In almost any profession, being able to work efficiently and effectively is a great trait to have. To some, it comes easy. To others, it’s a struggle. For me, it was definitely a struggle at first.
When I started Freelancing (and even as I started my first full-time gig as a Graphic Designer), I quickly found it difficult to balance multiple projects while churning out quality work on each. Eventually, I changed the way I approached a project which helped me fall into a more effective rhythm while working. Below are five ways that I’ve found to be useful at becoming more efficient in your job.
1. Never Stop Learning
Whether it’s software, or ancillary concepts, you should always want to learn more. I’ve seen individuals who get to a point where they have adequate knowledge of a software so they stop learning. The problem with this mindset is that you can easily miss out on learning new time-saving techniques.
An example of this was when I was asked to create a certain effect using Photoshop. The goal was to incorporate a motivational phrase into a photograph as if it physically existed as part of the scene. I really spent time making the text fit into the scene; giving it dimension, matching the lighting, masking out overlapping objects, and adding reflections and shadows. After all that work, I was asked to change the phrase. Fortunately, I created the entire effect using Smart objects, so what would have been a complete re-do was simply a quick change to the smart object layer containing the text.
On the surface, this is a very simple concept—do you know where everything is? It’s important to have all aspects of your project at your finger tips. I previously wrote an article on organization that addresses this in more detail, but here are some tips to be better organized:
- Create a proper folder structure for your project files
- Create an easy-to-use file syntax for all working files
- Develop and effective note-taking/documentation system to help you keep on top of the progress of each project
- Create lists (and even sub-lists) of tasks. Do this even if you don’t think you have the time to make a list
- Prioritize tasks so you can finish projects on time
- Estimate hours to help you fit projects and tasks into your schedule
This concept works in tandem with being organized. When starting any project, it’s important to pull all the necessary materials, do all of the research, and gather all the notes needed to work on the project. It doesn’t help to start a project only having to stop because you aren’t sure what direction to go since you didn’t take the time up front to do any research.
4. Pace Yourself
This is more of an obscure concept. You should always try to work with a steady and deliberate pace—especially if you are working on a tight deadline. My general rule of thumb when I have a tight deadline is to slow down. More often than not, working too fast will only cause mistakes which add unwanted delays in completing a project. Work at a pace you’re comfortable with and no faster.
5. Limit Interruptions
While this may be obvious, it’s commonly ignored without realizing it. As you can expect, the fewer interruptions you have the more you can focus on a project. So in short, work in an environment that limits distractions. However, some people convince themselves that they work better with the radio or TV on as background noise.
Now, I’m not saying that these don’t work, but it’s up to you to find out what works and what doesn’t. I actually find that I’m more productive when i listen to Pandora. Others may find it a distraction. Or worse yet, you may not even realize it’s a distraction. I’ve known people to get wrapped up in a song on the radio that their focus on work slips. It is up to you to make sure that you are actually getting work done instead of singing along to your favorite song, or trying to solve the murder mystery on the crime show playing on your TV.
Hopefully, you’ve found some (or all) of these tips useful. If you have additional tips that you’ve found to work, feel free to share. Just as I wrote about in the first point, I’m always open to learning new concepts and ideas.