• Louma.

How do you manage your work schedule?

Some­times in my stu­dio, work is peace­ful, dead­lines are far, and time is smooth…

Then one morn­ing, an email comes in with a new project and a new date. Great! More work is good! I’ll just skip the bike ride this afternoon…

Then another email comes in, for another project and yet another deadline…

Then a third email from that client that was M.I.A. for 6 months!!

The atmos­phere is sud­denly no longer peace­ful, dead­lines are com­ing up and time starts fly­ing. My cal­en­dar fills up and there is not enough time any­more for these two projects that I was serenely work­ing on earlier.

Here is the ‘sys­tem’ that I fol­low to man­age my sched­ule and avoid being taken by sur­prise by those pesky emails…

Man­ag­ing my schedule

I have a monthly cal­en­dar on my wall; I usu­ally have 2 months opened up. The first thing I do is write down my dead­lines on the cal­en­dar, as they come up.

There is always a “flex­i­ble” project though, you know that project that needs to get done but doesn’t have a dead­line, so it seems unim­por­tant and ends up being post­poned, then a date even­tu­ally comes up for it, and you real­ize you’re run­ning out of time?

Here’s my trick to deal­ing with such pro­cras­ti­na­tions: I choose a rea­son­able dead­line for that project, sched­ule it on my cal­en­dar, and com­mit to my cus­tomer (by email) to deliver the project by that dead­line — even if they didn’t ask. That way the project becomes as impor­tant as the rest of my work and its deliv­ery is not as flexible” anymore.

Client source material

I some­times depend on source mate­r­ial pro­vided by my clients (files, pho­tos, sam­ples, swatches, style guides, etc.). If I am miss­ing any of those, I con­tact them imme­di­ately, to min­i­mize the project delay. Clients are often busy, and it usu­ally takes them sev­eral days to get back to me. I like to make sure I ask for what I need before I need it.

Nor­mal work­ing day

I like to start my day slowly and qui­etly. What I do first is check my work emails, per­sonal emails, social site updates, and then I plan my work sched­ule. And have a cof­fee, of course, in order to start functionning.

If it is not a dead­line day, I sim­ply start with the thing I feel like work­ing on. Every­thing needs to be done even­tu­ally anyway. I try to give a few hours to every project every day, so I make some progress over­all and I don’t neglect any­thing.

I noticed that inspi­ra­tion is focused dif­fer­ently every day: some days I am more com­fort­able draw­ing car­toons than, say, flo­ral pat­terns, and other days I have a harder time with car­toony illus­tra­tions, and I draw other things more smoothly. This is another rea­son why I try to work on var­i­ous projects; when I see myself work­ing on one thing more com­fort­ably than another, I take advan­tage of this “focused inspi­ra­tion” and give it a lot more time that day. This way I get more done, more efficiently.

Dead­line day

On dead­line day, I make sure my project is com­plete, and I expect to give it more time in the week after I send it, for feed­back and pos­si­ble revi­sions. I often show my work to close friends or fam­ily to get feed­back. This has always been help­ful for me; they see things in a dif­fer­ent way, and they often help me fix and improve things I hadn’t noticed or thought about.

If for some rea­son I couldn’t fin­ish what I had promised on time, I let my cus­tomer know right away, and tell them when I will be able to send them the com­pleted work.

Other tasks

Of course there is more to my work day than fin­ish­ing cus­tom design/illustration projects: updat­ing and main­tain­ing my web­site and my blog—thanks to Gus’s incred­i­ble work and help and patience—as well as other busi­ness pro­files online, research­ing poten­tial cus­tomers and con­tact­ing these poten­tial cus­tomers (two com­pletely dif­fer­ent tasks!) read­ing and learn­ing online and offline, draw­ing and devel­op­ing my artis­tic and busi­ness skills (con­stantly), elab­o­rat­ing my licens­ing gallery, man­ag­ing my invoices and account­ing, and more…

I am sure many of you, artists and solo workers, relate to my work day, although each of you have your own way of organizing, which you’ve shaped and cus­tomized over the years to suit your lifestyle and busi­ness.

What are the secret tips and tricks that work for you, the ulti­mate work rou­tine that makes your day effi­cient and productive? ☮

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