Managing time constraints on a graphic design project always needs a little more attention because timelines are usually difficult to follow and overcome.
Being a graphic designer means that you need to deal with a creative process that needs innovation and inspiration. However, inspiration does not always come easy nor does the best design just pop out of nowhere. Design isn’t like mathematics that has a definite answer to the problem–what’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. Graphic design does not have a specific formula to follow, and so it can’t always be completed in a specific amount of time.
Although this is true for many designers, the fact still remains that in order to succeed in a graphic design career, you need to be a professional and submit your design projects on time.
So how does a designer overcome and finish his design under a time constraint?
In this article, we will provide you with suggestions and tips to improve your time management skills as a designer. We hope that these suggestions can help you better organize your time.
How To Finish Your Graphic Design Projects On Time: 10 Actionable Tips
1. Organize Your Thoughts and Your Client’s
Upon accepting a graphic design project, you need to have a clear understanding with your client about his/her needs. As you provide a graphic design service, you need to help the clients know what they really want. Sometimes, they will just come to you and say that they need a logo or a banner design, or a poster but they don’t really have a clear picture in mind.
So prepare a questionnaire beforehand that can help you learn about the objective of this project. Also, you need a checklist so you’ll know their specific needs and requirements for the service they need, colors they want, look and feel, etc.
By doing this, both you and your client can push through the design project with a clear mind and organized thoughts with specific expectations.
2. Make a Plan
Now that you’ve organized your client’s needs, it’s time to make a plan and create a to-do list of the tasks that you need to execute. This will help you stay organized and keep track of your deadlines. Make sure that your plan is S.M.A.R.T. which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.
Be specific about your tasks, whether big or small, then suggest an indicator of your progress like a progress bar or a percent-completion notification where you can measure how much you’ve done for the project. You know your abilities and skills better than anyone, so develop your plan where you can achieve it based on the best estimate when you can complete it. Make sure that they are realistic estimates so that you can really hold yourself accountable when delays happen and not blame anyone for underperforming.
Carefully decide whether to finish simple tasks first or take on the difficult ones. The critical parts and tasks of your project will always take a little longer so you need to spend a little more time on these. Decide whether it’s better to accomplish them immediately and be comfortable with other tasks later on, or do them for later so you don’t get demotivated or stressed out at the early point of the project.
3. Keep Your Files Organized
Always make sure that all your files, documents, or contracts are stored in one place. This will always save you time when looking for them when they’re needed. Making this a habit will also make it easier for you to go back and revisit your past projects.
When organizing your project plans, it is also good to use a tool or a worksheet where you can see everything in one place. This will make you more efficient and productive.
4. Set Your Personal Boundaries and Free Yourself from Distraction
Setting boundaries might mean something like: ‘I can talk to others with regards to the project but not about other things that aren’t important,’ or ‘I can attend meetings but not on ones that don’t have any relevance with what needs to be done soon.’ By setting these boundaries and limitations with integrity, you can respect your time better and people around you will also respect your needs too.
Also, you need to identify the things that distract you the most. Whether they’re your colleagues that just want to chat or your emails, or social media. If you are more aware that they take much of the time, then you can make solutions beforehand. Talk to your colleagues that you don’t want to be disturbed, set aside checking your emails or social media, and put your phone in a place where you can see and touch it.
5. Learn to Say No, Respectfully.
The quality of your work shows how much you respect yourself. If you think your time is just enough for a single project, then don’t accept any more work than what you already have.
Rather than working on a lot of projects and compromising your commitment with yourself and your clients, take only a few and do it correctly, accomplish it on time, and submit a work that’s of high quality. It’s okay to say no. But say it nicely and respectfully. Carefully explain just why you can’t do it.
6. Rest from Time to Time
Experiencing burnout is not a good sign when taking on projects. It can keep your tasks delayed and make you very unproductive.
Working more hours on the job does not mean that you can get more things done. So always keep an eye on your energy levels. When you feel stuck, or out of ideas, stop for a moment and give yourself some time to breathe, and not think of anything. Recharging is very important.
Also, make sure that you get the right amount of sleep and drink a lot of fluids. Be healthy in mind and body so you can keep on working at your best.
In order to reduce your stress when working on a design project, make sure that you also consider your resting time when developing your project plans.
7. Use Graphic Design Tools Take Advantage of Your Productive Time
Although you’ve already made plans to do a task for the next day, it’s okay to do it earlier if you really feel productive at the moment. Take advantage of the time when you feel you can accomplish more than you can for the day.
Also, for sure you have come across resources that suggest you use graphic design tools and when you were just learning how to become a graphic designer. This remains true until today. Tools help you be more productive and accomplish more work on time like tools with pre-templates and design libraries like Pixelied, Canva, Vectornator and Icon8.
8. Observe Your Progress
By observing your progress daily, you can assess the efforts you’ve dedicated to the project that day. Did you miss a deadline? What did you do that made it happen? How can you make up for the delays? What can you do to improve tomorrow and get things done better and on time?
With this, you can train yourself to work harder and improve on the things you are weak at. You can also reward yourself if you did a great job. This way, the design project you are working with will be something that is worthwhile that’s both enjoyable and one that teaches you a lot of things that are vital for your success as a graphic designer.
9. Let Go of Your Doubts
Because graphic design is a creative task, sometimes it is difficult to let go of doubts and think that your work is not good enough. It’s okay because it happens to everyone but remember this: you were hired for the job because your employer saw potential in you. Your client too if you are a freelancer, probably saw your portfolio and appreciates what you can do. Therefore, you have the skills enough to convince these people.
Continue what you used to do, and improve when you can. Doubts will only exist if you allow them to. Be confident of your work and let experience show you how you’ve come so far.
10. Continue Learning
If you want to finish your graphic design projects on time, you should equip yourself with the knowledge that can help you accomplish them. By learning different techniques, applying the fundamental principles of design, inspiring yourself every day, and always practicing, you will have a lot of resources you can take out when you need them.
Continue learning from your experiences and the experiences of others. Always be on the lookout for new graphic design trends and tips. Be inspired by always looking at your past work and the work of other artists who once aspired to become who they are right now.
Make Time Your Friend and You Will Succeed
As a graphic designer, dealing with and managing deadlines will always be a part of a job. Although this gets in the way of your creativity and design prowess, you need to accept its challenge in order to succeed in this career.
Time is not a hindrance because actually, time helps you realize what really matters. When you are planning your projects, timelines help you realize the things that really need to be done and the things that you can actually give up in order to become successful.
We hope that these tips would help you manage your time better and finish your design projects faster. Now it’s your turn: what’s your best tip for completing assignments faster and managing your time?
Jenn Pereira is the Marketing Director at Removal.AI, a fast growing platform used for ecommerce image background removal and editing.
She is an experienced UX/UI designer and digital marketer. Loves to write and share useful strategies, tips, tools (SaaS and AI technology) and resources for designers.