Even if we established our tasks and top priorities, a lot of emails came up with problems that needed to be solved, immediately. I was constantly being pulled in too many directions, so how can I stay creative when multitasking? I have to eliminate distractions and do nothing more but work.
A cup of coffee and a chillout set of good tracks was enough for me to calm down and complete my tasks, but that was only the beginning.
After a few hours, a teammate arrived at my desk and said that I have to leave everything else to create some ui elements for another project. I didn’t know what to work on first, but the next minute I was deeply covered in anxiety and stress. I certainly remember how I began to open random tabs, check my e-mail every two minutes, over and over again.
I was screaming, cursing, kicking, yelling, and my sense of completion that day was: tons of work and finally I did nothing. How to handle this situation from now on?
I do not consider myself a “delicate genius” ( and you know there’s a but I need certain things to increase my creativity and focus while working. Here are some helpful tips that I discovered the hard way :
1. Work with your manager to prioritize your tasks
Your manager is the person you should rely on for time managing your projects. He is fully aware of what tasks demand your full attention and how to complement them with other less stressful tasks in order for you, to give the best results.
Even though I frequently embark on one or two major projects a week and I try my best to finish them, his provided structures make my working days a lot easier.
2. Do your best to finish one important task per day
Increase productivity by planning out your day. A to-do list will allow you to keep track of your progress and be mentally rewarded that you scratched off another item of your list.
First thing first, you need to know that our projects are often divided into two major categories, according to Steven Covey:
- The big rocks — these are the most important projects of your list, and you need to work your ass off in order to complete them. Protect them, by locating serious amount of time and remember that these are the ones that actually matter. Altough, there are numerous urgents, that may appear in your day: colleagues that need your help with some adjustments at some mockups for instance. Educate them by asking: Is this important? I am in the middle of something very important that needs to be done today. If they persist, listen their needs and then decide if this is really crucial. Many times my reply is: “Well this can wait a bit, and I will do my best so you can have it today, later, or tomorrow in the morning”. Next time, they will think twice before they come to you.
- The sand — represents the little things or tasks with slight, but manageable consequences if we don’t do them. Sand express all the phone calls, distractions, pings from social media, emails and somehow we want to be distracted by all these meaningless things. If you are in the middle of your best focused time, you need to eliminate every possibility of interruptions: close your Facebook page, put your phone on silent and work for at least one hour without interruption. Try repeating the process and eventually what seamed a ‘somewhat unappealing action’ will become a habit with productive results. Don’t forget to reward yourself 🙂
Remember: It is easier to sneak dust into a big glass full with rocks, rather than to put rocks in a glass half filled with sand.
“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” Brian Tracy
3. Stop pressuring yourself
No matter how good you are at planning, the pressure never goes away.
I will always try my best to finish my tasks, but if I do not succeed there’s NO PROBLEM.
If you feel that creatively you’re at the ‘squeezing water from a stone point, just take a step back and relax.
Projects come and go, you will fail some and win many others. Knowing how to balance and understand yourself in the creating process is key, and over-stressing with the thought of failing will not be productive or healthy on the long term.
In time, as a web designer, you will challenge yourself and learn what projects suit you best. As a measure of precaution always be honest with what you can bring to a project and don’t get too cocky when promising results. Failing is one thing, but falling from a higher ground might ‘break some bones’, including the reputation one and we don’t want that.
What I learned. Don’t pressure yourself too much, because it will be noticeable in your work and always be honest about what you can bring to a project.
4. Take breaks. You will need them
You’re the engine behind the masterpiece and you need to hit the pit stop from time to time. Even if it’s a simple empty stare into the distance or hitting the gym on your lunch break (heard some people do that, now that’s what I call ambitious) a disconnection from work is needed.
I usually go outside with my closest colleges for a nice cup of tea and have a chat to rewire and unwind. When something bothers me, it helps to dissect the problem with them, get to the root and find a solution.
Chatting with others will help you identify other stressful factors and bad habits among others. Admit you have a problem, dispute it, ask for their opinion and use your logic to replace your wrong ideas with new healthy ones.
5. Communicate and set real expectations
I was talking before about being honest when it comes to what you can bring to a project and not promising unrealistic results.
We’ve all done it at least once: took on multiple projects and got so buried in work, that we barely saw the light of day. While some people get along fine without the light of day, I do not, and I learned in time, that is best to set realistic expectations for me and everyone involved in the project.
Deadlines, need to be rightfully set taken into consideration, that a unique design does not happen overnight and projects done in a hurry, have a higher chance of failing during demo as certain things might have been overlooked.
A meeting with all the departments involved in the project will set realistic expectations for everybody, as a trial and error with a perfect result is not a one-hour job. Everybody should ask questions about functionality, flows, particularly cases, cooperate and learn to use their knowledge, work together in order to release the best project yet.
6. Average work is not for you
Continuous learning needs to be a constant in a web designer’s life. Doing ‘good work’ is not enough. You need to be curious and challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zone to become the best designer you could be.
Work is a never-ending process, that’s why no matter how busy I am, I always love to read useful articles on design principles, usability, typography, get inspired by popular shots on dribble, and so on.
Thanks for reading, I hope this will help 🙂