As a designer, it’s common to work on multiple projects at the same time (this is especially true for freelancers). At times, it can be difficult to keep everything organized. Unfortunately, being unorganized can cost you time, which can cost jobs, which translates to losing money. Below are five tips to help you be better organized at your job:
1. Create a Solid File Structure
Every project is going to have one or more files associated with it (it’s almost always more than one). Whether the files are reference files, notes, or design files, it’s essential to keep them all organized. A great way to do this is to create a proper folder hierarchy that will house all of your digital files for that project. The goal is to create a structure that can be reused for any project. Do you like to save a lot of reference photos for a project—then create a Reference or Resources folder. Are you working with a lot of images—create an Images folder. Once you get used to working with a folder structure, you’ll quickly start to see the benefits of knowing where everything is without wasting time searching your computer for lost files.
2. Create a Standardized Syntax for File Naming
Sticking with a consistent naming convention will make it easier for you to pick up right where you left off on a project. It will also help anyone else who may have to work with your files. I’ve seen project files that have no consistent naming throughout. Am I to assume that the filed called Composite_Final.psd is the latest version? What about Composite_Final2.psd, or even Composite_FinalFinal.psd?
Some general guidelines to follow when coming up with a naming convention:
- Include labels separated by a hyphen or underscore to identify the name of the project, type, client, and our version number. For example, website_header_01.jpg.
- Avoid using the word Final as a label.
- Use two- or three-digit version numbering (such as 02, 03). Using single digits will cause issues after 9 (since 9 and 10 aren’t read as sequential by the computer).
- Using parentheses can be helpful to identify variations of a file. (e.g. clientlogo_color_01(rgb).jpg, clientlogo_color_01(cmyk).jpg.
- Avoid caps. This will force you to be consistent as well as avoid issues with case-sensitivity.
3. Develop a System for Notations
The more projects that overlap, the harder it will be to remember where you are at on each project. Did Client A ask for color variations of his logo, or was it Client B. Create a system to take notes that you can easily tie back to the correct project. I’ve seen some people use a program like Excel to create master lists of all project with columns dedicated to due dates, milestones, and comments. I personally, like to create chronological list of notes and activity for every project using Notepad (which I save with the corresponding project files)
4. Create Lists
Creating lists helps you to identify the tasks for each project. By writing these down, you’re less likely to forget a task. Lists help you work faster and stay on track. Typically, I will write down all of the tasks that I can think of for the week. I always do this the very first thing in the beginning of the week. I’ve found that no matter how busy I may be, if I don’t spend the time organizing my projects and identifying each task, I will actually work slower, and thus, be less productive.
It’s also important to keep the list organic. As projects pop up and tasks change, I make sure modify the list accordingly. Some tasks may be bumped until next week, others may be moved up. In some instances, I’ve even been known to make a sub-list. Sub-lists are great for times when projects seem overwhelming. By making a sub-list, I’m forcing myself to focus on a more manageable chunk of a project.
5. Prioritize Tasks and Projects
This can be considered a continuation of the previous tip, but it’s equally important. As you take on new projects or come up with new tasks, try to identify which ones are more important and put those higher on your list. Mainly, you’ll find deadlines drive the order of a list, but it’s also worth taking into consideration how much time you think a specific task will take. Just because a deadline is weeks out, doesn’t mean you should wait to start that task. Who knows what problems you may encounter.
Hopefully you’ve learned different things you can do to help be better organized in your work. Let me know if you disagree with any of these and feel free to share the ways you keep organized.