Time management: Best tools for graphic designers

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March 23, 2021
5 minute read

Graphic designers need to consider how time management affects both them and their projects. In a recent survey of 500 business owners, 87 percent want the graphic design process to be more efficient in all areas.

The same survey found that wasted time is one of the main culprits of inefficient workflow, making this a critical area to address as a graphic designer. Not only do you need great time management skills, but you may need to invest in a few tools to keep you on track. The right tools allow you to get organized, communicate with other team members, and even assign and check-off tasks so you can easily see whether the project is falling behind. 

Before getting just any time management tool, consider some strategies that are especially supportive for graphic designers. Finally, weigh the pros and cons of three of the most popular time management tools, Trello, Asana, and Monday, to find the best solution for your needs.

Time Management Strategies

As a graphic designer, you have many unique challenges to consider when managing time. You may be dealing with multiple edits and iterations for a single element of your design, focusing on multiple deadlines, and working with an entire team, from developers to marketers.

However, a single tool won’t fix all your time management challenges. Instead, you need to build a foundation of strategies that you can implement in conjunction with a tool that makes your life easier. Consider which of these skills you need to hone.

  • Project clarity: Make sure you’re clear on the parameters before you start the design process; even one unanswered question can set you back if an aspect of the project isn’t completed correctly. Ask questions like: What are the target deadlines for my work and the project as a whole? What are the client specifications for logo, color, font, stock photography, and other branding elements? Are there various milestones you want to meet along the way?
  • Scheduling: You need to create your own schedule so your project timeline is easy to follow. Identify the tasks you need to accomplish and when each stage in the process must be finalized or submitted for review. You can use this schedule to track your progress, ensuring all milestones are reached on time and no tasks slide through the cracks.
  • Prioritize communication: Graphic design is a collaborative process, so you have to be willing to communicate regularly. Whether you need to compare notes and brainstorm ideas with team members or elicit feedback from clients, successful project management requires consistent communication so there’s never a hold-up in the process.
  • Organization: Nothing wastes time like an unorganized desktop. Keep all your project files organized in one central hub. For example, you may use Google Drive to create a single folder for each project or client, and then create subfolders for various assets, types of documents, project variations, etc. This makes it easy to quickly find what you need.

The Top 3 Time Management Tools

Finding a tool that allows you to streamline the time management process, organize your schedule, and maintain consistent communication with clients and team members can be challenging. The three following tools stand out among the many options and are consistently praised for their time management benefits. Understand the pros and cons of each to decide which one you want to invest in.

Asana

Cost: $10.99/month (premium)

Pros: Asana has an intuitive and user-friendly interface and mobile responsive dashboard, making it easy to use on any device. You can also use file sharing and team chat features that make collaboration easy. Assignments allow you to make sure everyone is clear on what they need to complete and calendar automation and recurring task updates make it easy to stay on track from start to finish.

Cons: There’s no option for timesheet tracking within Asana and there are limited options for file import/export. The main dashboard and inbox features can also be distracting and difficult with so many widgets and details living in one place.

Trello

Cost: $12.50/month (business)

Pros: The interactive boards that Trello is known for make it easy to organize projects and cards and manage tasks among a large team. You can assign multiple users to a task and easily navigate all the needed pieces for each task. Keep file uploads, checklists, and color-coded categorized milestones all within a single board or card. With a mobile responsive dashboard, customizable drag-and-drop features, and timesheet tracking, you can manage every aspect of your project no matter the device.

Cons: With limited storage and an interface that can feel “busy” when loaded up with many boards and cards, Trello might not be ideal for large-scale projects. There are also limited external software integrations and a lack of versatile team chat functions.

Monday

Cost: $24.00/month (basic)

Pros: The virtual whiteboards within Monday allow for you easily leave and review comments, drafts, edits, file shares, and other annotations. An interactive calendar with real-time updates streamlines project management and the reporting and analytics tools allow you to dig deeper into bottlenecks and time-wasters. Different task view options also allow you to create an ideal experience for the entire team.

Cons: Inflexible tiered pricing might make it challenging to find a plan that works for a unique budget. There’s also an extra cost for timesheet and expense tracking, making this a potentially costly tool if those features are needed. Less user-friendly mobile app features also make it difficult to shift between devices while still having easy access to everything needed at your fingertips.

Improve Your Time Management Strategies and Tools

Time management is necessary as a graphic designer, and luckily, there are many solutions at your disposal. Not only do the three tools outlined here help you complete assignments on time, but they also create a more efficient workflow, allow you to collaborate, and make it easy to switch between devices so you can check-in at any point. Find the tool that’s best suited for your needs and don’t forget to build a foundation of great time management strategies. Pair all this with your sought-after graphic design skills and you’ll stand-out among the competition.

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