Eleven Tips to Increase Your Productivity & Workflow
When I quit my job in pursuit of helping female entrepreneurs kick ass in their own business, I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. I mean, I knew what I was doing design wise but how was I going to make it all happen, get new clients, put my work together, pitch myself, expand my business, what was hiring going to look like. How was I gonna do all of this? People would tell me well, Beyonce has 24 hours in a day just like you and I would look back with a dead face and say “Yeah… well it kind of helps when you have a personal chef, driver, nanny, etc. Its just me myself and I.” I looked like a walking tornado. I would pour over books, articles, websites, pinterest, listen to all the podcasts I could. My business consumed me. Maybe you are there now. Let me tell you what helped me.
I know, I’ve heard it plenty of times, I don’t even know what systems look like for my type of business, I don’t have time to develop those, Phh I have better stuff to be doing, I cant do systems I am a “creative” person. Did any one of these sentences run through your head after you read the word systems? If so, let me just tell you this, because you are a creative person you need systems, because you are a business owner you need systems, because you handle client files you need systems. Stop being afraid of systems they are a beautiful thing that free up time so you can do the stuff you love!
Here are a few tricks to get you implementing systems slowly. Keep in mind, this is what works for my business and could be tweaked for yours or maybe some of these tips help in your personal life.
1- I have slowly developed a “work uniform” this means I can be ready for a meeting in under 15 min. I stick to a 3 color palette and ensure some of my personality sings in some of the accessories, Im a designer, you don’t expect me to show up in a stuffy outfit.
2- Since developing my work uniform, I layout my weekly wardrobe on Sunday nights, this means I can see what days I have meetings to make sure I look good those days and which days Im just behind the computer or picking stuff up from the printers can be my “casual” days.
3- Define my week to do list Sunday night and delegate. I now have a small team, which means more work for me since I have to ensure they have work to do and don’t bother me when I’m halfway through writing a blog post or developing a color palette, etc. I group it by similar tasks, like
A) communication (who do I need to text? Who am I following up with? What happened with that thing the client was supposed to send back)
B) Admin (did I get all the receipts to our office manager so she can scan them? Is my calendar up to date? Invoicing? Contracts drawn up?)
C) Design Work (what are my top 3 big priorities / do we have logo presentations? Do we have major print deadlines?)
D) Internal Work (social media posts, blog content, community partnership stuff, developing workshops, etc
E) Research (what do I need to look at for client work, or for Nuevo studio, or do I need to find quotes for printing or how do we make this thing happen)
F) Misc (this is for stuff that doesn’t really fall in these categories (very seldom, but I have it anyway)
G) Personal (I write this stuff down, so our little doggy doesn’t miss her groomer appointment again— sorry Prairie)
4- Write it all down, all of it , from the picking up dry cleaning to major meetings. Why? Because you brain dump and this allows you to sleep at night and not have that shear moment of panic in the middle of the night or on the way to a client meeting that you forgot something! When I have stuff my assistant or I need to drop off with a client or take back or whatever, I have a “put in the car” zone in my entry so I make sure I never leave anything at home.
5- Don’t let people pull you out of your in the zone moments. My team mates all have headphones, when we say “going under” it means we are going into the zone and please don’t disturb. So we can all crank out work.
6- Batch work! Every other Wednesday afternoon I batch all our social media content for two weeks!
7- The alternating Wednesday I ensure we have our portfolio pieces updated, so I can be updating our website develop content. (I pick Wednesday because it gets me away from clients and hard-core creative thinking to give me a break in the middle of the week — I also typically have a glass or two of wine when I do this, so its like a treat)
8- One of my mentors once said this “When you leave your office door open you don’t get any work done, this is the same as leaving your inbox open!” It is so true, once I started defining “inbox hours” I became so much more productive. You define these hours, not clients! I am most creative right when I get in the office and late at night, so that inbox doesn’t open until noon. That way I can actually make work happen!
9- Speaking of emails, I use an app named Spark which allows me to schedule emails. Why is scheduling emails so important, because I batch that too. I write down all the emails I need to send out that week on my to do list Sunday night and I spend an hour writing all the emails I need to send out, including proposal follow ups, etc and schedule them to email when I know the client needs it or when I know I can get the faster response time (typically Tuesdays after 1pm)
10- Create templates, this is huge! People ask me for quotes on branding or website or packaging all the time, so I have a template that explains my process for each of these major design overhauls, it explains why they should choose me, showcases my expertise, and gives them our pricing, etc. We have templates for our Proposals, Logo presentations, mood boards, brand standards, etc. These are so easy to add the info necessary so we don’t re-invent the wheel each time. Every so often we will look at these and tweak them to keep our stuff looking fresh.
11- Plan your days out! Example: I only take phone calls and meeting Tuesday and Thursdays, this way I have 3 days full on work and makes scheduling out my wardrobe so much easier.
These 11 tips are what allows us to spend more time with our clients, building our relationships, doing the thing we love — branding design, and creating this content for you solo-preneurs!