Hey there! I was just thinking about the topic for my next infographic the other day. I decided to do something more light and fun than my previous 7 day experiments (stay tuned for more info on that in the coming days), but I started thinking more about how to create a path to successful completion of (seemingly) impossible projects.

I have found that infographic creation is usually a lengthy process that could take up to a month or more to complete. Research, wireframing, making sense of the data, deciding on message and execution are all parts of the infographic designing process. Let me tell ya, creating an infographic in 7 days is no easy feat. A lot has to be streamlined or cut out, great ideas that need to be fleshed out and tested have to be scrapped, research might have to be generalized or way more focused–I can go on. There simply isn’t enough time to complete it in 7 days without some planning. This can be said about any creative projects with tight deadlines happen frequently. You may find yourself busting your butt to complete your work on time. Whether the project is personal or for work, time management and organization can be a huge challenge. The key thing is to prevent having to do any last minute rush work.

In an ideal situation, we could work on our projects as long as it takes to get them right. In reality, that concept is but a dream.

BUT I’ve gathered 5 neat tricks that will help you finish any project on time, no matter what it is or how much time you have to work on it:

1. Create a Routine

To be able to accomplish any time management, you need to understand how you work so that you don’t sabotage yourself and work against your own timelines. This is by far the most important trick of all because it sets the tone for how you handle the execution of the rest. In 99U’s book, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, Mark McGuinness (lateralaction.com) breaks down the “Building Blocks of a Great Daily Routine”. The first tip is:

Start with the rhythm of your energy levels
Some times are better for creativity throughout the day. Pay attention to the moments during the day that you feel the most energized and don’t interrupt this time for anything other than being creative.

If you want to learn more, I strongly suggest you pick up Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (the Kindle edition is only $3.99 now.) It’s full of great advice and tips to become a better creative.

2. Don’t try to do too much at once

You and I are driven to succeed. We’re ambitious! We can make things better, faster, more useful. But you know what? We can’t be amazing all the time. I know, it’s awful and scary to think about. But, now that you know how you work, you need to get real. It’s nice to think about all the amazing things you can accomplish with your project: What if I added new functionality? Wouldn’t a redesign work better? Can’t I streamline this one thing? Let me play with this until it looks just right.

NO. Just, no. Stop. You’re killing yourself!

You need to get realistic about what you can accomplish here and now. You need to choose your battles when you have a deadline. The great thing is you can always find a way to make an update or change later, but sticking to what works for now is all you have time to do.

A great way to handle this is to focus on the barebones outcome for your project, whatever they may be. Then, have one added bonus waiting in the wings to complete if you finish the project early. If you just finish the project on time, then this bonus is something to bring up at your next project update or via the next round of revisions.

3. Block holes

Think about all the tasks you need to complete to finish up your project ahead of time. Go on, write them all down. Maybe start the list in the morning and go back to it throughout the day.

Armed with your completed list, open up your favorite calendar app or service and block out the best times to work on each task according to your routine. It could take 15 minutes, an hour or a week to complete, but each task must be committed to a block of time in your life.

Think of these blocks like black holes (or “block holes”, as I like to call ‘em), the only thing entering them is your time and energy. Nothing can distract you and nothing can infiltrate the space; your attention can’t even leave it. If something else does find its way in, get back on track as soon as possible. This gets easier the more you practice, and creating your routine will help this become a habit.

4. Know your limits

Knowing your limits applies to knowing what you can and can’t do – or, at least what you need to work on. Don’t make a commitment to make your own illustrations to a project on a tight deadline when you aren’t good at creating illustrations unless the purpose of the project is to get better at illustrations.

In fact, a good way to sum up this trick is to make sure your project has purpose, and do not deviate from that purpose. The purpose is your limit — know it, stay within it, accept it and work with it.

5. Work towards a stopping point

There is such a thing as overworking a creative project. It’s easy to get caught up in all the details that you lose focus of the bigger picture. It is important that you set limits for completing tasks. Your whole mission is to set clear, defined lines between when you begin and end your project so that you can be the most efficient. Trust me, if you know you only have 15 minutes to decide how an element is going to look, you don’t have time to mess around and see what works.

These tricks may not work for everyone. It really takes practice and patience to make these tips work. I have only recently started to make these my mantra, and it seems to be working out so far.

Will you join me in this experiment? Consider appropriating one or two into your life and see how they work.

Do you have any tips to add? Is there anything I missed? Tweet me @gisellehdesigns and let me know!

 

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