The Designer’s Dilemma: Efficiency

by Jonathan Longnecker

Efficiency. The word that strikes fear in the heart of designers everywhere. Somehow along the way to becoming our artsy selves, we’ve managed to throw all structure out the window. “We’re above that sort of thing; we’re creatives!” we say.

It’s ok, we’ve all been there. I know it started with good intentions: we knew if we had a little more time or a change of scenery, it could make the difference between something good and something amazing. But then somehow it turned into an excuse to take longer to finish things. And an excuse to take longer breaks more often. And before you know it, we’re taking twice as long to finish projects, but they’re not anymore awesome than before. What happened!?

Well genius, you forgot to design your day. Worse yet, you forgot to design the way you work. We don’t generally think of it this way, but it’s time we start. Here’s a few quick tips to get you going. The rest will be up to you because design is all about solving your specific problems, right? Yeah that’s right. Word.

Tips to Get You Started

  1. Before you sit in front of you computer, think about your projects and decide how long each will take and when to work on them. This way you have a rough blueprint to start with.

  2. Get your email and RSS feeds checked first. Ideally, try to keep up with the non-important stuff the night before so you don’t have too much to shuffle through. Don’t take longer than 30 minutes doing this unless you just have a ton of really important emails.

  3. Turn off the RSS reader now! Twitter, too if it’s too much to follow. Try setting your email to check every 15 minutes instead of 5 (thanks @lessallan). There’s a primal desire to check that new email or RSS feed as soon as it comes in, but you end up distracting yourself over and over again.

  4. Set chunks of time (45 minutes at least) to dedicate to whatever you’re working on and then give yourself a 5 minute break to clear your mind or catch up with all the stuff in #3. Rinse and repeat.

  5. Look for better ways to work on projects. For web development especially, learn new and better ways of doing things whenever you can. And once you find the best way; reuse it whenever possible. Pretty soon you have great library of CSS techniques, Javascript techniques, etc… that you can call on and get things done quickly.

  6. I know I’ve probably scared you by now, but it’s alright. Here’s one you’ll love: don’t be afraid to break the rules occasionally. While these are good guidelines; we do have the freedom to be unconventional. That’s the great thing about being a creative! The key is to make sure all the breaks and extra time don’t become a stumbling block to your business.

Balance, people! Design should cover how you work and not just what you’re working on. That’s the key. Just remember, if you’re taking twice as long to do things then you’re making half as much money. And that could use some problem solving smile

November 13, 2008

Design, Business, Personal


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