3 Practical Ways To Improve Your Productivity

We all hit points in our work, especially as designers, that seem a little hopeless. Whether it’s from the creative design aspect or from the technical coding side, or even the flow of business, there’s no way around it – we will have a few dull moments. But, dear reader, never fear – there are always ways to minimize these low points, and allow our high points to reach new heights.

First off, a warning

This warning goes for anyone really, both designers and non-designers; be careful when defining just what being “productive” really means. We often can mistakenly equate productivity with the amount of money or the number of jobs we receive; productivity, in all reality, is a much broader term than we give it credit for. Productivity, in its most natural form, is the verb form of production; it basically means the act of producing, and creation. With that said, productivity is often measured conventionally in order to assess the different methods and practices we employ, and that does deserve the respect it requires. So, don’t throw away your benchmarks just yet, but do realize that it will benefit you to redefine your holistic view of productivity. Examples:

  • Learning about your area of practice can be very productive.
  • Learning about surrounding areas of practices that are related to yours can also be very productive.
  • Taking time off can be very productive.

Say what? You mean, I can walk into my boss’s office and let them know I’m not coming in for the rest of the week, and they will give me a raise?


The world isn’t quite that easy. Here’s a few ways to increase your productivity.

Note: As you can see above, some of these “productivity tips” may not necessarily be what your boss believes to be productive (unless, of course, he’s as high-class as you and is reading FUEL blogs…). Be careful in the application of the following, and remember that sometimes you do have to follow the definition of productivity as outlined by your boss’s standards. Of course, if you’re your own boss… This is article may just change your life. Or not. Let’s find out, shall we?

On to the list…

1. Become an Expert

We’ve said it before, folks – it makes much more sense for you to find an area in which to focus (whether that is design, front-end development, backend development, or even just creative production) and hone in on it. Don’t just get to the point where you know your stuff pretty well… Instead, know it so well you could teach it from front to back.
Memorize things. Read through jQuery documentation or tutorials in your downtime, or practice with pro bono work to sharpen your production skills. Find your niche, and sprint towards that direction.
The why: Being an expert will allow you to move forward in your job unhindered. Having the knowledge available to you will cut out the unneeded “guess and check” time, and will open up your freedom for creative expression.

2. Exercise

Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Don’t worry, I’m not giving you a workout plan and a bottle of overly-priced herb pills… It’s a well-known-fact that exercise will help your productivity. In particular, exercise has been studied and shown to increase your ability to learn. There’s quite a bit of science behind it, but the proof is in the pudding… What does that even mean? Anyway, just try it out yourself. “Exercise” doesn’t mean that you have to kill yourself in the gym for 3 hours a day. Listen to the latest YayQuery podcast while you take a jog around your neighborhood (or on a treadmill if it’s too cold) or go get a cheap bike from Wal-Mart and ride around town with a few friends. Even if it’s thirty minutes a day, exercise can drastically improve the way you work and the way you feel about yourself.

3. Get a Google Calendar

A much more specific example, admittedly… It’s a well known fact around FUEL that the tools Google offers are pretty great. Specifically, Google Calendar is very useful, especially if you already have a Google account.

Here’s the big deal: Google Calendar syncs via CalDAV, which means it comes automatically to your iPhone or Android, iCal, Outlook, and any other calendar program worth its salt. We know you may already be using some kind of calendar that you love. Google allows you to import calendars from feeds and local files as well. There’s no way we could list every feature here, but this would mean that you could create a collaborative calendar between you and any specific employee/coworker/family member/client/you-get-the-idea; these shared calendars also can be controlled to be “only viewable” or “show only busy/free” or “completely editable.” The flexibility is incredible.

Oh, and don’t forget, Google users… with so much of your information available on Google already as a Google account holder, integration is pretty simple with your other everyday tasks, and Google is making it a point to consolidate functionality across their different products.
Note: Don’t forget to back up your appointments before moving them to Google, just in case your computer you all of a sudden for something.

Okay, so why is this such a big deal?
Once you get in the swing of using your Google calendar, it will be accessible from anywhere you are. You don’t have to worry about downloading or adding the same entry multiple times. If you are an employer/supervisor, this could be the solution to scheduling, or any number of other things.

A Few Other Tools

Surprise for Windows users!

Since we’ve admittedly been a bit biased towards Mac OS X in the past, we figure it’s about time to throw Windows users a bone or two. (Oh come on, you can take a joke.) GNOME Do is a similar program to Blacktree’s Quicksilver for Mac users. This will change your workflow forever! Be sure to read up on its capabilities. Also, take a look at this Flickr set to see some of GNOME Do in action.

A Little bit of 7 in your X

For mac users, you may want to check out Cinch. One of the cool features introduced in Windows 7 is its window resizing shortcuts. If you haven’t seen it yet, just give it a glance at least.

What are ways you’ve employed that have made you more productive?


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