Some people claim that 24 hours is not enough for them to finish all their tasks for the day. Indeed, most of us are running after time trying to befriend it. Time is very vital for us. Time management is said to be the most important element of professionalism which includes balancing and managing both professional and personal life well. Ironically, time management is also the biggest problems of graphic designers. Freelance designers have various projects that come just anytime, so you need to be good at time management. Since you are working on your own, you have to handle everything on your own. This is vital in order to finish all your projects before your client’s deadline. Every task requires a lot of time especially that you have to work on it always with the best of your ability.

Effective time management requires a lot of discipline. In Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , he cited a Time Management Matrix which could be a guide for everyone.

stephen covey

  • Quadrant I: Quadrant of Necessity. Urgent and important matters. Crises, pressing problems, deadline-driven projects.These are things we have and we have to do.
  • Quadrant II: Quadrant of Quality and Personal Leadership. Non-urgent but important matters. Relationship building, planning, recognising new opportunities, improvements to your workplace, exercise, recreation. These are things that needs to be done but we don’t do it because it is not urgent.
  • Quadrant III: Quadrant of Deception. Urgent but not important things like phone calls, email, interruptions, popular matters, some meetings. Obviously, these things are not important and most people are deceived into doing these.
  • Quadrant IV: Quadrant of Waste. Non-urgent and non-important matters. This includes trivia, spam, time wasters, distractions, non-productive activities.Totally a waste of time if you do these things.

For maximum results, tasks in Quadrant I should be done first, then Quadrant II, III and then IV. Covey suggests to avoid spending time in Quadrant IV and to spend more time in Quadrant II activities. Planning rightly and getting things done earlier will help you avoid problems in your life. Aside from the guide given to us by Covey, we also have here some time management techniques for you.

1.Plan everyday by making a to-do list.

Image :AikoNagori

Be organized by making a list of the tasks you will do for the day. Make sure to include only the important ones. You have to follow your list or else, it won’t serve its purpose.Do not just keep a daily plan. Make it monthy and weekly,too. This will help you determine if you have spent time for both your personal and professional life.

2.Set priorities.

Image: tania_k_suster

With a lot of things to do in a day, make sure to set priorities. Choose which one needs to be done first and is the most important of all the tasks. This way, you could focus on the most relevant work before going to the rest of your activities.

3.Work on a major project one at a time.

one at a time

Do not drown yourself with work. If you have two or three major projects, work at it one at a time to make sure that you will have the best output. Work on the ones that will due first and always give your best into it. If you work at many projects at the same time, the result won’t be as good as you want it to be.

4.Work first on the projects you hate.

do what you hate
Image: ecogreentechco

Sometimes, there are tasks or projects that we dislike doing. Instead of skipping it for a couple of times, force yourself to finish it first so you won’t be worried and bothered about it when it’s already done. After doing what you hate, you can now spend more time working on projects that you love.

5.Do away activities where you waste time.

do away with activities where you waste time

Stop yourself from talking a long time on the phone, checking emails, or using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. It will eat up most of your time without you noticing it. Close these sites while working. You check them when you take a break. But remember to spend a very little time on this and go back to work at once.

6.Break down large projects.

break down projects
Image: Photostock /

If you are given a large project wherein you have to do a lot of things like designing a logo, a website, a business card and many others, break down the tasks. Talk to your client to set different deadlines for each item. Make a list of all the tasks and discuss it with your client as to which one would he wants to be done first. .

7.Find the right time for everything.

right time
Image: Graur razvan ionut /

You would know when the right time to work and not to work is. If you have better ideas in the morning, then work in the morning. Choose the right time where you are most productive.

8.Multi-task with a limit.


Do things at the same time. But make sure you do not dove-tail a lot that you could no longer have a quality output. Multi-tasking could help you save a lot of time only if you do it in a manner that you can still give your best even if you do different things at the same time. So make sure you are doing an effective multi-tasking.

9.Set your own deadlines.

set deadlines
Image: Salvatore Vuono /

One way to make sure that you won’t go beyond the deadline your clients are giving you is to set your own deadline ahead than their due date. This will help you not to rush things when your client asks for the project already. Also this will give you ample time to correct mistakes and look into all the details of the project.

10.Enjoy your time.

enjoy time
Image:Mary K Kneiser

Have fun while working. Enjoy making designs. Put your heart into what you are doing so you could achieve a good output. Projects which are made with a smiling heart look better than those done with a pout in the face.

11.Avoid Distractions.

avoid distractions
Image: Ambro /

It is up to you on how you will do away distractions while working. Mere phone calls and noise can distract your focus and might shoo away your creativity. So, to avoid losing your artistic ideas, avoid distractions and learn to discipline yourself.

12.Have a sense of urgency.


Even if the deadline is still weeks away, you still have to work at it at once. Do not procrastinate. Finish everything that you can while waiting for other projects. Always be busy with work. You can relax after all the work. Relaxing feels much better when you do not have to worry about work anymore.

13.Balance professional and personal life.


Even if you would like to develop a good professional life, you still need to give time to your personal life for both aspects go together. Do not live like nothing matters but your career only. Allot time for relationships and personal development. Spend time with important people in your life and never forget yourself and your health. Living a balanced life is the key to find happiness.

14.Maintain your hardware and software.

maintain hardware and software
Image: Gregory Szarkiewicz /

Always do hardware checks to maintain your computer. It would be a waste of time if your computer stops responding every once in a while. Also, protect your computer from viruses, spyware and malware for it can damage your files. Always update your hardware and software coz newer ones may help you speed up your work.

15.Use a time management tool.

time management tool

There are lots of applications in the internet which can help one save time. Check out 35 Time Management Resources for Designers. For sure you’ll find them useful.

16.Prevent work disasters.

prevent work disasters
Image: Michal Marcol /

To make sure that everything you have worked hard for will not merely get lost in a wink of an eye, keep some back up files on your external drive. I know some of you have experienced this before, and I’m pretty sure no designer wants this to happen to them. Have a weekly backup so you could continue working with a peace of mind.

17.Take breaks.

take breaks

Do not overwork yourself. Take a coffee break for 10-15 minutes. It won’t do you any good if you will work for straight 8-10 hours. That is unhealthy. So, once in a while, stand up, stretch, have a few bites, get some fresh air then go back to work. But don’t be taking a lot of breaks, that won’t make you productive.

18.Reward yourself when you get things done.

reward yourself
Image: Photostock /

When you are working, consider yourself like a little kid who would be pleased to receive an ice cream or a candy when he answers your questions correctly or when he gets things done properly. Reward yourself. Pamper yourself once in a while.

Being a freelance designer is a tedious work so you need focus and planning. Everything actually depends on how you approach circumstances and how you manage time on your own. We’ll, it is indeed easier said than done! But with proper self discipline and motivation to work, you’ll be able to successfully and effectively manage your time. Remember that no one can ever turn back the hands of time, so make use of it wisely and productively!

Kareen Liez

About the author: A Civil Engineer who has a construction business and a youth volunteer for a civic organization. She also contributes for a local newspaper due to her unwavering passion to write.


  1. This post have a really good and Informative content.

  2. Short, Crispy, Interesting.
    Thanks for sharing

  3. Goood stuff! You’re a great ressource, Kareen

  4. Great list. One thing that seemed to help me personally is using the Pomodoro technique, I suggest anyone who constantly finds himself distracted while having a task at hand (thank Twitter/Facebook) to Google the term or download the Chrome extension.

  5. These are all great tips. They all have more fundamental time management principles behind them but written in short form. Love it. I know that can be hard to do sometimes, coming from someone who tends to write more than necessary.

  6. I think your summary is right on target. Love the images you used.

  7. Informative post thanks for sharing Kareen. I know most of them are common time management tips but still it’s a great resource of you sharing these tips. Time management is the most essential thing that everyone needs when it comes to managing time and balancing both work and personal life. People would buy book and read on time management blogs to improve the way they manage their time but most of them failed to succeed. They are wasting money in buying books about time management but still they fail because they are not living it’s principle, they just read on what’s in there but they’re not truly living and practicing it’s principle.

  8. Great list of helpful time management tips, Kareen. I cannot agree more with these tips. I believe that you cannot manage time if you don’t measure it. At work I also manage time and one thing that helps me stay productive is using this time tracking tool called Time Doctor. Using this tool it tracks exactly where I spent time and gives me an analytics of my work day that allows me to eliminate less productive activities and improve productivity. The key that I can finish tasks on time is with self discipline.

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