10 little tricks to speed up your design process

A typical To Do List

Do you feel like you have absolutely no time to put your hands on your designs and actually create something? And that keeping the whole team on the same page takes more time than actually producing some design work?

So bad news is that I haven’t found any definitive solution for our problems yet — but good news is that we are not alone, and although I still face all these problems on a daily basis, I’ve learned one or two tricks that have actually been helpful when it comes to making myself more productive (or less unproductive, if it sounds more realistic).

1. The ABC of time management: start organizing your tasks

It sounds simple (and it is) but organizing and prioritizing the tasks you need to get done first will make you feel more organized and in control. You know what you need to get done and you know how much time you have. So, it is black and white: there is no need to panic and you get full control over your tasks. My colleague, Rochelle Carr, wrote a beautiful article on time management if you want to hear more about it.

2. Turn off your e-mail and all the 97643 chats for a while.

It will enable you to focus on your tasks at least for an hour or two (if you are lucky enough to get 2 full hours!).

Turning your channels off for a while won’t make you a terrible employee and will help you focus on the task at hand.

At least for me, any interruption can be quite disruptive and it always takes me a few minutes to ‘reconnect’ with the task I was working on, so respecting my time and avoiding disruptions, when I can, really helps me make the most out of my free time to do work.

3. Give yourself a chance to try new tools once in a while.

As a product designer, I am always trying new tools, new plugins, new software and new ways of doing things. Do yourself the same favor and don’t get stuck in the “I-need-to-use-Photoshop-forever” mindset. There are new awesome tools being released every day and one of them could be the new love of your life.

I can’t stress how life changing it was to adopt tools like Sketch, Box, Slack and Invision.

Specs generated by Marketch, a Sketch App plugin

So if you see potential in new software, don’t let it go. ❤

4. Redesign your process!

This one goes along with the new tools. As new tools are released every day, we have a great opportunity to rethink and improve our process.

An example I can bring to the table is the way the design team was delivering screen specs to our development team: as we started using Sketch and its plugins, we found much more efficient ways to generate specs that saved us approximately 20% of our time and also provided more insightful and practical assets for our development team.

If you add Invision to the maths, you can generate a clickable prototype as you update your screens with less than two clicks. Two years ago I was spending at least a day creating clickable prototypes on Keynote and updating all my slides whenever something was changed.

So the tip here is simple: get out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid of changing the way things are done. It may take you a few hours to learn and to get used to a new way of doing it, but it will save weeks of work in the future.

5. Have a break

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJ97OAchp6_/?taken-by=gabimaps

Oh Jesus. This is important. Sometimes.we.just.get.stuck.

We are designers, we are creative, we are human beings. Not every day is a good day — unless you are a real Unicorn (and if you are, please text me back, as I have a few questions). But if you are like me and you still believe you are a normal human being, you probably need a break once in a while.

Here is important to find what works best for you. I always need a coffee after lunch and I usually need few minutes of ‘meditation’ after an intense meeting, but sometimes I just find myself distracted browsing something irrelevant and that’s usually my take to go grab some water and start again with more energy.

The key here is to ask yourself what works for you. Just don’t forget to give yourself a chance to get refreshed after a walk around your company or just after a good, cozy coffee.

6. Share!

Share the work you are doing with your colleagues.

We live in an era that 99% of what we are working on was explored by someone else and there is a huge chance that someone else has nice input that will speed up your exploration. But they won’t know if you don’t share — so go ahead and make your work seen!

7. Test…

Ok. User testing can be expensive and it does take a lot of time. But if you can, just go ahead and test your work with your users or do some guerrilla testing. The chances that you will get answers for 99.9% of the questions that have been popping up on your mind the last few days are huge — and that could be a real deal breaker for your work too!

8. And keep everyone in the loop

Keeping the whole team on the loop takes time too — but I learned the hard way that it will take longer to re-do some work that wasn’t communicated clearly in the past.

If you can, schedule weekly catch-ups or keep a channel that is easy for everyone to keep an eye on and make sure everyone is always on the same page.

It is common to get feedback on your work after reaching an important milestone, but if your team is aware of the paths you are taking in an early stage, you can prevent pushbacks when your project is almost concluded.

This is also part of the Agile culture — on which any feedback, changes and improvement are done on an organic and efficient way as your project moves forward so you can quickly respond to your user & business needs.

9. Sketch if you need to be quick.

Forget your laptop for a second or two.

No matter where you are in your project, sometimes all you need is a pencil and paper to unblock your mind and get your creativity rolling again!

Sketching is the best way to go “quick and dirty”. You are entitled to make mistakes and put everything in trash if you need. The goal here is to put your ideas out there without investing days and days on mid/high fidelity visuals.

10. Grab another coffee but don’t forget to focus :)

None of these tips are helpful if you don’t do your job with love. So, everyday, when you sit on your desk and open your laptop, don’t forget that your energy to do great work is the most important thing you can add to your professional life and to your team, so don’t leave it at home.

Get energized, stay motivated and do your job with all your heart!

Stay happy,

Gabi


Originally published at medium.com on December 6, 2016.

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