7 Productivity Hacks for Designers

7 Productivity Hacks for Designers from UIGarage
Philippe Hong

Updated on December 14, 2016

You’re a procrastinator. I’m a procrastinator. Heck, 95% of all humans are procrastinators. I don’t know who the remaining 5% of go-getters are, but for the rest of us, here’s a few productivity hacks to squeeze a little more time out of your day.

Track Your Time

Are you tracking your time? You’d be surprised how much time you actually spend doing nothing*. And by nothing, I mean checking Facebook, playing games, grabbing a cup of coffee, refreshing your emails, attending meetings, and the list goes on. Before you know it, your day is over, but you’ve accomplished nothing*. Sure, you’ve been busy, but not on anything important. So, the very first thing you need to do is take an honest assessment of what’s draining your productivity. Use a tool like RescueTime to get a clarity about where all that time goes so you can rearrange your life, stop unproductive habits, and set boundaries on your work and play times.

Outsource the Simple

Everyone has tasks that they completely hate to do. As a designer, you probably love being creative, but there are probably a few creative tasks that even you hate to do. Perhaps you hate removing backgrounds from images. Why not outsource that task to someone else? There’s Upwork, Outsourcely, and even Fiverr. Use a creative marketplace to source extra talent to free up your time so you can get more stuff done. But perhaps you’re happy with all things creative, you just hate accounting, or posting on social media, or emailing your clients? Hire a virtual assistant for tasks you need to do but often take you off course. Check out Zirtual or Virtual Staff Finder if you’d like to hire a virtual assistant.

Manage Your Time with the Pomodoro Technique

Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique? Here’s the basic idea: You work for 25 minutes and then you take a break for five minutes. Rinse and repeat three more times, and then take a longer break of 30 minutes. Then, you restart. The idea behind the Pomodoro Technique is that anyone can give 25 minutes of concentrated focus. It’s a lot less intimidating to think, “I’m only going to do this for 25 minutes.” So, it’s easier to get your work done. Plus, you have the added psychological benefit of a 25 minute deadline. You force yourself into doing something quickly because you’ve only got 25 minutes and the clock is ticking!

Batch Tasks Together

Don’t multi-task. Multi-tasking is not your friend. It’s more like a frenemy. Instead, work on one thing at a time. I think this hack works well with the Pomodoro Technique because you devote 25 minutes to one task. Even if you don’t finish the task, you’ll be a lot further along than you would if your attention was divided into different directions.

Check Emails Only at Designated Times

Are you checking your emails way too much? Here’s a quick test to find out: have you checked your email since you started reading this post? Even a quick glance at the inbox tab or widget counts. Most of us are guilty of obsessive inbox refreshing. And if we’re not checking our inbox, we’re definitely checking our phones. According to this study, the average Millennial checks their phone 150 times per day. Yikes. While it may seem harmless, it’s actually a big productivity drain. You see, every time you stop what you’re doing to check your email, you lose momentum. And then, studies show that it takes approximately five minutes to re-focus on the task at hand. But if you’re breaking every six minutes (on average) to check your email, you’re only actually doing one minute of work. Double yikes. That’s why I recommend checking emails only twice a day, once in mid-morning and once before the end of the workday. You don’t need to be bombarded with high pressure emails first thing in the morning, either. Get into your groove, start your day on your own terms, and then check and reply to emails. I also recommend using an email management tool called SaneBox. SaneBox actually learns what emails are important to you, and prioritises them to help you have a more productive inbox session.

Sleep More in the Day Time

A nap for productivity? You bet. And now you have an excuse: A nap can boost your productivity by up to 34%. It’s science. Evidently, naps help to improve alertness, and allow you to see things you may have missed otherwise. Speaking from personal experience, whenever I hit a creative conundrum, there’s nothing like a 20 minute midday power nap to regain perspective. It’s like hitting a reset button. So, if you need a quick burst of productivity, take a power nap. Perhaps, not at your desk.


Sometimes, your productivity slips because you simply can’t find what you’re looking for. If you spend everyday looking for something (anything), it’s time to reevaluate your organization and come up with a different system for controlling the chaos. Most of us will benefit from embracing minimalism. I’m not saying you should sell all your belongings and move to a mountain in Tibet, but look for small opportunities to cut the clutter and get rid of redundancy. Start with your desk. Clear the distractions such as sticky notes, books you’ve already read, books you’ll never read, et al. This clutter can be a huge time suck.

Over to You

Hey designer, what’s your favorite productivity hack? Share it in the comments!