Looking to put an end to procrastination and improve your work productivity? Check out tips to make the best use of your time
Have you ever come across, at the end of the day, that feeling that you need more time to finish a task? Is the feeling that it would take a day of more than 24 hours to handle everything familiar?
In today’s world, the old phrase “ time is money ” has never been truer. Therefore, the question is worth asking: do you need more hours, to have an even longer workday, or do you need to better manage the time you have?
This is where the idea of productivity at work comes in, which essentially consists of the ability to do more in less time. But, after all, how can we save time in everyday tasks to achieve both our professional and personal goals?
To help you make the best use of your time, Blue World City have created this guide with tips to make your performance more efficient, both by saving time spent on less important tasks at work and by prioritizing the most important and productive activities.
There are general tips on productivity at work, which are suitable for all professionals, as well as more specific advice, aimed at designers and creative professionals. Plus, you’ll learn from the successful habits of great corporate leaders.
How to be productive at work? 11 tips to do more in less time
1. Make a to-do list for the day
Starting from the beginning of the workday, the first tip is to make a list with everything you intend to do for the day that is starting.
The idea is that a few minutes each morning will help save hours of wasted time or fragmented effort throughout the day. So write down everything you want to do and be fully aware of what awaits you.
2. Start with the most difficult tasks
Speaking of to-do lists, how do you sort yours? What to prioritize?
A simple work productivity tip that works really well is to start doing tasks for the ones you like least and also the ones that are the most work.
As you take these “obligations” out of the way, you become more and more motivated. And at the end of the journey, when you have less energy, only the simplest and most pleasurable actions remain.
3. Time your tasks
How about using a stopwatch while doing your tasks? Watching the time go by can help you avoid distractions, and it also makes you more aware of the time each activity requires. In this way, it is possible to plan the day more realistically. A good tool for this is Toggle.
Another tip is to use the pomodoro technique to maximize your time and the efficiency of your work. This work productivity technique is well known and consists of choosing a task and committing to spend 25 minutes completely focused on it, taking a 5 minute break between each chosen activity.
4. Take a break
It’s natural to think that you must remain chained to your desk for hours and hours to get your work done productively. However, if you don’t take breaks, you will likely decrease your productivity at work rather than increase it.
The bad news is that checking Facebook or checking your email every five minutes doesn’t count as productive breaks. In short, you want to feel refreshed and re-energized after your break, not just procrastinate.
So what’s the best way to take a break? A tip is to disconnect for at least 15 to 20 minutes after each 60 to 90 minute block of work. 60- to 90-minute work sessions are the most sensible because that’s how long your brain can stay focused on a single task. You can also use the pomodoro technique, which we talked about above.
You don’t need to follow these times to the letter. The main idea is to organize your work in blocks, setting aside a few minutes for breaks.
5. Isolate yourself when necessary
There are companies that work with the concept of open space, in which the environment does not have partitions or rooms. In some cases, even those little half-height divisions in the stalls don’t even exist. They usually use large group tables, side by side.
This type of setup can facilitate communication between the team, but there are times when you need to concentrate, which is difficult to do amidst the noise and constant distractions. Sometimes you need focus to find your pace, your personal way to increase productivity at work. Allow yourself to isolate yourself from time to time!
6. Hold meetings standing
Nothing worse than endless meetings, with people talking more than they should or bringing unnecessary information.
One of the big problems with meetings is their character, sometimes too formal, when you really just want to line up some information quickly and get on with your life.
One solution to this is to have quick meetings standing up, preferably in an open place. Nobody wants to go a long time without sitting down, and the tendency is for meetings to be shorter using this strategy.
It is also worth timing a time, such as 2 or 3 minutes, for each person to speak. That way everyone will be objective, the necessary information will be exchanged and everyone will quickly get back to work.
7. Set focus days on individual tasks
Imagine that you need to make that plan for launching a certain action and you need to focus deeply on that task.
But there’s no way: notifications pop up on Slack and in your inbox, people call you, a meeting is scheduled in the middle of your day.
That’s why defining a day a week when people can lock their schedule and not be disturbed is a solution that has been adopted by large companies. Set a day of the week, for example, Wednesday, to block the schedule and remember to inform the rest of the team so you won’t be disturbed if it’s not a collective decision.
8. Create a weekly team alignment routine
Creating a work alignment routine with weekly company meetings may seem bureaucratic, but it’s one of the productivity hacks used in organizations like Trello with great success.
This way, the week starts with everyone knowing what each one is going to do and when. And if someone needs to lock the schedule, others know why and respect it.
The group becomes more united and organizes itself so that everyone can make better use of their time and that of their colleagues.
9. Review your list at the end of the day
Your day is over! Time to go home or, for those working at home, turn off the computer. But before that, review that to-do list you made this morning. Cross off what was completed and pass on what still needs to be done for tomorrow. If a task is no longer important, it is best to take it off the list.
Organize your schedule and then forget about it. Empty your brain of these worries and only meet them again the next day, to start your journey with everything laid out.
10. Automate tasks
Wasting time doing boring and repetitive tasks, in addition to being unmotivating, prevents you from focusing on what is really important in your business.
For example: imagine an e-commerce that makes tens or hundreds of sales every day. When this happens, a Lead becomes a customer and this information needs to be updated in RD Station Marketing.
Have you ever thought about the time an employee will spend to do this?
Using API integrations (internet protocols that make tools in the cloud talk to each other), for example, you can automate repetitive tasks like automatically adding leads to a flow when a payment is approved or declined, issuing invoices, sending notifications in Slack when a contact becomes an opportunity or even update your CRM.
11. Use technology
Rather than jotting down your lists on paper that are likely to be lost, you can also rely on technology to organize yourself better.
One tip is to use a project organizer like Trello, which helps you visualize your tasks. Besides this one, more known, there are several other options, such as Asana, Notion and Monday.
Work productivity tips for designers and creative team
Anyone who works with design and creation – whether as a freelancer, in an agency or in a large company – is used to being seen as the person who brings good ideas, who adds aesthetic refinement to projects and who has empathy for the end user.
Designers are really those people, but the work goes far beyond that and it certainly has its drawbacks. It is often difficult to see all the work that exists behind the daily lives of these professionals – the creative process, the multidisciplinary vision of the projects, the alignment with stakeholders, the study and research stages, the tests and changes and so on.
Thinking about the stages of the work and finding ways to optimize them are ways to maintain excellence in our deliveries and prove the value of design in the businesses where we operate. Therefore, in this topic we bring 6 productivity tips at work for designers and creative professionals.
1. Have a process for managing and prioritizing your tasks
Every designer has gone through the situation when, while creating a layout, they are interrupted by another demand, breaking a creative process that was flowing to start another one. These constant shifts in focus can be very common in creative teams, decreasing productivity and burdening projects.
The best solution for this is to have a well-established task management process that allows creatives to have more visibility into upcoming demands and better control the pace and priority with which they are met.
The simplest and most effective way to create this process is through the kanban method. The kanban is a three-column board – to do, to do and to do – where you and your team move cards that represent your tasks and demands.
In short, it works like this: when a demand arises, it becomes a card in the to column, obligatorily. When a designer is free, he drags the first card in the to do queue to the doing column, executes this demand until it finishes and, when delivered, drags the card to done.
At this pace, a demand never gets in the way of an ongoing one, and it’s much easier to know if you or your team will be very busy or not in the next few days. You can have your kanban on a physical board and use sticky notes to write the cards, or use online management tools like Trello or Asana, which we’ve already mentioned above.
Kanban is a very simple method to do this task management, but it can be the basis for more complex and customized processes for your reality, as it is possible to create other columns that meet the specific context of your team.
For example, in the RD creation team, we have an on approval column, in which we leave cards that have been finalized, but still depend on the approval of a stakeholder and therefore were not delivered. And to make the process even more structured, we rely on aspects and ceremonies of Scrum, an agile working framework.
2. Invest time in planning
Designers know that every project is based on a method. For example, when creating a graphic piece, one starts with a deepening of the briefing, research of references, creation and validation of prototypes, and finally starts with the creation of visual proposals.
Unfortunately, deadlines are always shorter than they should be and the most common steps look something like this:
- Almost no search
- Creating visual proposals
- Customer disapproval followed by creation of more proposals
- Approval with reservations
- Changes to cover reservations
In this scenario, the customer receives a first visual proposal sooner, and this gives the impression that it delivers faster. But, in fact, the lack of prior alignment makes the work longer and more stressful, and the lack of time for research makes it impossible for new, more innovative ideas to emerge. It’s a loss for both sides: the designer is overwhelmed and the client pays more for designs that could be better.
The solution is to plan more to do less. Design methods don’t exist for anything – they help to increase work productivity and deliver with more quality and innovation.
The first step is to pay attention to the briefing. The briefing is the contract that directs the paths that can be followed, bringing information about the target audience, the project objective and the existing deadline. In many agencies, the briefing is already aligned between the service team and the client, but there is not always a derivation of what is there for the creative teams.
It is important that the designer is demanding and covers as much information and definitions as possible, always asking the “hows”, the “whys”, “when” and, especially, “for whom”. With a very detailed briefing, it is much easier to create the ideal solution to the problem brought up, reducing the volume of rework before delivery.
If the briefing is well resolved, the next cultural shift in planning concerns prototypes. Prototyping can be a different activity for each type of project, but the important lesson is that you should make drafts and unfinished versions and use them for pre-approval to save time.
An illustration, for example, takes hours to create – and in many cases the client does not approve of the concept of the illustration and asks for something different. Instead of wasting this time, try to present a draft of the illustration idea and, only if the client approves this draft, proceed with the execution.
3. Keep your files organized
If the first two tips are super open and linked to the designer’s work culture, the next ones are more technical and punctual – but they also help a lot to gain productivity.
It has become a joke among designers that practice of naming a file as arte-banner-final.psd , and after receiving numerous changes and creating new versions of the file, realizing that it has reached the point where a file is called something like art-banner -final-final-2-approved-april-2019.psd . And worse: when we open this file.
It seems much more practical, at the time of production, to save the files with the first name that comes to mind and create the layers and folders within it without default, but this gets in the way a lot when you have to go back to these files to do something – and it stays even worse when there is more than one designer on the same team, or when a new designer is hired. The time gained by not organizing files in the beginning is spent twice as much when searching for something or making a new change.
The good thing is that the tip to solve this problem is simple. If the standard is well established, it is easier to organize the files according to it, and all the designers on the team will have the same method, facilitating communication. Therefore, create and document, in an easily accessible place, the right way to name, organize and store your files.
In RD’s creative team, we follow the naming pattern above, in which we define the type of material, the campaign to which it belongs, the language and country, the initials of those who created it and the current version. For example: promote_facebook-growth_hacking_to_agencias-en_us-mhb-v3.psd.
Within the source files, we always name the layers descriptively, and separate them into contextual folders. Finally, we put the files in a shared folder on Google Drive, which also has a pre-established structure.
4. Automate Tasks with Smart Objects and Symbols
Following the hook from the above topic, some layer and folder organization practices also help to automate tasks and save time.
A good tip to make the most of what the software offers is to use Symbols (in Illustrator) and Smart Objects (in Photoshop) to change multiple parts at the same time. This is incredibly useful when working on a multi-format paid media campaign such as Google Ads media.
To do this, just create the clipboards of the pieces you need for the campaign in Photoshop or Illustrator, insert a graphic (which can be an illustration, photo or a background) that will be present in all the pieces, and convert this graphic into Smart Object (Photoshop) or Symbol (Illustrator), and only then replicate these objects to the other pieces.
Thus, when you edit one of these objects, the changes will be replicated for all parts, bringing a big time saving.
Another feature offered by these software that helps a lot in productivity is the Action Panel. With Actions, you can create simple work routines that you do very often – like resizing images and applying filters to photos – and make them automatic by associating them with a keyboard shortcut.
To do this, just open the panel in both programs, create a new Action, giving it a name and a keyboard shortcut, start recording the Action and perform the steps of this routine only once. After finishing, the routine will be saved in your Actions panel and whenever you fire it, the program will run it quickly.
5. Use banks, templates and templates
While a designer’s work is creative, not everything needs to be created from scratch. In many cases, the time it would take to create an illustration or icon set could be better spent on other, more strategic tasks.
At the same time, it is common that your agency does not have a skill or a set of equipment necessary for a certain demand – such as a videographer or a photography studio. At these times, one can resort to the acquisition of resources available from banks on the Internet to complement and speed up the work.
What is seen more often is the use of image banks, especially photography, but they can also be used for videos, vector illustrations, visual mockups, presentation templates, layouts, icons, HTML and CSS code, and so on. At RD, for example, we constantly use music banks for videos, as we don’t have a professional specialized in soundtrack creation.
Some activities can come ready-made from outside and help to add more quality in a shorter period of time. As a result, more value is generated in less time for the customer.
Furthermore, it is possible to use free image banks, which are not always synonymous with low quality. But always be aware of the licensing policies of these banks – some require that credits due be included in the pieces, or that they only be used for a specific limit of printed units. It is important to observe these rules regarding the work of the professionals who produce these resources.
6. Create your own databases, templates and templates
This tip is a complement to the previous tip. In addition to acquiring models, templates and resources from online banks, create a mindset to always transform your work into models and templates for your own team.
These templates can be as simple as a .psd file with the same artboards you typically use in every campaign you create, or as complex as an eBook template in InDesign with all the preconfigured text, paragraph, and layout styles .
Look for patterns that exist in your work and turn them into templates, leave them in an accessible folder for your team, and save time by not having to create common files from scratch.
In addition to this arsenal of templates, also have a place to store works that can be used for other purposes in the future: an illustration of something very recurrent in your projects, a layout that was not approved but can serve another demand, the fonts that make part of the visual identity of your agency or your main clients. This way, you will have your own resource bank and you will be able to use it before considering the use of online banking.
If you work in a team and want to be easier to share and use your own resources, use design libraries in the cloud – such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Lingo or Invision DSM – to centralize your assets, creating categories for each type resource and documenting files pertaining to customer visual identities.
At RD, we have libraries for the company’s visual identity files, for our most used illustrations, for our large campaigns, among other diverse projects.
Get to know the work productivity habits of successful people
Finally, check out some habits of successful people, corporate leaders who definitely understand the subject of productivity, and get inspired by them!
Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
- Advocates reading at least one book a week.
Bill Gates (Microsoft)
- No sleepless nights: sleep at least 7 hours a night.
- It’s not multitasking: it seeks to do one thing at a time.
- Take the time to think about life and learn its lessons.
Jeff Bezos (Amazon)
- Have breakfast quietly with the family every day.
Robert Murdoch (Fox)
- Practice meditation daily.
So don’t feel guilty when you decide to read that entrepreneurship book they’ve recommended to you or sleep a fair amount of hours instead of checking emails or reviewing spreadsheets on your cell phone. If people as busy as these can do it, so can you!
We can conclude that productivity, after all, is a matter of preserving your time, not having more time.
It is not possible to embrace the world and think that doing a little of everything is synonymous with productivity. This will only make you feel more frustrated that you have done everything halfway without having completed any task at all.
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