All of us are guilty of “fake work,” says Joel Runyon. “Fake work” is that moment of the day where you set yourself up to do work, but are just putzing around. For freelancers or those who work remotely, this can be especially hard to break when you’re your own boss. The solution? A list that breaks down into three separate task groups, each at a different location. Runyon explains:
List out everything you need to do today. Try to be as specific as you can. Ensure that each item on your list is a clear action rather than a vague intention. . . Next, break that list into three sections. These sections should be equal in terms of how much time they’re likely to take to complete. . .
Step 1: Go to cafe #1.
Step 2: Start working on action item group #1. . . Once you finish all the tasks in group #1, get up and move. Close your tabs, pack your bags, and physically move your butt to your next spot. If you can, walk or bike to your next stop. Avoid driving if you can. The physical activity is important. . . When you get to the next cafe, start on the next action item group, and repeat. . .
Use this time to practice your zen, take a break from your screen, and get some movement into your day. Keep your phone in your pocket, and move. Take a break away from work for at least thirty minutes. Whatever you do, don’t go back to the same place you just left.
Soon, Runyon found that he was working less hours while getting more done, on top of a whole list of new beneficial side effects (like sleeping better and getting to know his area more).
Read the full instructions here.
Adam Akhtar of Highfive has a great—albeit surprisingly simple—tip to add visual tags to your notebook or moleskin for organizing your notes. All it takes is your notebook and a pen:
The back of your notebook will act like a tag list or index. Every time you create a new entry at the front of the book you’re going to “tag” it [in the back]…
Now you’d go back to the first page where the [note] is and on the exact same line as the…label you just wrote you’d make a little mark on the right edge. You’d make this mark so that even when the notepad was closed the mark would be visible. After repeating this for various [notes] you’d now have various tags visible on the notebooks edge.
The process is very easy to use, and can be paired with other “hacks” for an added organizational boost (like using different colors for different topics). If you still use a physical notebook, this is one approach you’re definitely going to want to consider.
Figure out what you stand for and what you believe in, and use that as your point of difference. In a crowd of designers, how will you stand apart? If you’re guilty of leading with what you do, start with why you do it and articulate that on your materials, website and social channels. Find out where your talents and values meet, and use that to leverage the power of your purpose.
Your “why” is a powerful driving force for your life and career. It provides a common goal that directs your actions and provides the dedication to get there. In addition, passion is contagious. Your excitement will excite others who will want to get involved in what you do. As leadership expert Simon Sinek says, “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
The sooner you share your ideas, the sooner you will find a solution that works for everyone. Try to collaborate with your clients during the design process instead of simply presenting to them at the end. That’s what digital strategist Michelle Campbell learned during the SXSW Interactive Festival:
At agencies, we’ve grown used to spending weeks on one idea only to have it thrown away at the last minute. If we opened up this process to more sharing — among ourselves and our clients — we’d have more time to build and evolve better ideas.
Your clients may not know much about design, but they are experts in their industries. Getting their feedback early on will prevent you from getting attached to an idea that isn’t going to work. Campbell reminds us:
… we often rely on people with the word “creative” in their title for ideas, but we forget that inspiration isn’t taught. It comes from real life, and anyone can bring that to the table.
A recent study found that the average worker loses approximately 80 hours per years as a result of disorganization. That’s nearly two weeks of vacation! When invoices, receipts, contracts. and drafts are piled up everywhere, you’re likely to waste hours shuffling papers from one pile to another.
Ann Gomez of Clear Concept Inc. emphasizes the touch it once principle:
Process each task the first time you touch it.
Triage effectively with Gomez’s one touch rule – as soon as you get it, act on it, delegate it, file it or throw it away. And don’t just stop at paper – this principle easily applies to phone calls, emails and social media notifications.
It’s a simple trick to help you batch your work into scheduled, focus blocks: you won’t open an email until you’re ready to give it your full attention, or you’ll decline to accept your coworker’s rough draft until later when you know you’ll have the time to sit down and do it.
There are two leading problems with the average brainstorming session, as researchers at the Kellogg School of Management explain :
- In a typical six- or eight-person group, three people do 70 percent of the talking.
- Early ideas tend to have disproportionate influence over the rest of the conversation.
One of the researchers (as well as author of Creative Conspiracy: The New Rules of Breakthrough Collaboration), Professor Leigh Thompson, remarks that the dominant people don’t realize that they’re doing most of the talking. “In fact,” she says, “they vehemently argue that meetings are egalitarian.”
The solution to these lop-sided meetings is brainwriting, instead of brainstorming. Thompson describes brainwriting as “the simultaneous written generation of ideas.” She breaks it down the process as such:
Step 1: Write just one sentence each. For the first five or 10 minutes of your next idea-generation meeting, every team member writes down one good idea or one proposed solution on, say, each of a small stack of index cards.
Step 2: Consider the idea, not the source. When the timer goes off, all cards are submitted anonymously and taped or thumbtacked to a wall for the whole team’s consideration.
Step 3: Put it to a blind vote. Team members signal their interest in an idea by marking it with a sticker or a Post-it note. Everyone gets a limited number of stickers and, if done right, the best ideas emerge quickly.
In an interview with The Guardian, designer Tom Dixon comments on how counterculture has become mainstream, leaving no room for rebellion in design:
I’ve got a theory that it’s almost impossible now to be countercultural because everything is endorsed. Look at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show on punk. There’s nothing that isn’t authorised. Everything in fashion and in furniture has become super-legitimised. By the time it’s out there and blogged, it’s over.
Instead designing for or against trends, Dixon strives for his work to have staying power. Products are created for a specific purpose or “as ideas suggested themselves.” Either way, it’s always on his own accord and not because of what others are doing.