Designers: When to find time to update your own projects

ChecklistAs a designer, either in graphics, coding, programming, or in web, we tend to get totally involved in our projects.  A lot of times we juggle more than two projects at a time without our clients even knowing, but still providing full support and service.  Over time we get used to this type of multi-tasking without even thinking about it, scheduling time to plug in updates, billing, and more.  Now what about projects and to our own websites? When will we have time to post new blogs? Update images and links? Yea, this is one of those things I can say (generally speaking) that we all put of way too much.

Between client emails, conference calls, meetings, and the occasional work here and there, it’s hard to find the time to actually do work on our own projects.  That includes updating those little annoyances about our work that people may have caught and we still haven’t had time to fix. You also have to consider time to learn new apps and technologies pertaining to your trade.

I’ve learned that time management is such a necessity but is often overlooked. Most of us pretty much go about our days with a general idea of what tasks we will accomplish.  Whatever is most important and approaching a deadline, we put to the top of our list of things to do, and the rest is a bonus or shelved for a later date.  However there are days where this could totally bite us in the rear for lack of planning. I’ve come up with 5 quick and easy ways to find ways to get to our own projects while keeping in step with our client ones.

1) Populate your calendar down to the hour. This may seem like a big task, but once you get it started and up to date, filling in your tasks and projects by the day and hour will really help you find open times.

2) Create a To-Do List. There are many books out there on Getting Things Done (GTD), and all will recommend a list of some sorts with all of your tasks.  Since we’re so tech savvy, there are also smartphone apps and web sources to help with this also. Toodledo is a great free one to get you started.

3) Set Realistic Goals. If you know you need to make some serious adjustments to your own site or work, set a goal for when you want to complete it.  Not just a mental one, but actually write it down and place it somewhere that you’ll be constantly reminded of it. Be sure to make these goals tangible. After completing a few you’ll feel proud and accomplished.

4) Eliminate the fluff. The constant checking in on your social sites, spam email accounts, watering the plants, watching sunsets, calling to check on mom.  You know what I mean. These fillers are nice “fluff” but take away from what you really need to get done. Though it may be important

5) Make yourself accountable. Now this may be the toughest off all, but I promise it works. Being a freelancer, you really are only accountable for your deliverables to yourself and your client. As an employee, your tasks need to get done so that the next person in line can do theirs. So appoint a fellow designer, friend, or significant other to monitor your projects.  Maybe start with the big ones at first so you don’t start resenting them with the smaller tasks and projects.

If you’ve come up with ways other than what I’ve described please let us know in the comments below. It’s all about helping others improve, and we all know we can use improvements every now and again.

2 replies
  1. Dom
    Dom says:

    Awesome read! Another great way to help us as freelancers in this subject is to appoint an accountabiligy partner. I currently work a full time day job and freelance at night. It’s easy to have a hard day at the day job and get home and start putting off projects because your tired. Select a person you trust, a good freind, your spouse, your mother whomever. Someone who will ask every now and again, “So… how’s that website coming?” Or, “Did you get that spreadsheet completed? Don’t you need it for your presentation?” Being accountable for your actions is great if you have the dicipline to keep it up when you don’t want too but being accountable to someone else adds a level of responsibility that will help you to get things done.

  2. jpDesignTheory
    jpDesignTheory says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I recently “employed” my wife to be my accountability partner. 2011 seems to be busy already and I need to stay on track so that I don’t fall behind, but still keep focused on the bigger pictures for the rest of the year.

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