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8 Tips To Stay Focused on Keeping Your Design Projects on track

Your browser has more tabs open than you can count, and your desk is a mess with sketches and random sticky notes.   You sit there wondering when is the next deadline and what you should I tackle first.  We have all been there.  Here are 8 tips on staying focused and keeping your design projects on track.

  1. Set Clear Goals and Priorities: This seems obvious, but it is easy to get distracted.  If you clearly define the objectives of your design project. Break down the project into smaller tasks and set time limits for each one. Having a clear sense of what needs to be accomplished and in what order can help you stay focused and organized.
  2. Create a Structured Schedule: I personally use time boxing.  It creates a sense of urgency that my neurodivergent brain needs.  Establishing a schedule that boxes out specific blocks of time for different aspects of your project will help you stay on task.  Having a structured routine can prevent procrastination and keep you on track.  When the time on the box expires, it’s time to move to the next task.  If you haven’t finished a task and the deadline is looming, you may need to reprioritize your remaining boxes to ensure that you get the important stuff done.
  3. Eliminate Distractions: Identify potential distractions in your environment and take steps to minimize them.
    1. Turn off non-essential notifications. I have zero notifications on my phone.  I have a special list set up that only essential personnel like my wife, kids, and current clients are on, so my phone only rings if one of the essential people calls.  Everyone else goes to voice mail.
    2. Create a clutter-free workspace.  If you have a fidget spinner on your desk, get rid of it and direct your fidgeting energy toward your design
    3. Find ways to elicit a flow state; everyone is different, pay attention to what triggers your flow.
  4. Regularly Review and Reflect: Set aside time at the end of each day or week to review your progress. Assess what you’ve accomplished, what challenges you’ve faced, and whether you’re on track with your goals. Reflecting on your work can help you identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to your approach.  Take this time to rest your time blocks and schedule additional tasks.
  5. Break Down Complex Tasks: If you’re working on a complex design project, break it down into smaller, manageable tasks. This makes the project feel less overwhelming and allows you to focus on completing one task at a time. Completing these smaller tasks will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to continue.  You may find it helpful to break tasks into separate time blocks.  As you can see I’m all about the time blocks.
  6. Use Visual Tools for Planning: Visual tools like mind maps, flowcharts, and wireframes can help you plan and organize your design tasks. They visually represent your ideas and project structure, making it easier to see the bigger picture and stay on track with your design goals.
    1. One of my favorites is a dynamic Gant Chart.  This allows me to visualize the entire project timeline, easily adjust it to meet client expectations and reschedule the entire project if something gets behind schedule.  I can make adjustments as needed.
  7. Limit Multitasking: While multitasking might seem like a way to get more done, it often leads to decreased focus and lower-quality work. Instead, focus on one task at a time. Prioritize tasks based on their importance and tackle them sequentially. This approach can lead to better concentration and better outcomes.
    1. Personally, I believe multitasking is total bullshit. We need to get good at switching tasks without distraction and getting ourselves back into the flow state with little downtime.  When we multitask, what we are really doing is allowing other people and things to distract and interrupt us from completing the most important task.
    2. Multitasking should not be confused with an efficient process. Being able to talk on the phone while entering customer data into the computer at the same time is not multitasking. It is developing a process that allows you to craft a conversation on the phone that extracts the needed information politely, professionally, and efficiently.
  8. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, can improve your ability to focus and reduce stress. Dedicate a few minutes each day to mindfulness exercises or short meditation sessions. These practices can enhance your overall attention span and help you better manage distractions.
    1. This doesn’t have to be a session where you sit with your legs crossed and the whole stereotypical chants and mantras.  You can simply sit in your car for a few minutes after lunch before you go back to work to let your mind wander and daydream.  This will do wonders for your mental health.  Just be sure to set an alarm so you are not late back to work.

Remember, maintaining focus and staying on track is a skill that takes time to develop. Experiment with these tips and adjust them according to your personal preferences and the specific demands of your design projects. Over time, you’ll find the strategies that work best for you and help you consistently produce high-quality work.

I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.