by Brian

3 Questions for 3 Top Design Bloggers & Productivity Tips

3 Questions for 3 Top Design Bloggers

Twitter, Technorati, Digg, Stumble Upon, Design Float etc etc…..the list is endless. Social Networking consumes a lot of our time, and it is now a difficult task to manage that time effectively, and remain as productive as possible with the jobs that pay the bills.

Later on in this post we will be discussing this with a few other designers; Chris Spooner , David Airey and Jacob Cass .

Most of us now have at least two monitors on our desks. Too many browser windows and applications open for any single monitor to hold! Our Blackberry’s / iPhones are buzzing beside us as our mp3 player blares from the wireless speakers mounted on our walls. So many distractions, so little time to be distracted. I wonder what it would be like to simply sit in a loft, with a typewriter, writing the draft for this post!

So, as we manage all facets of our businesses/freelance careers, information on how to remain productive in today’s online world is valuable.

Here is a list of some things that I personally do to stay focused:

  • Make "To Do" lists each day and mid day if you complete your list quickly. I’m not saying you have to make lists like the guy in "Chaos Theory " , just jot down the goals / projects for the day that you need to get done. Organization like this is key.
  • Remove distractions – turn the tv off. If you are able to have the tv on in the background while you work, please tell me how! I used to leave CNN on, but have since found that I concetrate much better without it.Close your email programs/gmail while you are working on a specific project. This will remove the desire to continually check that new message that comes in every 2 minutes.If you are a mother like Randa Clay with young children, make sure they behave well and understand that you have your "work time". Or, you could simply put them in a sound proof cage for a while, just be sure there is hole for oxygen to get in. Whichever you feel is more appropriate.
  • Take a break! Have a kit kat. – one of the most difficult aspects of my career is that I struggle to take breaks, and remove myself from a project to clear my mind and relax. I have often worked 22 hour days, and this is not healthy. There is a good and a bad side about finding it difficult to take breaks from your work. The positive is that this usually means that you love what you do, and you feel adrenaline running when you are in the middle of a design project. This excitement causes you to forget to take the dog out, you miss lunch, and you sometimes forget what the sun looks like. (Those in England and Ireland don’t really see the sun that much anyways, so this may not be a problem! :)The negative side of struggling to take yourself away from the computer is that you will eventually feel like absolute death. You will be grumpy, moody and most of the other dwarfs to say the least. Your projects will be effected by this and you need to recharge your mind, and body. A trip to the gym, a jog around the neighborhood, or even a simple couch break with a glass of water will do you good.

The above are a few of the things that I do to stay productive. How do you stay productive? Leave your comments here and help other designers with your bit of advice.

So, about 2 weeks ago, I asked Chris Spooner, David Airey and Jacob Cass a few questions related to this post that I had planned. Their answers are below:

Question 1:

With all of the social networking that goes on, and that we all need to stay
involved in to market our sites, how do you stay productive with client work? Do
you have a specific routine or schedule you have worked out that helps you?

Chris:
At this particular moment in time I am under fulltime employment as a designer at a local studio, where I tend to undertake various networking and promotional tasks on an ‘as-and-when’ basis between jobs and projects, during my lunch hour as well as in the evening when I arrive home.

In the very near future however, I will be beginning my freelance career fulltime which means self discipline is of high importance. Although time wise it will mean I should have a little more time to work on blog related content. In reference to a specific routine I am looking to set aside strict time periods in my day/week to work on certain tasks.

David:
Perhaps 4 or 5 hours per day are devoted to actual client work. The remainder involves marketing, writing, responding to enquiries, accounting, and some menial taks. As for a set routine, I always start the day by checking emails. After that I prioritise according to deadlines.

Jacob:
Staying productive is something that comes to me naturally which I suppose is due to the fact I love what I am doing so much. It also helps having a large subscriber base as they do the work for you (thank you) which leaves more time to do other things. I have no routine as such however I always seem to do my emails in the morning and the designing in the afternoon. Also, as I have set days studying at University I can plan my week around the days that I do not have to go.

Question 2:

On an average day, what is your monitor (or monitors) filled with? What
browser tabs do you have open usually, and what programs do you always have at the ready throughout your day?

Chris:
Being a Windows user primarily I am quite pedantic over the order of the programs in the taskbar, my email client must always come first!
I am a dual-screen user with a widescreen for main applications, then a 4:3 for extras such as MSN Messenger, Notepad, and reference material. I also have most of the application toolbars situated on the left of the second monitor making for a nice large working space.

In my browser I can’t help but check over the stats of my websites first thing in the morning. I also often bring up Twitter throughout the day to check everyone’s latest updates.
Through normal browsing I tend to open up multiple tabs in the background by clicking any interesting links, which I then follow them through once I have finished on that particular page. This could mean a long list of random tabs with content from a number of websites!

Program wise, my applications of choice are Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver. These are soon launched at the start of each day.

David:
GMail is always open. That’s the only constant. Beyond that, Google Reader, my two design blogs, and Adobe Illustrator / InDesign / Photoshop.

Jacob:
My two monitors (one 24”, one 17”) are always filled. I have my computer set to open all the programs I need when I turn the computer on (Twirl, Skype, MSN, iTunes, Firefox) which means I can turn on my computer (with a remote next to my bed), go have breakfast and then come back and everything is ready to go.

My homepage in Firefox is my Google feed reader however the tabs I usually have open are my WordPress admin screen, my latest blog article and usually about 10 other tabs that vary – it usually is articles I want to read, research I am doing for other projects, Facebook and other links that people have recommended. I usually have Photoshop and Illustrator open all day as well however I do not have them programmed to start up when Windows (yes I am a PC man). I also mentioned earlier the other programs I use on a daily basis: Twirl, Skype, MSN, iTunes, Firefox and Outlook.

Question 3:

In an average week, give percentages to each activity that takes up your time working:

Chris:
I would say my daily/weekly life is something along the lines of:

50% Client related work
20% Website browsing and feed reading
15% Personal projects or blog content
10% Checking out the latest movies at the cinema
6% Realising my design skills are much better than my Maths

David:
You had to ask a maths question, didn’t you Brian? This is a rough guess, as I don’t track actual times, but here goes. 35% for client projects. 30% managing websites. 15% fending off my girlfriend (she can’t get enough). 15% reading / watching movies (it’s hard work). 5% dreaming of that first retirement cocktail on Mauritius (15 months and counting).

Jacob:
30% Client work
15% Replying to Emails / Paperwork (100% sometimes or so it seems)
30% University work
20% Blog Work (Writing articles + Replying to comments)
5% Reading other articles (I really need to put more time into this, I have been slack of late.)

An extra 20% is dedicated to food and drink breaks. 20% more to procrastination.

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I’d like to thank Chris, David and Jacob for their answers, providing such great sites that we all learn from on an almost daily basis.

How do you manage your time? Please add your comments below and we can see what you all come up with. Also, add your daily/weekly percentage answers for question 3 listed above! It’s a nice insight into your normal routine (and it will expose any addictions/problems you may have! Mine are Warhawk and Fifa 08 on the PS3.)

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