Every week at Shutterstock, my team receives dozens of design requests. Every so often, there will be that day where we receive more requests than we can handle. Prioritization is a must.
Designers oftentimes get inundated with many different projects and tasks at once. Here are my four tips for managing the workload.
Whether you’re working with internal colleagues in the office, or your external clients, the first task is to fully understand their needs. No matter your skill level as a designer, communication is one of the most important parts of your job. Identify stakeholders and ask them probing, fairly open questions. Sometimes simply ask “Why?” and you’ll uncover the things the client might not have realized they wanted to communicate.
Generally you want to understand the big picture and then work out the details. I find it helps to show your requester relevant examples of similar projects to get a better idea of what they’re looking for, before you start to work.
Discuss the most important, time-consuming phases of the project ahead of time and set clear priorities. This will help you and your requester. Create a timeline so they know when to expect deliverables, and allow cushion for unexpected revisions.
If you’re working with a co-worker as your client, let them know what is already on your to-do list. Let them know what other priorities come up while you’re working on their project. This way, they’ll understand how much bandwidth you have and the best way to work with you in the future.
Work on no more than three projects at a time. If you’re waiting for one project to be reviewed, you can get started on the other project. Also, this workflow is a great way to take your mind off the project and then come back later with a fresh perspective.
Attitude is everything. How you handle critical feedback — even subjective feedback, such as, “I just don’t like the color” — is part of the game. Actively listen. Resist the urge to refute criticism, and take into full consideration what the person is saying.
In this day and age, everyone has a choice of whom they work with. Your raw skill is certainly important, but if you set the right expectations, and are reliable and easy to work with, you’ll become that much more valuable.
With over 15 years of industry expertise, Eric Sams is the Marketing Art Director for Shutterstock, where he collaborates across teams to produce creative work.