Design Smarter, Not Harder

Robert Gourley Unsplash

I just started working on a large UX project and it got me thinking about time management.

As designers, much of our success comes from how we manage our time and workload. I've seen great designers crash and burn(out) because they couldn't manage their time effectively. Although there isn't a one-size-fits-all technique, here are a few quick tips that have helped me find focus and block distractions.

Prioritize Design Tasks Using the Eisenhower Matrix to Focus on High-Value Activities

The Eisenhower Matrix, named after—you guessed it—Dwight D. Eisenhower, is a highly effective task management tool that helps you prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance. The matrix consists of four quadrants: Do (Urgent and Important), Schedule (Not Urgent but Important), Delegate (Urgent but Not Important), and Delete (Neither Urgent nor Important). Properly distinguishing between urgent and important tasks is crucial for effective task management.

Using the Eisenhower Matrix, you can allocate your resources efficiently and prevent burnout by focusing on high-value tasks. Prioritize tasks in the first two quadrants, delegate or postpone tasks in the third quadrant, and eliminate tasks in the fourth quadrant.

Stephanie Gerhard

Utilize the Pomodoro Technique to Break Work into Focused Time Intervals and Short Breaks

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as "Pomodoros", the plural in English of the Italian word Pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.

This technique can help you improve your concentration and reduce the fatigue associated with long working hours. By breaking your work into manageable chunks, you can maintain a high level of productivity throughout the day. Additionally, regular breaks can help refresh your mind and maintain creativity. A wide variety of Pomodoro apps and software like Centered, Session, and Pomotodo can help implement this technique effectively, ranging from simple timers to comprehensive task management tools.

Magic Keyboard beside mug and click pen

Creating a Distraction-Free Workspace

It's critical to make your work environment as distraction-free as possible. Research has shown that monotasking, or focusing on one task at a time, enhances performance and creativity. One way to achieve this is by minimizing distractions in your workspace. Setting dedicated times for checking emails and organizing your workspace are also effective strategies.

A research study at the University of California at Irvine found that, on average, it takes around 23 minutes for most workers to get back on task after an interruption

Other strategies include alternating between sitting, standing, and walking to enhance productivity, and taking regular breaks, including power naps, to replenish energy and stimulate creativity. Practicing horizontal breathing and maintaining good posture can reduce stress and improve clarity of thought.

brown wooden table and chairs

Enhancing Concentration with Background Noise

Listening to background noise, such as the sounds of a coffee shop, can boost your productivity. This is because the ambient noise of a bustling cafe can help create a sense of environment without being distracting. There are numerous online tools available that recreate these sounds, such as Coffitivity, A Soft Murmur, and Noisli.

These tools offer a variety of background sounds, from cafe chatter to white noise, that can help you focus and maintain your productivity. However, it's important to note that everyone is different, and what works for some may not work for others. It's all about finding what helps you focus best and incorporating that into your productivity routine.

Mastering time management is an invaluable skill for any designer. Remember, it's not about working more; it's about working smarter.