Being a web designer is one of those professions that has no end of distractions to tempt you away from your tasks. Just as you’re about to get stuck into some serious image editing, when suddenly Facebook buzzes to alert you that one of your friends just posted something. It wouldn’t hurt just to take a peek, right?
So you go to check it out and you’re greatly surprised to discover it’s not the funny cat video you were expecting to see, but in fact a serious post about a political issue that you’re really concerned about. You get a little steamed up and hammer out a response on your trusty keyboard, but wait—are you really sure of your facts? Maybe a quick check on Wikipedia could circumvent some irreversible reputation damage.
Arriving at Wikipedia, you quickly confirm that you were right all along. You’re about to close the tab when you notice the article mentions a video on YouTube, and that seems like it might be interesting, so you click the link. It’s just a short clip, but at the end of it there’s a bunch of ads for other clips you might want to see. Because YouTube is owned by Google, they’re confident they know what you’d be interested in, so the video recommendations you see are intended to keep you on the site for as long as possible.
Eventually the suggestions from YouTube become less enticing and you manage to drag yourself away from the page. But now you’ve forgotten what you were doing before all this got started. And so ends another work day in the life of a typical web designer.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can in fact be as productive as you want to be. It just requires a bit of discipline and a sensible attitude to the application of money. Yes, money… I thought that would get your attention! As anyone with a genuine hope of success in business will know, you make money by spending it, with the challenge being to spend it correctly. The following suggestions will lead to greater productivity, but beware… there is always a price of some sort attached.
1. Don’t answer your phone
Every phone call you take or make is a waste of time. Even a call from a client wanting to spend thousands of dollars with you is a waste of time. That’s because your precious time should be spent on production. Somebody else should be handling calls. To be really professional, you shouldn’t even have your personal phone present in your office. What about emergencies? Well, you could have a special “emergency phone” that you give a number to friends and family to contact you only in case of a real emergencies (Timmy has fallen down the well again). There is no other time you should be talking on a phone in your own office.
2. Isolate your workstation
The computer you do your development work on should not have any connection to the internet at all. If you need a computer that is connected to the Internet in your office, it shouldn’t even be on the same desk as your workstation, and the two machines should not be networked together. To do anything on the Internet, you should have to physically get up and go to another part of the room. Transferring files between the machines should require the use of physical media such as flash drives. Not only will this help to keep you focused on your work, but there are security advantages as well.
3. Never read your email
In the same fashion as phone calls, email is a glorious waste of time. You shouldn’t bother with it, because it’s someone else’s job. A quick 5 or 10 minute briefing delivered every four or so hours should be all you need to keep up to date with your electronic communications, and you should take pains to ensure you’re clear that you only want to be troubled with matters of importance. No serious web developer should touch an email program during work hours.
4. Plan to work around special events
One of the great things about creative work is that you’re normally free to establish a flexible work schedule. When you know in advance that there’s something special you want to see or attend, have all the preparations made in advance so you will know precisely at what times you will be working that day. You should still put in the usual number of hours that you normally would, but there’s no rule that says you have to take them all as a single block.
5. Keep meticulous notes and records
Document everything you do, then your workflow will be much smoother. Many of the problems that beset an interrupted project can be attributed to a lack of proper documentation, which may make it difficult to easily resume the project at the point it was left. Documentation also helps to diagnose and fix problems, plus very importantly it can help resolve any dispute or objection that the client may raise in the future. Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping good records.
6. Maintain all your tools in perfect condition
As a designer or developer you have a small but important collection of tools that help you perform your task. While most of them can be replaced without much difficulty, having to do so introduces inefficiency into your workflow. Make a point of putting everything in its place when you’ve finished with it. How many hours have you wasted playing “hunt the missing USB cable”? Plus it goes without saying you should always have spares on hand for items like that.
7. You should even delegate your banking
You shouldn’t be doing any menial tasks that aren’t directly related to the work you do. Banking is one of those tasks. If you can’t find anyone you trust to hire for this kind of task, let your mom do it, or somebody else that you could trust unconditionally. Just don’t ever do it yourself. Don’t do anything yourself unless it’s something you have to do because nobody else could do it as good as you.
So there you have it – the magic formula in seven easy steps, requiring just five ingredients: isolation, delegation, documentation, organization and planning. Manage these things well and your productivity should be on an express track.
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