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Decline meetings, ignore Slack, block your calendar: How to find time to design again

For the past few months, I’ve noticed an accretion number of designers online accusatory about their lack of time to design. They have a packed agenda full of affairs and, if they’re lucky, they have little blocks of an hour of less to design. This is annihilation new, I’ve been there. I’ve seen designers accuse about this throughout my entire career. I’ve done it too.

I’ve also seen managers trying to abode the problem. I’ve had affairs about having too many affairs and, the funniest part is, the aftereffect of that was spending even more time discussing it in abate teams, trying to fix the situation.

Sure, managers have their fair share of accountability, after all they’re often the ones booking most of the alternating meetings. But what about designers? Are we just acquiescent victims of a system that’s trying to drown us with meetings?

Of course not. If you don’t have time to design, it’s also your fault.

But I’m not here to point any fingers. As a designer, I don’t like to just find problems, I like to fix them. That’s why I want to share some tips that helped me gain some of my time back from the affairs overlords, and I hope they can help you too.

Block your calendar

Here’s your first mistake:

If your agenda for the next month looks commodity like this, what do you think those empty spaces communicate? It looks like you’re pretty open and I can book anytime I want – and before you know it, your agenda gets packed.

To avoid this you can simply block slots of at least two to four hours where you want to design.

Call it what it is – design time – and be strict. Don’t accept affairs that overlap that time, unless it’s commodity important and exceptional.

Don’t block your entire agenda though, otherwise, that will give you the same exact result as if it was empty. If people want to book time with you, you should have empty slots that people can use for that, otherwise, they will just see your “design time” as the abutting thing to an empty block, and will try their luck.

If you don’t think you can carve such a big block out of any of your days, let me tell you that you absolutely can.

At Shopify, Wednesdays are meant to be a meeting-free day. Anybody is encouraged to avoid booking affairs on that day and they also empower you to abatement any invite that pops up on a Wednesday.

That authorization comes from our leadership, and I’m really a fan of that. It really shows that this is a aggregation made by makers that accept that people need time to get stuff done.

If Shopify can do this I can’t see why other companies can’t.

You don’t even need to wait for your company, you can always start small and aim to do commodity like this just within your team.

If your aggregation is set up in a way that you just can’t absolutely assets a day or a big chunk of a day to work, at least you can push for it.

Inertia won’t give your time back, and I would be very afraid if addition calls you out for trying to get more work done.

Don’t be afraid to abatement meetings

Here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure a aggregation doesn’t want to pay you to have abounding meetings, at least they shouldn’t.

If you abatement a affair because the work you need to do has antecedence over it, you’re absolutely doing them a favor. They shouldn’t punish or admonishment you for it.

Unfortunately me saying it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. If your aggregation or lead discourages you from accepting work done, in favor of abounding meetings, maybe you might want to amend your alive situation, and look for a place or team that cares more about accepting stuff done than they care about talking about it.

All this should come with the caveat that you need to make sure that the work you’re doing absolutely has antecedence over the affair you’re declining.

I think it’s easy to put all affairs in the same bucket, but we need to be able to differentiate and accept that the ambience you gather in a affair might save you hours of design time.

Propose a new time

Here’s a affection of calendars I don’t see many people using – adduce a altered time.

It’s a good way to defend your craft time and still try to be present in affairs you don’t want to miss. This might not work so well for affairs with a large group, but for abate crowds, it’s apparently fine, and you can use that as a way to shape what your design time is.

Sometimes, all it takes is dabbling a affair for an hour, and voila, you have a couple of hours of design time with no interruptions.

Respect your time

If you’re booking a affair and you account your audience’s time, it’s important that you define the agenda and goal for the affair and make that part of the invite.

That can help your admirers decide whether or not they need to attend.

If you do that, that puts you in a position where you can start requesting for others to do the same. If addition wants to take a slot from your calendar, they should at least put a minor effort in to cogent you what that’s all about. If they don’t you can defer to tip two.

When you absolutely have meetings, get beeline into business.

It’s altogether normal, and absolutely nice in the accepted times, to start a affair with a bit of an icebreaker. I’m not black that.

What I’m black is spending more than a couple of account just chit-chatting. Because the usual aftereffect of this is affairs that run overtime, and the need for consecutive affairs to abide the discussion.

Not to acknowledgment the domino effect that affects all your other affairs if you have a packed day.

In my experience, this often happens when affairs are low stakes. I don’t see it accident as often when you have a high-level stakeholder in the room. Why is that?

Because people account their time. So ask yourself, why don’t you account your own?

Same goes for the end of the meeting. If you end early don’t feel like you have to use that time that was left to talk. It’s your time, use it wisely.

Don’t start the day with email or Slack

Don’t start your day by diving beeline into Slack, or by tidying up your inbox.

It’s not common for people to book affairs early in the morning, at least in the places where I’ve worked. Take advantage of that and make that your design time.

You can check your Slack letters or email in the short block you might have free during the day. If you have 30min or even an hour in amid two meetings, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to make a lot of advance if you start designing something, so use that time for Slack and email instead of the golden hours of the morning.

FOMO? I’ve had days where I was so focused on the work I was doing that I absolutely forgot to check Slack or my email. Did I miss anything? No.

If there’s commodity urgent, those things will find you. Just make sure you leave your Slack notifications on for when people acknowledgment you.

Take breaks

I know, this one sounds very counter-intuitive. But when you have a day full of affairs and just a couple of hours to work, you might feel tempted to go full-on and not even stop to breathe.

I affected a bit on that in my commodity “How to design with love”, where I mentioned a study where advisers found that there’s an actual limit to the amount of time that a human being can apply on a single task after a break. Apparently that’s less than an hour, so you’re not absolutely doing yourself or your employer any favors by alive for several beeline hours after taking a break.

Even if you have a block of just a couple of hours to work, accede taking a break in the middle of it. Sometimes that is absolutely what you need to ameliorate and have a breakthrough.

With that said, I’m not auspicious you to break your flow. If you’re on a roll and you’re agronomics through your designs, keep at it. Just be aware of your energy level and try to admit when you can account from a short break.

Don’t absence to weekly

We’ve been experimenting with a 4-day work week for the summer at Shopify.

I noticed that this forced people to amend the way some of the alternating affairs were planned. The absence is almost always weekly, but have you ever wondered why?

A week is about a made up concept, why are we administration that cadence?

My acquaintance with weekly affairs is that often you have at least a couple of them and they end up landing on the same weekday, which ends up afire you out and abrogation you with no energy for absolutely accepting work done in the butt of that day.

Can you see how many hours we’re crumbling every week?

These affairs are usually for alignment and planning.

To do these things on a bi-weekly accent you just need to adjust your planning and foster async alignment.

You don’t need to have anybody in a room, every week, to review work if your team is administration and adjustment apart of these alternating events.

Actually, I noticed that having these alternating events sets a pace for sharing, which might not absolutely be the best for your team. Maybe your activity is at a stage where it could move much faster if the team was administration advance daily, but instead people wait for the weekly critique.

This isn’t just about crumbling time, it’s also much more difficult for designers to let go from ideas they were crafting the entire week, as against to commodity they did in a day.

It’s on you!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t design on demand. I have to be in the right mind space and absolutely have energy and time to make commodity meaningful.

If you want to do allusive work, you’re faced with a choice. You can either abide accusatory about it and hope addition comes and wipes your agenda clean, or you can take charge and own your time.

As a designer, your job isn’t just to make things. You need to gather the right amount of ambience to make those things, and you need to review those things with your peers, if you want to strive and make it better.

All of the above can’t be done appropriately if you’re not able to manage your own time.

I hope you found these tips accessible – they absolutely helped me to get more time to absolutely design. As a way to achieve this I’ll leave you with one last claimed story that hopefully serves as proof that the time is there to be carved out.

Since COVID hit Canada, as many others, I’ve been stuck at home, alive and parenting full time. My wife is in the same boat (she’s also a designer), so we had no choice but to adjust our schedules. I spend the mornings with my daughter, which means that I only start to work at 1PM, sometimes 2PM, which ultimately after-effects in 4-ish hours of overlap with my team.

With the help and compassionate of my team, and after moving around some of our alternating meetings, we made it work.

We leveraged tools that accustomed us to keep the advice going asynchronously, using things like Slack and Figma comments.

One thing that helped me in accurate was announcement belligerent video demos, active through my designs as a way to share my acumen and to get acknowledgment from my peers.

All of the sudden half of my week was automatically affair free, and sometimes we even leveraged this as a way to keep the designs progressing. I would sync up with a artist and pick up the design analysis where she left off, and then before I signed off I would leave a few comments over my designs so she could come back to it the next morning.

It takes a bit of effort, but if you’re accommodating to take action, you can absolutely make it work.

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Appear September 8, 2020 — 08:57 UTC

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