If you’re creative, super busy, and occasionally prone to distraction then this post is perfect for you. Our blog already has a few posts about how to boost productivity. This one is made for designers by designers!

The right equipment is step 1 in staying productive. All of our designers are hooked up with two big monitors. Most everyone has a program from the Adobe Creative Cloud on one monitor and inspiration or references pieces on the other. It’s not uncommon to see pictures of kittens, puppies, or wireframes on the 2nd monitor. When it’s time to crank out the pixels… put on your headphones and try out our designers’ playlist: Shut Up and Focus.

We aren’t afraid of taking breaks around here either. Studies have proven that taking a break every 90 minutes or so actually keeps your energy and focus higher than working straight through. Watching your favorite YouTube video doesn’t count… get up and stretch, drink a glass of water, or take a walk to Starbucks.

Keyboard shortcuts that make you a better designer

Learning keyboard shortcuts is one of the easiest ways to find a bit more time in your day and squeeze out an extra iteration on that design comp.

Try opening applications by using spotlight (you know, that search in the upper-right corner). You can open the dialogue box by pressing Command-Space. This will save you from sifting through icons on your taskbar or launchpad and let you keep your hands on your keyboard. Check out this giant list of Mac keyboard shortcuts from Dan Rodney.

Use these handy combos of keystrokes to spend less time navigating programs and more time becoming a better designer. A sticky note on your monitor, for reference, can help you incorporate new keyboard shortcuts into your workflow in no time. If you’re already a shortcut pro try creating your own keyboard shortcuts in photoshop.

keyboard shortcuts

Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts

For ultimate productivity in gmail – make sure keyboard shortcuts are enabled under your Gmail settings. You can get a full list of keyboard shortcuts for Gmail by typing a ? anywhere but in a message. Here are a few of my favorites:

R – reply
A – reply all
F – forward
E – archive conversation and move to the next
# – delete message
Shift+U – mark a message as unread
Ctrl+enter or Mac: command+enter – send a message

Chrome Keyboard Shortcuts

Command+n – new window
Command+t – new tab
Command+w – close the current tab
Command+Shift+t – open the most recently closed tab (aka LIFESAVER)
Command+Shift+n – open a new Incognito window (logged out, anonymous, no cookies!)
Command+l – puts your cursor in the address bar (keep your hand off your mouse)
Command+plus/minus – zoom the page in/out
Command+0 – reset zoom

Processes to make your design team more efficient.

Defining processes helps provide predictable and better quality results. Admittedly, it can be hard to find a balance between process-oriented and creative. In cases where you’re not sure, try out a new process as a temporary solution. Here are a few processes our design team uses to increase their productivity.

Standardized file names. Rapid iteration, creative exploration, and work from multiple workstations or contributors can wreak havoc on your organization system. Following a naming convention can help you locate things more easily… even if only through search.

Check boxes. Next time you’re in a meeting and taking notes, try drawing a blank square next to your action items. This will help you make sense of your notes later because the actionable pieces will have visual indicators. And, you’ll know they’re done because the box will be checked!

“Locked” grid template. A set of grid lines can help you maintain proportions on a new design and are absolutely critical for responsive web design. Go ahead and set up a template with your favorite grid already set up, then you can use this as a starting point for new projects. We like these Bootstrap 3 Grids from Minimit.

Use smart objects. Smart objects can help you maintain consistency of UI elements. They’re perfect for UI controls (like buttons) on a website or in a product.

Make a scrap pile. In the course of designing anything you’ll probably have a few great ideas that (for whatever reason) just don’t work out. Instead of deleting those layers, move them to a “scrap pile” group for use on a later project.

Applications and features to increase designer productivity.

Alfred takes Mac’s integrated Spotlight to a whole new level by allowing you to search the web from your desktop and combine hotkeys, actions, and shortcuts to create workflows that will save you gobs of time. Try http://www.alfredworkflow.com/ or http://www.packal.org/ to save even more time by downloading workflows others have already created :).

alfred app can boost designer productivity

Bartender is perfect for anyone with slight (or major) OCD. It’s an easy install that cleans up the mac menu bar along the top of your desktop. Bartender is customizable so you can get things situated “just so”.

Using a Font Management System like Suitcase can speed up your system by only activating relevant fonts. This means your computer won’t need to load all 1,000 fonts on your machine unless you actually have all of those inside of one file.

Color Coding your files in Finder can help communicate which files are “ready to go” for developers or other members of your team.

Double-Clicking a blank canvas in Photoshop is the same as going to File>Open. And, double-clicking the “lock” icon for the default background layer will let you adjust it if you chose not start with a transparent layer (for some silly reason).

Designing In Iterations Can Increase Productivity.

It’s easy to get sucked into to pixel perfection. But executing your original vision perfectly can actually inhibit your creative ability to innovate. Instead, try working through a whole page to 60% to get the basic structure down. Then you can come back to complex elements and flesh them out all the way after you’ve had some time to passively think about them.

Take breaks to increase productivity

We have a poster in our office that reads “Make it work. Then, make it better.” And, we couldn’t agree more. Show your work early and often to your colleagues or clients… getting others involved in the process will yield greater results.

Are you super-efficient and productive? Share your best tips with in the comments and we’ll include them in a future post.