Organization Tips For Web Designers

As a web designer, you’re often forced to wear many different hats every day. You’re the CEO, creative director, office manager, coffee fetcher and sometimes even janitor. That’s a lot for anyone, and it certainly makes it difficult to find any time for quality creative thinking. Organization in any operation is important, and for our work as web designers it is important, too. The good news? You don’t have to have been born an organizational machine. Let’s look at what being organized means and a few strategies and tips to help you clean up that messy desk and get your work ducks in a nice neat row.

1. Organization 101
What it means to be an organized person or run an organized business is commonly misunderstood. Many people equate being organized with being fussy, which is not the case. Little labeled folders and neatly itemized lists are one way to stay organized, but they are merely tactics. The heart of organization is having a strategy. Being organized is simply a matter of using clearly defined and consistently implemented systems to get things done. But how do you go about finding and implementing a strategy if you’re starting from square one? It begins with where you want to end up. Think about where you waste the most time or what frustrates you the most on a daily or weekly basis, and start there. Formulate simple clear goals and treat these overarching goals as the finish line in your strategy. For example, if you have trouble paying all (and I mean every single one) of your bills on time because they are perpetually lost in the mess on your desk, make it a goal to pay every bill before it is due for the entire year. With this broad goal in mind, you can work on cleaning your desk and setting up a routine for paying each of your bills.

2. Building Routines
Very disorganized people tend to do things in a scattershot way, jumping frequently between unrelated activities, wasting time and energy with each switch. So, if you are committed to being more organized, the first things you need to analyze are your daily, weekly and monthly routines. What activities do you do every day, week and month? It helps to make a list for each and add to it over the course of the week or even month.

When a bunch of new e-mails arrives. Schedule time for administrative tasks . and the divide will help you stay efficient and organized. 2. If you work a few hours here and there during the day. Instead pick two — and only two — times a day to deal with emails. Schedule all of your meetings together during one part of the day. they will follow up eventually. Standardize your working hours Freelancing web designers are blessed with abundant freedom in the hours they work. 4. Group like tasks Don’t stop working to answer each email as it arrives. you force your brain to switch on and off multiple times a day. If the e-mail was important. Try to work roughly the same schedule each day and all in one block. one that require some work (“Work”) and one for e-mails that aren’t that important and can be replied later on (“Later”). Arrange your activities by location. and set up reminders or to-do-lists for important tasks. This creates a clear divide in your head between work and free time. and don’t stray from this time block.Original image by garyknight 1. then schedule the meeting for the following day. You can use those patterns to help you plan your time more efficiently. Once you have this list. Tips for Building Effective Routines 1. sort and prioritize them right away. you could set up a little system that would delete all unreplied emails that are older than 10–14 days and send a notification to those who sent these e-mails. type or client to minimize the time you take to switch gears (both mentally and physically) between each activity. If the block is full on any given day. But this can be a blessing and a curse. If you get way too many e-mails. you should start to notice patterns. 3. Try hard to keep the first two clean in the end of every day. You could have three folders — one for important e-mails (“Important”). Keep the e-mail inbox clean. so they know that their e-mail wasn’t read.

you are also the CEO. one that ingrains the idea. Listen to your instincts. Systems While being organized is not the same thing as having a mild case of OCD 2. you are also the office manager. Schedule time each day or week to take care of bills. Time to think Similar to the last point.You’re a designer foremost. the physical act of writing forces you to use another part of your brain. especially for organization. If you’re accident-prone. and it doesn’t rely on a good connection to the Internet (unlike a Web-based to-do list). you can even get a field notebook 4 (the kind biologists . filing or cleaning. but if you’re a freelancer. making you less likely to forget. Another great thing about using something like a notebook is that it doesn’t need charging (unlike all of those electronic gadgets in your pocket). creating clear and consistent systems that you can use on a daily basis is important. Important to remember: routines are not (and should not feel) inflexible. and I nearly always have a small notebook handy for sudden brainwaves. My desk is covered with sticky notes. The Old-Fashioned Way I’m a big believer in simple solutions. You are always free to change the way you do things. Make sure to leave time (at least some each month) to analyze how business is going and how you are progressing towards your goals. and as such you need to think about the overall goals and strategy of your one-person organization. These systems only become more important the busier you get. 5. Sometimes you may need to put out fires. Don’t let those administrative tasks pile up. and sometimes you just need a change. serving as an anchor to help you remember everyday items and meet critical deadlines. In addition to creating a written record. 3. Original image by shawncampbell 3.

What item do you carry with you everywhere.” The point is well made. much less need. • Blinksale 8 Invoices. How much easier does it get? • The Printable CEO 6 Printable sheets to help with task management and goal-tracking. your phone is as powerful an organizational tool as your computer. That said. If you’ve decided that a Web app is required for your project. without fail? Your mobile phone. • Campaign Monitor To manage email lists and send well-crafted HTML emails. of course.use). • The Hipster PDA 5 Notecards in your pocket held together with a clip. . this app is top of class. If the app tries to accomplish too much. people get into the bad habit of being completely unable to move forward without checking. without eating a portion of your pay check each month! If you need a little more structure than just a notebook in your pocket. But be sure that you really need a Web app before wasting two days testing different ones. but often you will also (hopefully) be working with only one or two individuals on each project. it is only effective when actively used. Basecamp is an amazingly mature and powerful app for coordinating teams. these apps can be a true life-saver. Do you remember life before mobile phones? Do you remember how many phone numbers you had memorized? The human brain is capable of remembering vast quantities of information. it will likely only end up frustrating you with features you don’t understand. here are a few “analog” organizational systems to look into: • Getting Things Done Personal organization based on writing down the important stuff. A welltraveled notebook can do most of what an organizational app can do. a single-purpose app exists to help you do just about anything. For teams working together. Give your brain a chance to find the answer before turning to those Web calendars and notifications — it might surprise you! A note about Web apps: these have become big business. updating and mulling over their app of choice. And with the likes of the iPhone and Google’s Android platform. But as with email. Digital Control Analog solutions can work wonders if you’re flying solo. Why not simplify and drop the Web app altogether. remember that single-purpose apps are generally the way to go. as I’ve recommended several times already. The One That’s With You Photographers have an old adage: “The best camera is the one that’s with you. but what if you have to collaborate with others on a product? Sometimes there is just no substitute for a good Web app at your fingertips to help you coordinate a project’s different facets. which has waterproof pages. It also integrates with Basecamp. but like any muscle. here are a few standout apps to help you navigate your next project: • Basecamp 7 Mentioning Web-based productivity is impossible without a nod in 37signals’ direction. plain and simple. And no wonder.

Sort on arrival. Yes. 3. but file folders are a God-send for staying organized. especially productivity tools. Voice memo yourself. 5. 1. move both folders — digital and physical — to an archive. so it’s a good starting point. When you’ve finished the project. Just as you shouldn’t work in your bedroom. No smartphone? Just call yourself and leave a message: you’re sure to pick it up later. You can fill the folders with notes jotted during phone calls. Check out what’s available for your phone. 4. Somewhere in there you have work. If you don’t already have a system for keeping the files on your computer in order. Replace “notebook” with “phone” in the paragraphs above and you’ve got the idea. You can collect and organize your inspirational images. Voice memos are a quick way to get information down without having to type everything out on a small keyboard. add a second one for recycling. A bit of masking tape allows you to relabel and reuse them until they split apart. Having a bin close at hand ensures you will use it. If you have a brainwave. Give each subject its own folder. Clearing the Clutter You have a problem: your desk is completely covered. they may be a bit dorky and corporate. Use your desk for work and work only. 2. you can trash the archive and only hang on to the deliverables (in case the client ever needs them resent). yesterday’s newspaper lying under there somewhere (the sudoku half-finished. Organization on your computer is paramount in importance. Open and sort mail when it arrives each day. And I mean every square inch. Pens and pencils scattered about. but don’t let them pile up around you. too. . do the crossword puzzle or eat lunch at your desk either. Just remember that they only work if you listen to and act on them later. Both the iPhone and Android have healthy eco-systems of app builders who create just about everything. and stack the folders neatly in the corner of your desk. Keep a trash bin next to your desk. A good way to start: match the folder structure on your computer desktop to the one sitting in the corner of your physical desktop. Just don’t throw them away after using them once. 2. Original image by The Wu’s Photo Land 9.1. While this surely doesn’t describe you. If you can spare the space. Use the note-taking app. You don’t have to immediately act on these items. But the most successful freelancing designers I know clearly delineate the two and wouldn’t mix them up for anything! 3. Clean your digital desktop. of course) and last week’s lunch rotting away quietly in the back corner. write it down. shame on you. File folders are your friend. I know: separating life and work can be hard. videos and screenshots online with tools such as Zootool . Most smartphones record voice memos. After a year or so. Use it for all of the digital scraps that accumulate over the course of a project. you shouldn’t read the paper. One way to clear your desk quickly is to sort information as it arrives. it illustrates a few points. Sort those receipts that pile up in your wallet at least once a week. pages from your notebook and designs scrawled on the back on napkins. Exploit the app eco-system.

Here are a few tips to help you organize all that paper lying around. • How to Effectively Organize your Freelance Jobs 14 Tips to help you digitally organize all of your jobs and keep track of each one separately. and then make small deliberate changes. Original image by dawnzy58 10. 2. Full of good tips. I suggest filing general bills and receipts by month in folders and then archiving them by year once you’ve filed your taxes. Get a document scanner. a document scanner (such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap — see this in-depth review ) can nearly rid you of that fire hazard growing in your filing cabinet. Stop everything you’re doing and remedy this right now. 1. 3. If you’ve got the money. After your documents have been scanned. But now that you’ve digitized your records. If you don’t have the coin to buy a document scanner. • Zen Habits 12 Another powerhouse blog that specializes in tips and strategies for organizing your life and work. tips and tools to help you organize. shred them for security. You’ll be amazed at the difference many small changes make! Further Resources • Lifehacker 11 Perhaps the most famous productivity blog around. File by month. But now that you know that organization isn’t an innate skill but one that you can learn and improve upon. Plus Tools for Freelancers and Web Workers 13 More focused information. Invoices and anything else project-related can go in project folders. again to be archived at the end of the fiscal year. scan odd-sized items (such as receipts) and do it quickly. These scanners can capture both sides at once. faxes and letters. • 7 Productivity Tips. from receipts and bills to invoices. Let your creativity out. consistency is the key to organization. you need a very good back-up plan to make sure they aren’t wiped out by a faulty hard drive. • Using a Whiteboard to Keep Your Home Office Running Smoothly 15 Another great analog solution. Ditch the Paper There’s no way around it: paper still exists in the day-to-day running of a business. you have no excuses. If you haven’t gone to the trouble of making all of your bills and statements paperless.Remember. The Long and Winding Road There is no way to soften the truth: people who are well organized are far more likely to succeed in business and life. . shame on you. Go paperless. Take the time to analyze what you do and how you do it. so get into the habit of clearing things away before leaving your desk at the end of the day.

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