10 Ways to Simplify Your Workday

Regardless of whether you are a freelancer, an employee for a design agency, or an in-house designer, you probably could benefit by reducing the chaos and adding some simplicity to your daily life. In this article we’ll look at how you can make some simple changes to your daily processes to reduce stress and create a more enjoyable and productive environment. The article is written with designers and freelancers in mind, but most of the principles are applicable regardless of what you do for a living.

Here are ten things that you can do today to simplify your workday.

1. Start Early

Getting an earlier start to your day can be helpful for several reasons. If you work in an office, chances are the environment will be more quiet and calm before all of your co-workers arrive. Just having an extra 30 – 60 minutes without distractions can make a big difference and can help you to get through your work faster.

If you work from home you may be able to avoid some of the typical distractions by getting up and starting your work before others in your house are around. You may find that starting your workday earlier will have some benefits in terms of your stress level and how you perceive your day. When you start work later you may face the stress of feeling like you should have more done by a specific time in the day, but starting early can help to feel like you’re ahead of the game.

Later in the day when others are scrambling to get their work done before the end of the day, you can already be wrapping up your work.

2. Keep Your To-Do List Short

A to-do list is a critical aspect of time management for most of us. However, one of the downfalls of having a to-do list is that it can get quite full and overwhelming. When this happens, the to-do list can actually become more of a hindrance than a help because you may find yourself focusing on how you will never be able to accomplish everything instead of concentrating on the tasks at hand.

To simplify things keep your to-do list as short as possible. For example, focus on just completing two or three specific things in a given day instead of working off of a to-do list with 15 or 20 items. You’ll find that with fewer things on your list you’re able to do a better job with each, and you should still be able to accomplish them efficiently as well.

Having just two or three things on your to-do list isn’t always practical, and in that case you can divide your list into major and minor tasks, and keep the major tasks as limited as possible. This will help to keep your focus on a small number of important tasks, and you’ll probably find that you do a better job with them.

3. Prioritize Your Tasks

As you create your to-do list, always take a moment to prioritize them so that you know what is most critical to accomplish in a day. Take care of your most important items before moving on to those that are less significant, and you’ll never find yourself rushing late in the day to finish the most important work of your day. Getting the most pressing items out of the way earlier in the day will ease the stress late and generally will simplify your day.

4. Set Aside Blocks of Time

Most of us struggle to focus on one thing at a time, and we live and work in a society where multi-tasking is a constant. However, you’ll find that you’re most productive when you’re able to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time without interruptions. Pay attention to what you are working on throughout the day and you’ll likely find that you’re switching back and forth between tasks constantly.

Try setting up your day so that you have blocks like 1 – 4 hours of time to focus on getting your most important work done. Don’t get distracted or off-topic during these blocks, focus just on your main priority. This will lead to a more efficient use of your time. You’ll simplify things by avoid unneeded complications, and you’ll finish with your most important work earlier in the day.

5. Take Short Breaks Frequently

Even when you are focusing on just one task during your block of time, it’s helpful to take short breaks (5 or 10 minutes) every couple of hours. Taking these breaks can help you to get re-focused and to avoid working with very low efficiency due to an inability to concentrate.

6. Don’t Work with Too Many Clients at One Time

Some freelancers tend to work with several different clients at any given time. Cutting back on the number of clients will help to keep you more focused on those that you are working with at the time, and you should be able to work more efficiently and effectively. Ideally you’ll be able to move through projects more quickly, which may allow you to still work with the same number of clients in a month or a year, you’ll just be working less time with each and with fewer at one time.

Of course, there are many times where you’ll have to wait on clients for feedback or to get information to you, so there will be times when this is challenging. But if you are finding that your days tend to be chaotic and not as productive as you’d like, take a look at the number of clients you’re working with and try cutting back to see how it goes.

7. Use a Good Project Management Tool

One of the keys to simplify your work is to be well organized. There are many project management apps and software options to help keep you organized, and some are even designed with designers and freelancers in mind. Basecamp is a popular option among designers and developers.

Regardless of what app or approach you use, having an established method for project management will help to make the best use of your time and you’ll find that you waste less time and have simplified days due to improved organization and communication.

8. Keep a Clean and Uncluttered Workspace

Working in a cluttered environment can add unnecessary stress. Take a few moments to clear of your desk or to straighten up your work area and you’ll probably notice a difference in how you feel and your mindset about your work. This is a simple thing that can take just a couple of minutes, but it can have a big impact by reducing stress and tension.

9. Avoid Unnecessary Distractions

Every time the subject of productivity and simplicity comes up, distractions are always mentioned. For freelancers and designers being online a majority of the day brings a number of potential distractions into the picture. Things like email, Twitter, and Facebook are necessary for most of us, but they can also take up a lot of time and break up the workday constantly if they’re not managed properly.

If possible, have specific times for reading and responding to email and for social networking. If you limit it to certain times during the day you won’t be distracted as you’re working on other tasks and you’ll be able to get things done with more efficiency.

10. Have a Set Ending Time

One of the things I learned when I started working from home full-time is that I work with more urgency and get more accomplished when I know I will be ending work at a specific time. Having that end in sight helps to motivate you to stay on task and get things done, plus it prevents you for working too long.

If you’re not used to working with a set ending time, give it a try and I think you’ll find that it contributes to making your days a little bit more simple and to reduce stress. Your ending time doesn’t have to be the same every day, but just knowing when you need to have things wrapped up will help as you move through your to-do list.

What’s Your Opinion?

How do you go about simplifying your days? Feel free to share your comments and tips with the rest of us.

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