This week’s Tips 4 Designers is about Keeping your Focus without Limits.

Without focus designing can be a job that can seem overwhelming at the best of times. Designing requires you to wear so many hats; creative, technical, layout, publisher, marketer, etc. It’s hard to manage everything without getting lost. How do you stay focused? How do you streamline your work to keep a steady income coming in and a steady output of designs going out?

Stitch Sprouts designer Jen Lucas blogged about how she’s implemented a SCRUM project management system to stay focused in her design business. Take a look!

SCRUM is a good method. It works for many businesses to stay agile, a business buzz word. But there are other less structured ways as well. For me, I just keep a paper planner and a good ole to-do list. For others, electronic apps and scheduling tools are the go-to strategy.

Time Management

First let’s look at time management. When I first started getting serious about planning, I started by tracking my time. I wanted to see where I was spending the majority of my time.

This step seems tedious and counter productive, but it’s important and eye opening. You might be surprised to see just where you spend your hours and you might find more time where you least expect it. For at least a week, simply keep track of when and how long you do everything. Write it down. Go to the store? Write it down. Take a nap? Write it down. When did you get up, when did you drive to pick up the kids, how long did it take to make dinner, clean up the kitchen, watching tv, etc. Write it all down. It helps to have a planner that breaks down each day by the hour.

Next, look back at your week and analyze your work vs. down time. Are you leaving enough time for down time? work time? Are you working too much? too little? Is your work time concentrated in long enough chunks that you actually have time to get anything done or are you constantly being interrupted by laundry, kid pickups, and dinner?

balance

Now that you have an idea of how your schedule usually is, let’s go back and try to plan a new, more focused schedule. Can you reorganize your days so that you have more focused work time?

You need to work hard, but you also need down time. If you don’t have downtime you will burn out. Your work times will be more productive if you give yourself time off. You will be able to approach your work with a refreshed and clear mind if you are rested and relaxed. If you work all-the-time your work will suffer, so be sure to give yourself some time off. This took me many years to figure out. I know many of you won’t believe me, but I wouldn’t be half as productive as I am today if I didn’t take time off. That’s my secret, honest!

tasks

Ok, now that our schedule is worked out, what are we working on? Every week I make a big to-do list. These are things I want to accomplish during the week. Then every day I pick up to three things to focus on for that day. That’s it, THREE. Sometimes if it’s a big task, perhaps it’s just one! This keeps me focused and grounded in reality. I know I’m not going to tackle my entire list, to do so would just be depressing and overwhelm me.

Keep it focused, keep it manageable. If you rock your list and get your three things done, then pick one more and feel awesome—or just take some time off because you deserve it!

 

This is my system. It’s allowed me to grow my businesses and implement some crazy ideas. While it seems to be strict and limiting, it’s the opposite. It’s actually freeing and gives me much more free time and time off while making me more productive. Now you have my secrets—go forth and conquer your tasks!

Heather Zoppetti

Heather Zoppetti is a knitwear designer, instructor, author and owner of Stitch Sprouts. She spends her days filling orders, knitting, and rambling on this blog. She can also be found at Heather Zoppetti Designs.

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