Coping with Design Deadlines: How the Professionals Do It

September 22, 2015
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Working in the design industry you’ll be no stranger to deadlines and you’ll have, no doubt, ran afoul of one or two over the years.

It’s a familiar experience to us all: Getting near to the end of a working day with a sizeable chunk of an important brief still to be finished; it’s enough to make anyone descend into the depths of panic. There’s no need though, seriously.

Stop, take a deep breath and read these 5 deadline-busting tips from some very talented professional designers, including Hunting Town’s very own Alexander Singleton.

Just Get Started

This may sound obvious, however just making a start on something can help straighten everything out in your mind and break down that sense of forboding when you’re facing a gigantic workload.

Alex from Hunting Town says: ‘ The solution I find most helpful when I have a mountainous workload sat on my desk with crushing deadlines is just getting started, I don’t give myself a list of goals, I just get started with the very first thing I see.’  

‘I find very quickly that once I’ve begun a task sheer enthusiasm for the work that I do carries me through.’

Break It Down

If the idea of not having a plan of action causes you more stress than calm, then it may be a good idea to break everything down before you press on with your tasks.

Martin from Arena Creative says: ‘Break down the tasks and set time against the project, that way you’ll know if you have enough time to deliver the work before the deadline arrives.’

Emma, also from Arena, backs this up and goes on to say: ‘Have a plan and set mini deadlines i.e. get pages 1-3 done by 3pm, and pages 5-6 done by 4:30pm and so on. It’s so much easier to handle pressure if it’s in bitesize chunks’.

Manage Client Expectations (and your own)

Taking on more work than you can physically handle is a huge mistake. It means you’re far more likely to miss deadlines which will inevitably lead to clients not coming back to you again; just like that, bang goes your income and your reputation!

Freelancer Stuart Crawford, a.k.a Inkbot Design, says: ‘If a potential client is looking for design work and their deadline is too tight, I’ll be upfront and let them know I can’t help and that they need to plan better.

‘I tend to let my clients know a rough estimate of when the work will be completed. I then make sure I get in there a few days before they expect it so they are delighted with me being ahead of schedule.’

The folks at Arena creative also take this straight-talking approach with their own clients and they find that their clients ‘give them plenty of notice, form an orderly queue and are always happy to wait their turn.’

Take Care Of Yourself

The client shouldn’t always come first; in order to produce work to the highest standards and get it in on time, you need to be in good working order yourself.

Dan from Clock Creative contributed these important tips to help you stay fresh and alert throughout a busy day:

Make sure you take regular breaks! You’ll find you’re far more efficient when you’re feeling fresh.

‘Don’t stare at a project too long; get a fresh pair of eyes involved as often as possible to give live feedback during work.

‘Don’t drink too much caffeine – beating a deadline is about planning and staying fresh, not overdosing on stimulants.’

if it doesn't get done today, nobody will die

Emma from Arena also adds:

‘Have a drawer full of snacks and food for when you don’t even have time to make it to the office kitchen. Also, remember to pee. Deadlines = water infections. True fact.’

Use Technology

There’s certainly no shame in getting technology involved when you’ve got large workloads to keep track of. We’re all human after all, and things occasionally get forgotten.

Stuart at Inkbot suggests: ‘Get a GTD app, such as Omnifocus or Todoist. I input EVERYTHING I need to get done, and then there’s no excuse for forgetting something or falling behind schedule.’

These sorts of apps and software act as handy places to dump all the important stuff from your mind so you can focus on the creativity and, most importantly, keep hold of that all-important enthusiasm!