4 Tips For Developing A Productive Workflow As A Freelance Designer

To improve your productivity, it’s important to remember one thing: work smarter, not harder.
When it comes to productivity, we’re all in the same boat, constantly trying to find ways to get things done faster without sacrificing on quality. It’s for this very reason that business savvy developers have come up with fantastic productivity apps such as Evernote and Dropbox. Use them. Take advantage of these time savers, and heed the following tips.

1. Plan Your Time

To stay productive, planning is essential, and to plan properly, you need lists. Too many lists will drive you crazy, as will writing them on the nearest napkin, so streamline your planning with an app like Remember the Milk.

Keep three lists:

  • A ‘to do’ list – This is where you put tasks you must do—tasks like commitments and obligations, basically things that have to be done now. It’s possible to subcategorize this list into timeframes (today, this week, this month etc.) but no further than that.
  • A ‘watch’ list – This is like a reminder list; for example, track items you’re waiting for a reply on, or need to follow up on.
  • A ‘later’ list – More like a wish list, this is where everything else goes, such as things you would do if you had the time.

Everything will go onto one of these lists, and looking at your workload like this should help you prioritize.

Keep your lists in one place. Apps such as Evernote (that sync across all your devices) are great places for keeping to do lists, as well as whatever other inspiration you stumble across throughout the day. Which leads nicely onto the next tip…

2. Beware of Procrastination

We’re only human. Procrastination is inevitable, but it’s often a result of poor planning. By putting measures in place to combat procrastination, your productivity will increase:

  • Avoid distraction. Have a designated working area where you know you can work well. Even when working at home, treat your day like a day at the office. Have set working hours, plan breaks and let friends and family know you’re working and unable to take calls or visits. There are even apps (like SelfControl) available to block websites that may distract you from getting things done.
  • Don’t let email ruin your focus. Check your email twice during your working day, once in the morning, and once at the end. Allocate as long as it takes to deal with your correspondence, and then close your email and turn notifications off. Sounds scary, but it works.
  • Try structured procrastination. It is difficult to fight distraction. So plan your procrastination. If, in avoiding doing something that has to be done right now, you do something that should be done a little later, you are still managing to constructively use your time.

3. Use the Cloud (and any apps that will save you time)

Saving your files to the cloud will in turn save you time. No matter where you are, or what device you’re using, by utilizing the cloud you will always be working on the most up-to-date version of whatever you’re doing. You can even use it to work collaboratively.

  • Get Dropbox and learn to use it. There’s far more to it than just syncing your files, and making the most of it can help you boost your efficiency.
  • Use apps to do the things you hate, so that you can do the things you love. No one likes keeping track of finances and invoicing, so why make life harder? Cloud tools like Xero are invaluable for streamlining the little fiddly little things (like invoicing) that seem to waste hours of your valuable time.

4. Look After Yourself

This is a productivity tip that we’re all guilty of forgetting. You cannot work productively if you’re running on empty. Business greats like Sir Richard Branson advocate working out, getting enough sleep, eating properly and taking time for yourself to help keep you at the top of your game. Do not take on more work than you can do, and don’t waste time trying to be perfect.

If, after you’ve tried all of these tips you’re still not living up to your productivity potential, then read Simply Business’ productivity guide for even more tips on increasing your efficiency. Or read Brit journalist Charlie Brooker’s thoughts on productivity apps, so you can at least laugh at yourself during the self-improvement process.

All stock photos via Shutterstock