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How to Stay Focused and Productive As a Designer

A great designer is praised for their creativity, but also the ability to get down to business and finish the job in an orderly amount of time. Focus and discipline are essential, as is having a good system that you can stick to, and one that helps you get things done. This post is going to cover some effective ways for a designer to stay focused, and increase their productivity when the workload becomes a bit overwhelming.

Check Your To-Do List

The most overused advice for productivity is most definitely “make a to-do list”, so you’ve probably already got that one down. However, it’s not enough to simply write down everything you have to do, but you actually have to reference it frequently so you don’t get side-tracked.

Instead of keeping it in a text file, it’s recommended that you print out your to-do list and hang it somewhere you can always see it from your desk. This way, you can easily remind yourself of anything you might have forgotten, without having to keep Notepad open the entire time and clutter up your screen.

Take Breaks

Various studies have shown that taking short breaks (as short as five minutes) is highly beneficial for productivity. In fact, many office spaces around the world now include actual sleeping quarters, that employees can use to take quick power naps and increase their focus, instead of binging on caffeinated drinks.

If napping isn’t your thing, just taking a walk around your desk, stretching your legs and taking a break from the screen for a few minutes can be enough to let your brain have a quick breather. Most people find that this helps them focus a lot better during strenuous tasks that require a lot of concentration, like any type of design usually does.

Track Your Time

Another good way to avoid procrastination and make sure you’re getting the most out of your working hours is to use some type of a time tracking tool. You’ll be far less inclined to check your social media or watch a YouTube video when you’re working against a timer.

Additionally, by tracking time you can make sure that you’re billing your client in accordance with your hourly rate because you know exactly how long it took you to finish the project.

Set Deadlines

The truth is that most people function better and are more efficient when they have a concrete deadline they need to meet. If you’re a freelance designer, always decide on a reasonable but fixed deadline with your client before you start working on a project, as this will give you a psychological incentive to get the work done as soon as you can.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Everyone that uses a computer needs to understand the significance of keyboard shortcuts, and how they can help you become much faster and much more efficient with your work. A simple hotkey can be much faster than having to move your mouse from one edge of your screen to the other, and this can save valuable seconds that add up to minutes and hours over time.

Every type of designer software will already have numerous hotkeys that you can use to improve your workflow and increase your speed, and ultimately enhance your productivity as well.

Go Offline

For some people, the only way to stop distractions entirely is to disconnect from the Internet until their work is complete. This can be a bit problematic if you use the Internet for research when you work, but otherwise, this trick works pretty well even for the most absent-minded.

 As a designer, you can probably live with being off the grid for a few hours, so just shut off that Wi-Fi and you’ll find that you’re a lot more productive than you think you are.

Use Templates

Your workflow can greatly benefit from any kind of pre-existing template that you base your work on, instead of starting from scratch every single time. Whether it’s a default project template in Photoshop or a piece of HTML code that you always write when starting a new job, it’s worth it to save these few non-variable steps and use them as the basis for all new projects.

This will not only save you time, but it will act like a mini-guideline that can put you in a productive mindset, and help you decide what you need to work on first.


Focus and productivity are important if you want to be successful in any career, and design is no exception. Deadlines are essential, as is taking frequent breaks throughout the day, to prevent burning yourself out.

If you have to, limit your Internet access, and do whatever you can to eliminate distractions in your working environment. Once you do all this, your focus and productivity will inevitably increase, and you’ll be able to get a lot more done over the course of a single workday.


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