19 Time Management Tips for Designers on Remote Work
I bet you'll agree with me on this one:
The topic of time management always remains the same. Tons of research, blog posts, and tutorials live online on this, and specialists don't seem to stop: They share time management tips every year, updating and adjusting some to the conditions we all have around.
Why is the topic so popular? While most people claim they know how to manage time, and they've heard the time management tips hundreds of times, it's still challenging for them to master all those techniques. As a result, they continue looking for new practices or return to the well-known tactics to see where they did something wrong or missed anything for those tactics to work.
When it comes to remote work, things turn out to be even more challenging. It's more complicated to balance work and other responsibilities when not at the office or with no manager controlling you.
This article covers the ultimate list of time management tactics for designers on remote work. You'll learn to control your schedule, track time, and deal with several simultaneous projects efficiently. Physical and mental well-being is crucial for productivity and overall work-life harmony, so we'll mention this moment.
Why Time Management for Remote Designers?
First, web designers are creative people who often deal with several projects simultaneously, so it's easy for them to get lost in time and balance between work and personal life. They habitually spend hours at a monitor, “forgetting” about food, breaks, or physical activity. It's not an option if you want to stay healthy, happy, and productive at work.
Second, as mentioned in the intro, remote time management is difficult-to-manage. It requires many skills, including self-awareness, focus, self-organisation, decision-making, planning, and others. Poor time management can make a remote environment stressful for creative specialists, and that's why stress management skills are also critical.
Third, balancing work responsibilities with personal ones is challenging when working remotely. A specialist needs to decide the right thing to do at the right time:
Improper time management here will reduce the work quality and make you miss deadlines and lose clients. Sure thing, it impacts your personal life negatively.
Let's avoid it!
19 Practical Tips for Time Management When Designing Remotely
If you are a web designer working remotely for a long time, most of the below strategies may look obvious. And yet, they are worth checking to ensure your skills are advanced enough to be called a king of time management.
1 — Organise a Home Office
Let's start with the top challenge most web designers face when working remotely: Where to work? (I mean a physical working space here.) When you don't have a well-organised room or corner explicitly designed for work, it becomes super hard to “unplug” after working hours.
That's why many of us work longer hours while separating work and rest is critical.
If you work at home and want to be productive during working hours, do your best to create a kind of office in your room: It's critical to keep it separate from your bed or sleeping sofa. Yeap, we all know designers and other creative specialists love working from bed, but no! You must form this physical barrier between your “office” and “home.”
When coming to your home office in the morning, do your best to get dressed for work. No one says about format suits and ties, but please do not start working in pyjamas. Ensure you have a comfortable desk, chair, and screens for optimal productivity.
Your task is to trick your brain into believing that you are no longer at home and, therefore, it's time to work. With no opportunity to work from home, consider co-working spaces.
2 — Plan Your Work in Advance
As a specialist, you know that planning is essential for efficient work. Working remotely becomes even more critical because you must plan an entire day, including your out-of-work activities.
To-do lists are a nifty tool (more on this below), but it would also be helpful to craft a to-do calendar: While lists tell you what to do, calendars schedule tasks and help you prioritise them according to deadlines. (Google Calendar does it pretty well.)
3 — Consider To-Do Lists and Checklists
Here they go, to-do lists and checklists.
If it's more comfortable for you to write a to-do list with all the tasks to complete daily — do that! People are different, and sometimes handwritten lists do better than those added to online calendars. Also, they can be more accessible to you as a checklist for what you've done:
Write three tasks of high priority at the beginning of the list to prioritise them in such a way, and do them first. Once done, cross them out. Simple as that.
Sure thing, you can use to-do list apps: They are also comfortable and easy to manage and sync between platforms you use. Todoist, Any.do, and TickTick are a few options. If you prefer Google instruments, consider Google Tasks.
4 — Remember the Time You Spend on Meetings
When working remotely, communication does matter. Virtual meetings have become a norm, and you need to consider them when planning the time and work hours. Otherwise, they can “eat” the whole day, and you won't understand how it happened: You work, but the results of your work aren't here.
Reserve time for any upcoming meeting when you craft a plan for the next working day. It will allow you to better estimate your time on current tasks. Also, you won't get interrupted by a client or a manager suddenly focusing on your web design work.
5 — Identify Time Robbers
Also known as chronophages, time robbers refer to something that literally “eats” your time, leading to procrastination, lower productivity, and poorer work efficiency. For better time management, you need to identify and eliminate them from your schedule.
Time robbers can be work and leisure activities that make you spend time without achieving positive results. It can be social media distracting you from work, frequent notifications from work-related apps, your family members distracting you when you work from home, etc.
Lack of proper planning, unrealistic time estimation, and lack of communication are also here. Once you identify your time robbers, you'll improve your work as you'll see how to implement efficient time management strategies.
6 — Identify Your Productive Triggers
Productive triggers refer to things that motivate you and help you work harder. They are habits or activities that encourage you to stick to plans and schedules: Once you identify them, you'll be able to organise time so they will assist you on the way to efficient remote work.
For some specialists, deadlines are the best motivators. Others prefer flexible hours, defining and setting the most productive ones to work better. For some people, it's OK to work under pressure: They see they are more productive with a terror boss looking behind their shoulders. Others prefer a fun and laid-back environment.
Define your productive triggers and work hours — and you'll understand the “work better, not harder” formula. If you are productive in the morning, assign the most challenging tasks accordingly and let minor tasks go later, and vice versa.
7 — Consider Time Blocking
You heard about time blocking, didn't you? It's a time management technique prescribing us to divide the entire day into blocks of time and allocate a task or a task group to each block. It's about heavy prioritising and strict scheduling with little flexibility.
Two variants of time blocking to consider for productive work:
- Task batching is when you group similar tasks instead of doing them throughout the day. For instance, you spend 20 minutes checking emails instead of doing that every hour.
- Day theming is when you devote the whole working day to one task type. For example, you allocate Tuesday to work on website logos, Wednesday — to design graphics for home pages, and so on.
8 — Remember Parkinson's Law
According to Parkinson's law, work expands to fill the allotted time you assign to every task. How to determine the allotted time and apply this law to your remote work processes?
First, estimate how much time each task requires from you. And then, cut these estimated timelines in half:
As far as Parkinson's law dictates that you can achieve the task within the time frame you'll schedule, there's a theory that your task fulfilment will take as much time as you prescribe. Why not try it to see if the theory works?
9 — Track Your Time
It's the well-known and most accessible time management technique to try regardless of your niche: Time tracking helps you understand which tasks take most of your time and effort, which ones serve as rime robbers, and how to optimise them accordingly.
It's the proven way to increase your remote work productivity. Once you know how much time you spend on each task type, you can schedule working days better and eliminate distractions. Time-tracking software will help with that.
Thus, Time Doctor is highly customisable; Harvest is perfect for freelance specialists to bill hours, and Timely is an AI-powered tool with automatic time tracking and comfortable task categorisation.
10 — Try the 3-5-7 Method
Some experts recommend trying the 3-5-7 method for organising your small tasks. That's how it works
First, you choose the three most critical and urgent tasks to complete and don't stop until you finish them. These three tasks require your most attention and focus, and you'll get them done while your concentration is at its max at the beginning of your working day.
After those three, choose five tasks that would be nice to complete but are optional to finish today. Suppose you deal with them all — fantastic! If not, it will be OK to postpone some of them till tomorrow.
Finally, seven other tasks on your list will probably still need to get done, but they should be on the list anyway. If you deal with the three of high priority and the five of your middle priority, and you get around those seven, then you are super productive and have done an excellent job! Give this 3-5-7 method a try, and you'll see its impact on your self-organisation and productivity.
11 — Avoid Task Switching
You already know that multitasking doesn't work: Switching between different tasks, a person loses focus and spends around 30 minutes restoring attention and concentration. So you waste time and energy on task switching instead of spending it more efficiently.
Multitasking destroys productivity. Some designers may ignore this fact because they often work on several projects simultaneously and are afraid of missing deadlines. If it's your case, then go back to the time management technique already covered in this article: time batching. Group similar tasks and align particular time spots for completing them:
Let's say you work on designing three different websites. Then you can spend Monday mornings drawing logos for all three, and Tuesday afternoons will go to communicating their brand identities via web design, etc.
12 — Eliminate Distractions
It is probably the #1 challenge for remote workers: Distractions are everywhere and are in cahoots to encourage procrastination and poor time organisation. You need to develop the skill of tackling and handling distractions; it will signal that you can manage your time well.
How to deal with distractions?
As already mentioned, avoid multitasking. It's not only about multitasking on working projects but multitasking in general: When working remotely, it's tempting to start switching between work and personal stuff. So, please do your best to prevent it, and do not try to fit in anything unrelated to work during your day. If you work from home, try to organise it, so your family members don't bother you while you're working. Even if you don't have a separate room but a corner, think of a signal for your family to understand it's the wrong time to disturb you. For example, it can be earphones: When they are on you, it means you are “away.”
And the most obvious tip, but still:
Mute notifications from your messaging apps, don't surf social media while working and avoid personal phone calls during working hours. Yes, it can be challenging to do: social media and email are among our most common chronophages; you can try techniques like Pomodoro to manage distractions.
13 — Get the Most Out of Templates
As a designer, you've probably developed this habit already: Save your web design process templates so you can use them for other projects later. It will save you time significantly! Everything you'll need to do is customise those templates, and, as far as you understand, it's much faster and easier to do than crafting everything from scratch.
The more you “templatise” your design workflow, the more organised and efficient your remote work becomes. Now you'll be able to optimise your daily schedule and focus more on the creative aspect of your work, therefore avoiding burnout and work overwhelm.
14 — Prepare a Toolkit
As a designer, you have many tools to use on every project, don't you? It can be some graphic design software, a collection of themes, different plugins, software for website creation, a wireframing tool, Sketch, Photoshop, and so on. If you haven't prepared such a toolkit yet, it's high time to do that:
With a ready toolkit, you work faster (surprise!) and more efficiently. Once you get a new web design project, you will only spend time hunting for particular instruments. Try some productivity tools to optimise your time management process to the maximum.
15 — Make Friends with Breaks
Let's face it: We all know the importance of breaks from work for our productivity and overall health, but we often “forget” it while working. Efficient time management is not only about spending hours on design projects but also your ability to organise breaks and free time. According to studies, remote workers take fewer breaks, which is wrong to do: When you don't rest from work, you get many problems, including overworking, burnout, stress, and health problems.
Your task is to find a balance between remote work and rest, and it's more challenging than it seems. Breaks are also a part of a proper time management process: Organise regular 15-20 minutes break every 90 minutes — it will help you recharge your inner batteries and boost work efficiency.
16 — Plan Your Work-Free Time
Tons of research and studies claim that remote employees are more productive than their in-office colleagues. But why does it happen? As already mentioned, remote workers take fewer breaks, often overwork, and sacrifice their physical and mental well-being to work, which is not OK: Such productivity may cost a lot, resulting in burnout and affecting work performance.
To avoid this, remote specialists must take care of (or even prioritise) their mental health and downtime. While planning your time, remember about work hours and sticking to them: You need to organise a proper clock-out routine so that your co-workers know you are not available anymore.
Also, plan for your work-free downtime: read a book, take a walk, play with your dog — consider something that doesn't require internet access. Such tiny details do wonders for your work-life balance, energising and motivating you to work better.
17 — Learn to Say No
Here comes the fear of many remote workers:
It often feels like they aren't doing enough, and a manager or a client thinks they are lazy and get money for nothing. To deal with this fear and show a client they can deal with everything, a worker may want to grab all the tasks at once or tries to complete everything as soon as possible. Such a tactic leads to nothing but burnout, overworking, and stress.
As you already know, multitasking doesn't work. (It makes us 40% less productive and negatively impacts our brain health.) Grabbing all tasks is about something other than time management but the fear that someone won't consider you a good specialist if you decide to say no to some projects. Please do your best to learn to say no:
It's critical to prioritise tasks, ignore those with no value to your project, and it's OK only to accept some clients if their offers meet your ambitions. And it's also OK to delegate some tasks.
18 — Automate Wherever Possible
Designers are creative people, but their work processes are not about creativity only. Most also deal with administrative tasks like scheduling, tax management, client communication, etc. If more than 50% of your working day is about such technical moments, it's time to revise your workflow and automate those processes with software.
It will save you time and allow you to organise it better. Yes, remote time management could be faster and more straightforward, but once you deal with it and decide on the tools to assist you, you'll be surprised by how comfortable and productive your remote work is now.
19 — Prioritise Health
Do you know that almost half of the remote workers feel isolated, and their mental health has declined since working remotely? No matter what others say about better efficiency and happiness of remote workers, a lack of proper office routine has a place to be, influencing our human resources. The same is true about the absence of face-to-face communication with colleagues.
Remote work is about your routine reorganisation, influencing your physical health. Anxiety, stress, and sleep deprivation become our “best friends” if we don't prioritise health and don't consider any self-care practices when planning our time.
What you can do:
- Take regular breaks.
- Find time for mindfulness.
- When organising a workplace, think of a comfortable chair that will be good for the back, a high-quality screen, and a proper light in the room to care for eyesight.
- Remember sleep hygiene: Don't work at night, stick to your working hour routine, and ensure you sleep 7-8 hours.
- Reserve some time for physical exercises (15-20 minutes at least) every day.
Participating in social events with colleagues or friends would also be great. Stay inside your home office only some of the time; schedule fun activities that will help you relax, prevent creative block and recharge energy and motivation for further proactivity and work efficiency.
In a Word
Now that you have so many time management techniques a designer or any other specialist can use on remote work, it's high time to try those you still need to practice and find out which works best for you.
Sure thing, you won't apply ALL these tactics at once: Some will fit your professional needs, while others won't — and that's OK. Remote time management can be tricky, but now you have many instruments in your pocket to organise everything in the best way possible.