Improve Your Workflow by Breaking Bad Habits

Bad habits lead to bad work, which leads to no job. Combining an eccentric creative mind with hours at a desk is a recipe for bad habit stew, so it’s no wonder that graphic designers are among the worst offenders.

Do you find yourself stuck on the same project for days on end? Maybe you spend entire mornings fending off emails from clients worried that you’re late on their deadline? Worst of all, maybe you’re so disorganized and behind on your work that your end results don’t match the greatness you know you can achieve.

If you’re stuck in a bad habit slump, break out of it by reading these common plagues on graphic designers and making the changes necessary to get back on top of your game.

Getting to Work at 9 a.m. but Starting to Work at 11 a.m.

We’re immediately greeted with distractions when we get to work. Coffee – seven minutes. Catching up with Tom in the cubicle next door – six minutes. Sorting through your inbox – 82 minutes.

It’s not uncommon to find ourselves halfway through the workday before we actually get anything done.

Here’s the solution: When you leave work in the afternoon, decide what your first priority is the following morning. Skip the office chit-chat (but by all means, get the coffee if you need to) and sit down to work without signing into your email account. Knock out that first project before you allow yourself to do anything else.

If you start your morning on a productive streak, that energy will flow into your entire workday.

Knocking Out Projects at the Last Minute

I’m a writer, not a graphic designer, but the same principles apply to each. We’re tasked with assignments and given a deadline. Ideally, I finish writing something the day before it’s due, allowing me to sleep on it and tweak my words with fresh eyes.

That same concept works for designers. Chances are, if you put even a few extra minutes of thought into a logo or layout, you’ll think of an idea to improve it. But if you churned it out just in time to send it in, you’ve already missed the chance for revision, and likely not submitted your best work.

If you want to climb the ladder and demand more money for your work, you’ve got to stay ahead of the deadline wall, always revising and producing the very best product that you’re able.

The Clutter Trap

Artists go both ways when it comes to keeping a messy studio. Some prefer a stark white room, everything neatly in place and labeled. Others work amidst chaos, pulling beauty out of a disheveled world around them.

Even those who thrive in a messy environment can benefit from de-cluttering their work space. Is your computer desktop a black hole of icons, stacked atop each other awaiting filing? Maybe your desk itself is an endless pile of knick-knacks and old paperwork.

You know yourself best. If you’re someone who works best without distractions (and I think most of us are), ignore those deadlines for a minute and tidy up. With our world generally free of distractions around us, we’re able to produce more efficient, better work.

Shunning Criticism

Let’s face it — graphic designers put up with more annoying feedback than almost any other profession. You’re a professional in the field so you know what works and what doesn’t, yet your work is constantly judged by people who don’t know a pixel from a pickaxe.

Take it in stride — if your client (or maybe even your boss) knew how to design their own ad, logo, or layout, they’d have done a better job telling you what they wanted. Be proactive from the start, asking detailed questions to understand their vision.

Designing a project from scratch, without specific direction, is already more difficult, and you take the risk of it being completely rejected and having to start over.

Work with your client or coworker from the start, and the criticism and requested changes you get about the finished product will be greatly minimized.

In any profession, there’s no reason to work harder than necessary to achieve the same result. As a designer, it’s important to always produce a finished product that you’d be happy to put your name on and include in a portfolio. By recognizing your bad habits and taking steps to remedy them, you quickly maximize both your time and output.

Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of personalized pens and other promotional products such as imprinted apparel, mugs and customized calendars. He regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog.


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  • Nice article. You got the feedback bit right!