Design Your Way to Success: How task management can boost your career as a Designer
As designers, our days are filled with a variety of tasks and responsibilities.
Here is a likely scenario;
You wake up, go through your morning routine, and sit down at your desk to start working.
First, you see a flood of emails in your inbox. You start replying to them one by one, trying to keep up with the constant influx of messages. Then, a colleague messages you with a question and you stop what you're doing to help them out.
Then, meetings start and you have to switch gears to attend them. After presenting your designs or listening to some, comes the task of writing up your report for the meeting.
It is afternoon, and finally, you get a chance to dive into your actual work. But even then, it's not smooth sailing. You notice some visual inconsistencies that need fixing, and you spend time tweaking your designs until they're just right. And then you start to think, "Maybe Inter would be a better font choice," and you start designing a variation.
Before you know it, it's 5 pm. You're exhausted!
It has been a busy day.
You go home and do your thing with a little energy left.
Then sleep and repeat for weeks, months, years.
You look back and wonder, why all the hard work didn't get you where you wanted to be as a Designer.
Does that sound familiar?
OK. Maybe, I drew a bit too depressing a picture, but there must be some truth in there. After all, we all have been there.
Let’s fix this aimless hard work that takes you nowhere in your career.
It is about task management and directing your limited time and energy to valuable tasks that will have a long-term impact.
I'm going to keep it simple. There are 2 questions you need to ask when a task comes to your desk;
- Is this urgent?
- Is this important?
OK. A bit abstract, let's look at some examples;
In the morning,(or better from the night before) write down your list of tasks.
To-do list of the day
✎ Finish the presentation design for the stakeholders' meeting
✎ Schedule a meeting to double-check the UAT implementation review
✎ Explore different layout solutions for the responsive behaviour
✎ Design a better icon that represents the Data Sync feature
Go through them one by one based on the diagram above.
It may look like too much work but you will grasp it so well in no time that it will only take you seconds.
Ok, let's look at these tasks together now;
“Finish the presentation design for the stakeholders' meeting”
Yes. The presentation is today
Yes. We need stakeholders' approval to proceed and deliver on time for the public release.
DO IT first!
“Schedule a meeting to double-check the UAT implementation review"
Yes, the product is going to production next week and we need to double-check if everything works well.
No, we already tested yesterday. This is just to ensure via an extra test.
DELEGATE (if you can, if not, do it after Task 1)
“Explore different layout solutions for the responsive behaviour”
No. We are primarily supporting desktop for now, but mobile is coming soon.
Yes, for the adoption of new clients.
“Design a better icon that represents the Data Sync feature”
No. We already have one that works for now.
No, compared to functional design solutions we need to tackle.
ARCHIVE (to revisit later)
Btw, I'm not saying that Presentation is always more important than Icon design. The importance and urgency are relevant. The same task can be crucial at times while insignificant at other times.
So, what you are doing here is finding the essential tasks that have a long-term impact and focusing on them first. Not spontaneously, blindly tackling the tasks as they come along and getting exhausted at the end of the day with minimum impact.
You may be familiar with this system as Eisenhower Matrix.
So, whenever new tasks come to your desk, you run this system quickly in your mind to place the task into the relevant bucket.
But Oykun, I’m getting distracted. I’m not left alone to focus on anything.
- Is it emails distracting you?
Turn it off. Set times and check 3 times a day, morning, afternoon and end of the day.
- Is it people distracting you?
Just tell them that you are working on something urgent and important, and ask for the time you need. Better put your headset on when you are in this mood, or put a sticker on your desk, or go to "do not disturb" mode on your Slack, any signal for people to understand that you are not to be disturbed. Don't underestimate people's kindness and understanding.
- Is it meetings distracting you?
Block a time in your calendar for these tasks.
There is always a solution if you look for it with common sense.
Keep doing this and very soon you will start seeing that the urgent and important tasks that have the highest impact on the business are completed in the highest quality possibble.
As a result of this; Your team, your boss, client, stakeholders will start seeing you as an effective designer who delivers important, relevant, crucial tasks on time. You will become a more valuable designer and with that a better income, better satisfaction, better...