Everyone gets the same 1,440 minutes in a single day. As web designers, there are a lot of moving parts to your role like planning, coding, strategizing, designing, and tons more. While you can’t magically add more time back into the day, you can definitely find ways to optimize your workflow in order to get some time back. According to our latest customer analysis survey, we learned that one of the biggest hurdles is *drum roll*
“Time management. It’s tough to focus on growing the business when I keep getting sucked back into projects.”
“Time. Really self-motivated, but time can be a challenge when running my small business.”
“It takes a lot of time to learn.”
“Time, time, time.”
I hear you! If time is money, then let me share with you the best recommendations to increase your time management and improve efficiencies in your workflow. Let’s get started!
The value of time management
As much as I wish, we can’t physically alter time to add more to our workday (or weekends)!
How you spend your time plays a big factor in your labor productivity, a.k.a. the measure which describes the relationship between real output and the labor time involved in its production. In fact, actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. roughly $450 billion in lost productivity per year.
By shifting the focus on optimizing the creative workflow, you can find ways to cut corners, take shortcuts, and reclaim some of your valuable time. When you spend less time on administrative tasks and more time in client work, you’re actively building up revenue and making room for more clients. (Woo hoo!)
10 time management strategies for web designers
Grow your business by incorporating these tried and true time management techniques to get more results out of your workday.
1. Make your wellness a priority
I’m guilty of letting this area slide when I have important deadlines due. I skip breakfast, don’t drink enough water (and too much coffee), and won’t eat the proper healthy foods to refuel my body.
While it can seem like wellness is too high of a luxury to include in your schedule, there are heaps of benefits that’ll help optimize your time management! Aside from the boosted health benefits you’ll reap, giving your body the wellness it deserves will make your brain sharper, mood better and increase your energy levels to GSD (get sh*t done)!
When you give your body the best environment to thrive, you’ll see it work more in your favor!
Here are my top recommendations for wellness:
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night
- Set reminders on your phone to drink more water
- Take mental breaks as needed
- Have hobbies outside of working
2. Adjust your mindset
Time management issues can link back to your level of mental self-discipline.
Are you checking email or *gasp* social media too often? Do you stop what you’re doing at the drop of a hat to reply to that *extra special* client? Is writer’s block responsible for that pile of crumpled up ideas in the (physical or mental) corner?
Train your mental self-discipline to stick to its set schedule (as best you can) even when your train of thought isn’t cooperating. Web designers have a lot on their to-do list but don’t get overwhelmed and fall into knee-jerk reactions such as overly checking email, social, messages, or avoiding priorities.
Create accountability for your action-items by setting daily and/or weekly benchmarks to work toward. Don’t worry, I’ve got a few suggestions later to help you track progress.
Remember: you’re a work in progress! Don’t beat yourself up if plans change and your schedule shifts in the middle of the day. As web designers, that’s the name of the game. You wear so many hats, so flex your mental self-discipline, but also be easy on yourself.
3. Remove distractions
This one is a given on any time management strategies list!
Almost 50% of Americans check their emails as they arrive in their inbox or throughout the day (10+ times). Recovering from said-distractions takes about 23 minutes every time to get back in the zone, which is a huge time-killer away from client work.
Turn your phone and laptop notifications on do-not-disturb or volume off so you’re not tempted to check your emails and messages. Stick to checking your email two to three times a day or for only five minutes of every hour if that’s what’s necessary.
When it comes to your workspace, some folks prefer silence and some personally need a bit of background stimulus like white noise to concentrate. If you’re like me and need that special something in the background, keep it low and make it something repetitive so it’s less likely to catch your train of thought (I like to play slow jazz or a ‘fireplace’ YouTube video).
Want to refresh your workspace? Check out 15 creative workspaces to inspire your setup!
4. Set realistic goals and deadlines
Web designers are driven by the ambition to create stellar work for clients. Let’s make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to get your best work done.
“Having a clear and defined list of tasks each day helps keep me organized, but prioritizing the tasks within each day has proven efficient for my team, and achieving our collective goals as an agency.”
You will always be your best advocate. It’s better to ask for an extension on a project or proposal than presenting too early, and then having to go back and make changes to pitch again. One tip is to set SMART goals! Ensure that your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. This will set the expectation bar for both you and your client so your objectives are clear and transparent.
5. Find your energy peaks
As humans, our productivity windows come in 90-120 minute cycles throughout the day. This is when your energy, concentration, and motivation align to help you grind out deadlines. Your body is already set to a circadian rhythm so finding these peak performance times are crucial to managing your time wisely.
If you’re unsure, you can trial some working periods to see if the morning, afternoon, evening, or night is better. For two weeks, keep a running log of your energy, concentration, and motivation levels to find what works best for you!
6. Schedule time blocks
Dareen Peel of Hey Healthy Media highly recommends this method.
“I will break down my days and ‘time block’ my agenda in Google Calendar so I know exactly what I am doing every hour of the day. Three must-have time blocks for me are my morning routine where I will get myself prepared to have a successful day and invest in myself through meditation, journaling, and reading. The second is a 1-3 hour deep work time block where I tackle my most important tasks for the day. This is uninterrupted time where my phone is off and I 100% focus on my main task(s) for the day! The final time blocks are for busy work and calls!”
If you’ve never done this before, you might think it’s a bit funky to schedule a meeting for yourself to get work done, but hear me out.
Having a set task list for the day is a great way to organize your time! Schedule time blocks on your calendar to form a plan of attack to ensure you’ve got enough time to properly execute your action items. This will also help you learn to say no if you’re one to say yes often and take on too much.
Web Designer Hedy Zhou of happily hedy enjoys using a great calendar app!
“I love Google Calendar! So many people use it, so it’s easy to integrate meetings into your calendar and get reminders. It has a super intuitive design and interface and is honestly the best scheduling/calendar app I’ve found. A close second is the app Rooster, which integrates your reminders and calendar which is helpful.”
7. Creative block? Take breaks
At the heart of your role, designer is one of your top titles. It’s understandable to get frustrated when you’re not producing quality ideas at the tip of a hat.
Beating yourself up will only waste precious time. You’re a creative first and foremost and sometimes that just requires a quick break to recharge. My recommendation — take a break.
You’d be surprised by what a slight change of scenery and pace can do to your creative juices.
8. Try the Pomodoro Technique
Your brain performs better in mental sprints rather than thoughtful marathons. One highly recommended time management tool is the Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo. Over two million people have trusted this method to improve their time management, myself included.
Here’s how it goes:
- Pick a task
- Set a Pomodoro (timer) to work on one task for 25 minutes
- Take a five minute break once the Pomodoro goes off
- Repeat steps 1-3 three times
- After every fourth break, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes
9. Stay organized and prioritize
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your workload! Stay organized in a pinch by adopting a project management application.
Depending on what you need, there are many project management resources available for any size team with most features you could think of like live-editing, file storing, project checklists, etc.
Web Designer Sarah Lukemire of Brindle Digital Marketing utilizes her project management app to improve time efficiencies for frequently repeated tasks.
“We create an online design questionnaire to ensure the client’s expectations are met and make sure everyone is on the same page. We have a launch checklist that we run through each and every time. We have recorded a quick “how to make simple updates” video that can be reused for clients that wish to make simple updates themselves. Lastly, we also create templates in our project management software with all the repeatable tasks for each web project.”
Our trusted web designer friends have tons of project management application recommendations:
- Best Self Planner
- Meister Tasks
- “My top tip is a prioritised to-do list, I keep mine in Trello so the drag and drop is so handy! I also use the different boards to split my work up so that I can work on the same types of tasks in one go and be more productive. I also keep a list of quick go-to tasks that I can do during time that would otherwise be wasted. For example, waiting in the dentist I’ll check my list and see that I could be quickly responding to comments, creating pins, or drafting email ideas instead of scrolling Facebook!” Tahryn of With Tahryn.
- “I have a project template in ClickUp with tasks I do on every website build. This helps me to never miss a step, and since it is a template, I can easily create a new project with it for each client,” Alisha Thomas of Eighty Seven Web.
Whether it’s a daily team stand down or a weekly summary write up, reflecting on your wins and losses, and what did and didn’t work will help find areas of improvement to validate your time management and performance.
By analyzing your routine, you can find the problem areas and create a plan of action to continue strengthening your time management strategies.
Maintain a healthy work/life balance
Work smarter and not harder by including my time management strategies into your creative workflow! Not only will you maximize your results, but you’ll be able to reclaim some time back for balance.
While I’m sure you love what you’re doing as a web designer, remember to incorporate precious “you” time to wind down from the workday, because that’s important, too!
Do you have a helpful tip that I didn’t mention in my list? Be sure to share it in the comments!
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