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.
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.
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? ☮