Here are a few tips to help you out with time management, both in and out of your home office. Hint: it’s okay to take a break!
Learning how to manage time effectively is one of the most significant challenges employees face in an increasingly demanding and digital world. As more industrial designers and employees of all types shift to working from home, this becomes further amplified. Meeting tight deadlines in collaborative environments, staying on track throughout each stage of the design process, and maximizing efficiency so that you can move on to other projects is critical in today’s tech-driven world. But, for so many, it can be a struggle. Whether you’re ideating, researching, prototyping, or anything else, the right mindset, process, and tools can make all the difference. Here are a few tips to help you out with time management, both in and out of your home office.
Prioritize and Focus in a Virtual Environment
One of the most important things you can do to manage your time better is to let things go. Effective time management at work can often be as simple as turning off the tools and distractions that aren’t serving the job you’re trying to do. Things like Slack or Teams are great for collaboration, but they can interfere with your ability to focus on the task at hand, wasting valuable time as you attempt to transition between too many things at once. Even email can be a distraction if you need to get something done.
Meetings can be another major hurdle for design engineers, especially if you meet many people or over multiple time zones. Important work happens during meetings, but it usually isn’t one of the major projects you’re working to achieve on a tight deadline. Cutting out meetings isn’t always feasible, but you can block out your schedule to include uninterrupted hours. Doing this even twice a week can give you the space you need to maximize your workflow.
One of the places designers get tied up is in design revisions. There are many ways this slows down work, but often, it’s as simple as a poor process and tools that don’t support collaboration. To overcome the infinite loop of revision, you need access to the right set of tools and an environment that can help control who can access what.
Fusion 360 is a great example of a highly effective tool that gets the work done. By streamlining feedback cycles, enabling quick, topic-based communication, and keeping your files in one accessible place on the cloud (with real-time updates), you make more of the limited time you have and create the best products you can.
Prepare for What Actually Matters
A crucial aspect of time management is doing the prep work, setting yourself up for success down the road. While this can encompass many things, it is crucial to establish efficient work habits. This can include setting up an office space with the software, tools, and environment you need to do your best work or regularly updating your computer at the end of the day to prevent distractions from your important work.
Maintain a dedicated workspace, extra monitors, good lighting, and anything else that aids in your productivity. Having an office that is ready to go at any moment saves time in the long run and helps your brain transition from “not work time” to dedicated work time, thus increasing your ability to manage time effectively.
One Bite at a Time
If design projects are overwhelming you, try breaking them up into smaller, more manageable chunks. This way, you benefit from the endorphins of achieving small tasks, and before you know it, your unwieldy project is done. Project management tools like Asana offer an easy, fun way to create daily checklists and mark off completed tasks. This can be a useful strategy for group work, as it allows you to more effectively overcome dependencies and divide the work in a useful way.
Remember to Rest
For many of us, especially as more of us shift to working from home permanently, it’s easy to continue the workday into the evenings or even on weekends. While crossing things off of a growing to-do list may offer temporary stress relief, it will ultimately leave you feeling burnt out, making you less productive during the week, thus pressuring you into a never-ending cycle of working in your off-hours.
Rest and time dedicated to your families and passions make you a better designer. It feeds your creativity and leaves you refreshed and ready to tackle a new set of challenges at the beginning of the week. Resist the temptation to overwork and see how your ability to manage your time and schedule improves in the coming days.