In this week’s episode we look at focus and productivity for designers. Often it can be all too easy to get sidetracked or to struggle to focus on what’s really important, whether that’s a client deadline or that primary thing that you know will progress your creative career. Today we dig into our personal struggles with finding focus and offer our best tips for what’s actually worked for us. There’s no shiny productivity hacks to be found here, just genuine solutions from the four of us. Let’s get into the show!


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Meet Your Hosts

The Honest Designers Show started when our founder Tom found he was regularly chatting and sharing tips with top designers; Ian Barnard, Lisa Glanz and Dustin Lee. We soon organised a weekly call where we would help each other with areas we were struggling with and try to give each other actionable feedback. Soon we realised that the collective experience of the group was proving so valuable for each of us, that we thought ‘why not share these conversations with the world?’.

And so, The Honest Designers Show was born! This podcast is an insight into how to succeed in the creative industry, as well as giving you a totally transparent, under the hood look at some of the tougher, less glamorous hurdles to overcome! We also tend to get a little goofy along the way, so this is a chance to get to know each of us a little better :). We’ve loved recording this show for you, and we hope that you find value and enjoyment in listening to it.


Please find full show notes for this episode below:

[1:00] In this weeks’ episode we look at focus and productivity for designers
[2:00] Dustin found that not focusing for even an 1h a day was costing him around $1,000 a month
[3:00] Something as small as email newsletters can impact your work, so it’s best to create a separate inbox and keep these separate from your work emails
[3:40] Ian compares this to snacking during the day while dieting; all the small bits tend to add up
[4:30] It’s always the little things that distract from your focus, e.g.: emails, phone calls, social media posts
[5:00] Tom even got to the point of deleting his Facebook and Instagram apps from his phone
[6:00] It’s not just wasting the time, but as a designer it’s also costing you money
[7:10] Work smart and work hard! Audit your time and take out the useless bits
[7:45] Our brain does need the interruption but in small doses
[8:30] It can take up to 60% of your time to readjust to your work once interrupted
[9:30] Keeping email notifications on as to not to miss something important might not be as beneficial as you think
[10:30] Ian remembers being more efficient when he was employed as he had someone looking over him or depending on his work
[12:00] Ian finds that focusing on one thing for even just 30 minutes to be extremely beneficial
[12:40] Dustin took 20 minutes every evening to work on fonts and found it very useful
[13:40] For Tom it works to do things in batches: emails, work, helping others etc.
[14:00] Jumping between different things during the day might end up with nothing getting done
[14:40] Dustin is setting up time limits for projects and working hard during that time
[15:30] Being pressured by time can make you complete your tasks faster
[16:00] Tom found that you can only work under this pressure for a small amount of time
[16:30] It’s important to find the balance and not to take it to the extremes
[17:00] Pushing yourself to work when you’re tired will end up taking more time than if you did the work when rested
[18:30] Make sure to take breaks and let your brain clear
[19:15] It’s totally OK to do nothing sometimes and let your brain rest
[20:50] Ian leaves everything to the last moment and says this is the only way he can work
[22:10] Most people work best under pressure as it forces them to focus
[23:30] Working under pressure is OK but make sure you let yourself rest after finishing a big project
[24:30] A good hack is to set-up the deadline earlier and almost trick yourself
[25:00] Tom used to pull all-nighters during university
[26:20] Lisa left the things that she didn’t like to the last moment
[27:00] “Procrastination is the lead-up to extreme focus” – Dustin Lee
[28:40] There’s only a small amount of focused work that really matters
[29:45] Lisa does illustrations as part of her work but also as a way to relax
[30:30] Ian finds it hard to differentiate between designs he does for work and the ones he does for fun
[31:20] “Do our jobs ruin our passion?” – Tom Ross
[32:50] The pressure takes away the joy from the work you love
[34:20] Work eventually becomes work, even if you love what you’re doing
[35:30] Even the most beautiful designer work had its ugly bits
[36:40] Ian hopes to feel less pressured of always doing ‘something’ with his designs
[37:30] Sometimes you just have to do it even if you don’t like the work
[39:00] Ian talks about the pressure and struggle of recording his work
[40:00] Tom’s biggest tip is batching your work and being more aware of what makes you lose focus
[41:00] Lisa says scheduling her day and having a routine works well for her
[42:00] Dustin finds having loose themes work for him too, as long they allow changes
[43:00] Dustin suggests ending any project on a high-note
[44:00] Having themes or batches can work very well, especially for things you have to do constantly e.g.: invoices
[45:00] Ian has removed all temptations, like the notifications from Social Media
[46:00] Social media can be extremely distracting
[47:00] Having a routine is also a helpful reminder of doing the work
[48:00] The hosts realise that their design posts are likely interrupting other people from their work
[49:20] Lisa mentions a drawing exercise she and fount that she was more focused while listening to a podcast
[51:00] Find out what helps you focus the most and what is most distracting to you
[52:00] You don’t need to have a perfect system to be successful
[53:00] If you’re struggling to find focus, you are definitely not alone

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