writing and having pre-made mailing labels not only takes care of my ugly handwriting, but it also saves time.

20. Organize all your paperwork once a week

Nowadays the paperwork can pile up fast and if you let it go, getting it back under control can be a nightmare. use folders in a file cabinet that are labeled to organize all your important papers.

21. Organize your computer files once a week

Organizing your computer files i arguably even more important then organizing your paperwork. You should have a folder and sub folders for each client and create backups of your files every day on multiple external devices.

22. Develop a standard computer file labeling system

Labeling your files in a specific way will make it much easier for you to navigate and search for files when you need them quickly.

23. Try to keep your weekends work free and relax

its easy to get consumed with work and keeping your weekends work-free is a good way to ensure you won’t burn out or have a meltdown. So don’t forget to enjoy life on the weekends!

24. Exercise on a regular basis and go out for fresh air at lunch

This one always makes it into the productivity lists, yet many people still don’t do it. It can be difficult to fit in, but even 20 minutes of exercise 3 times a week can make a large impact in your overall health.

25. Do hand exercise every few hours to help combat carpal tunnel syndrome

Using the keyboard 8 hours a day for years on end is an easy way to mess up your hands, so doing hand exercises a few times a day can go a long way in preventing potential long-term damage.

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Cadence is You The Designer's senior blogger, and the most jack-of-all-trades of the staff. She's always trying out something different every day, some of which fuels her posts here on the blog. Let her know if you want us to post more about your favorite topic - she might know more than a thing or two about it!

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  • http://www.loriskumo.com Kumo

    Great !! But “Try to keep your weekends work free and relax” won’t be easy…

    What if my work is my hobby ?! :-D

  • http://www.jonathanpatterson.com Jonathan

    Number 11 is key. I have finally learned that when people critique my work, they are doing it to make me/the work better. Sometimes you will get people who just want to see you fail or hate that you are a better designer than them but those are few and far between (just make sure you know the difference.)

  • http://www.mdunkle.com/ Dunkle

    Great article. I’m sure we can all benefit from keeping these tips in mind.

  • Danny Tatom

    These are some great tips, but does anyone have any other tips or articles on creating your invoices and contracts? :x

  • DIANE

    in the spirit of #12, can someone point me to a VERY basic page on website forms? I think I have my head around CSS, basic HTML, but I can’t seem to find a site that is simple enough for me to understand how to gather that date from forms!

  • http://www.johnjoubert.com John Joubert

    Nice post! I quite liked the last one about the hand exercises :)

  • http://http//www.absolutecovers.com Ovi Dogar

    Hey Gino,

    Very useful and interesting article, so keep up the great work! ;)

    Ovi Dogar
    AbsoluteCovers.com

  • http://www.techzilo.com Sumesh

    Nice tips – I have been personally struggling to improve my productivity as a designer.

    These tips should come handy – stumbled and bookmarked.

  • http://blog.TamaroDesign.com ptamaro

    Great list… I think it’s simple and more efficient to try and be organized and stay on top of things once you get into the habit of doing so. I try to do one “best practice” or item on the list every day – and over time it gets easier.

  • Gino

    I’m glad you all enjoyed the article, thanks for the comments!

    Here is a link to an AIGA resource that has some standard agreements:

    http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/standard-agreement

    In terms of invoices and estimates you should be able to Google up some basic stuff.

  • http://www.inspiredology.com Chad

    Good post… don’t know if I agree with #1… this is why there are so many bad drivers on the road….I understand if you are taking a bus or train to commute then yes use this time.. but if you are driving dont do this… there are many ppl that read, look at their laptop, shave, eat cereal…its crazy…

  • Tim Smith

    Thanks. Really helpful info. I gotta work on all 25!

  • http://www.1stwebdesigner.com Dainis Graveris

    Really valuable roundup.. I enjoyed it and my best way how to keep up with community is to read blogs and write articles..and totally agree, interviews are very valuable!!

  • Angel

    Thanks once again!! Great article [especially for a student like me ... :)]

  • http://www.twosocks.com.au graphic design

    #26 uninstall computer games…such the time waster!

  • http://cattya.com Cattya

    I think there’s something important missing:

    26. Save changes often.

  • http://www.firebubbledesign.com Logo Design Online

    I certainly agree with point number two about keeping a task list as this is a really good way of getting all the little bits done that need doing and is a good way of measuring progress. Thanks for the excellent post.

  • Gino

    I like the additions to the list, saving often is such an important habit I prob save every 5 minutes.

    Yeah I def didnt mean working while driving haha, I should have made it more clear I meant like, trains and buses.

  • cary

    As a graphic design major (freshman), this list is great. I can’t wait to be able to implement these tips once I get a job. Awesome job!

  • http://www.jadgraphics.net Jad Graphics

    Wow! These tips are so helpful. I really need to start applying some of these, as I am aspiring to become a great graphic and web designer. I believe that by applying these, it would take my freelance web design business to the next level. http://www.jadgraphics.net

  • http://www.kaaliss.com kaaliss

    i agree with all of this… but!
    i’d go for netvibes more than google readers.
    Am i loosing something Greader have that netvibes doesn’t?

  • http://laurasbasicstowebdesign.com/webdesignblog Laura

    Great Article!!!

    I like #16 I finally did stop checking email as frequently as I use to and have found I am getting so much more done!

    These steps are a must no matter what type of business you run really. You should always have a guide of tips/lists you follow!

    Thanks for the great article keep it up
    Laura

  • http://www.fullmoondesigngroup.com Vicky

    I agree with #2 but what if writing a task list is a task itself?!

    #11 is great. I’ve work with some designers in the past who can’t stand criticism. I feel this hinders the creative process. Always good to get other subjective opinions!

  • http://www.behance.net/chriisz Christian Castañeda

    wow, very nice post. really nice tips.

  • http://www.outlawdesignblog.com Outlaw Design Blog

    Number one is great. I use this time to catchup on my podcasts and books on tape.

  • http://www.netage.co.za Jason Marsh – Web Site Designer

    Great list and nice and packed, every point valid, he he just point #1 that amuses me.. I can see myself driving an hour and a half through traffic reading a book..

  • http://www.bradstrickland.com brad strickland | bradstrickland.com

    Many very helpful and insightful tips.

  • http://skindeepdarlington.co.uk Ian

    Of course, don’t try #1 if you drive to work.

    On a serious note, excellent and very valuable tips. I’ll have to learn to stick to #21 a bit better though.

  • Cameron

    Excellent. Thank you very much.
    I’ll definately make sure to try the hand exercises, you’ve got a great point there.

  • baker

    thanx, very helpful tips

  • http://lazyache.com ghostmeat

    One more tip for combating carpel tunnel: alternative input devices. My hand cramps have been elliminated by switching to a trackball and wacom. Its worth the inventment in money and time (learning curve) to make sure your hands love you long time.

  • http://www.logo-designer.org.uk Logo Designer

    Thanks for the tips, excellent advice most appreciated.

  • Knievel

    Great article
    My constructive criticism: Take out these ***** google ads!
    There are some open source tools out there so you don’t have to share more information about yourself and your behaviour than necessary

  • http://www.danhbaweb20.com/?p=51 Danh ba web 2.0

    Thanks for share. Great tutorial.
    Keep up the good work !

  • Glacet

    25. Do hand exercise every few hours to help combat carpal tunnel syndrome

    You can also use a better keybord configuration like dvorak inspired one : http://alec-longstreth.com/dvzine/TheDvorakZine.pdf

  • http://www.tedormimos.com/ Colchones

    Great article. I’m sure we can all benefit from keeping these tips in mind.

  • http://www.artificialstudio.com heinrich

    If I had to add something to this list it would definitely be to MAKE time for tutorials. There awesome tutorials sites out there and by doing a tutorial you always learn something new. Sometimes they share keyboard shortcuts and other things you never knew about Photoshop or other software. Some people say its a waste of time, but in my opinion it cant be! It’s the best free educational resource out there for any designer!

  • http://dennstuff.blogspot.com/ Dennise

    Great list! Thanks for the inspiration and bust to get up and keep designing.

  • Kendell

    this list was very insightful thanks alot.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk Victoria Blount

    Great tips, some of which i was surprised to find i already do, and the rest i will work on. As a new starter into web design, learning keyboard shortcut, asking for help, taking constructive criticism are all instrumental in my progress, but another point would definitely be do tutorials.

  • http://www.creativehat.co.uk web design norwich

    Good article, the more productive a designer can be; the more money that can be made!