Let’s face it: it’s hard working on multiple things at once. Focusing on just one thing is much easier than trying to juggle multiple projects and clients. Yet the reality for most designers and firms is you’re working on many projects and with many clients, often simultaneously. Luckily, there’s ways to juggle multiple projects and clients without going crazy.
While some are pulling their hair due to feeling overwhelmed, others are handling multiple projects and clients with aplomb. So how do they do it? Well, this article will focus on answering just that. Keep reading to find out how to juggle multiple projects and clients without going crazy.
1. Stay Organized: Use To-Do Lists or a Project Management App
Yep, you can stop rolling your eyes – this is the forehead-slapping obvious step. Yet some designers fool themselves into thinking they can just jump in and finish multiple projects all at once, or just use a rudimentary to-do list of some basic tasks laid out. Yeah, right. Get real.
Don’t kid yourself – use to-do lists or a project management app. Our human minds are typically horrible at organization. Outsource the task of which projects you’re working on, any required resources or deadlines, and the individual steps required. At the very least, use to-do lists. Write down all the aforementioned things and anything else that’s needed. This way, you don’t have to remember what step you need to do next, when something is due, and when you have to contact somebody.
Also: combine all the tasks you’d need to do today from all of your projects and list them out chronologically. Then, you simply look at what you need to do for today and knock each task out step by step. No guessing, remembering, or having that annoying feeling of “what was that thing I was supposed to take care of?”
A project management app like the designer-favorite Basecamp by 37signals is for those who want to-do lists on steroids. You’ll be able to collaborate, share, and stay on top of your projects and clients’ always-changing requests much easier – and get it all automatically emailed to you if you want.
When everything is written out for what needs to be done on each day for each project and client, you’ll be able to stop thinking about what to do and just do it. You’ve outsourced the remembering and juggling part to your to-do lists or project management app. It tells you what task (for whichever project or client) you need to do next, and you simply do it. That’s it.
2. Maximize Your Work Time: Write Your Tasks Out the Day Before
Write out all the tasks you need to do the day before you need to do them. This way, you’ll wake up with a complete list ready to tackle. You won’t have to spend your morning (or afternoon, or whenever you night owls wake up) figuring out a to-do list, inevitably missing something and then thinking about what you’re forgetting rather than just tackling the list.
See, when you write out your next day’s task the day before, you don’t have a rushed mindset or anything. There isn’t a feeling of needing to get to it right away, since it’s for tomorrow. You’ll write out everything you need to do, then if something else pops into your head, you simply add it to the list. By the next day, the list is almost certain to be complete and you just dive into it without worrying if you missed some important task.
Now, most lame productivity articles will lay out arbitrary rules that they want readers to specifically follow. Well, screw that. Write out these tasks whenever you want. A day before, two days, in the mornings, in the evenings, along the way throughout the day, whenever and however.
Don’t get hung up on the tactics, just use the principle: have your tasks prepared before the actual time comes that you need to do them. The reason is you’ll wake up and be ready to tackle your tasks right away rather than having to figure out what you need to do first.
You’ll not only be more effective with your time and precious creative energy, but you’ll be more motivated throughout the day since you’re getting more important results done.
3. Avoid Overwhelm: See All Projects and Clients as One Timeline
This might be the confusing, head-scratching step. But, as hinted at in step #1, seeing all of your projects and clients as one timeline will help you to avoid the work-hindering feeling of overwhelm.
See, ultimately you’re creating designs and projects for clients. It’s a single activity. You simply have multiple stems of this one activity. So why see all of your projects and clients as separate? It’s not logical to have to even force yourself to think this way, but let’s be real: us humans are illogical and emotional beings. When we trick ourselves into thinking another way, suddenly something becomes easier to do. And in this case, you’re tricking yourself into not seeing multiple things on your plate that could easily get you overwhelmed and unproductive.
When you write out all of your tasks (step #1) the day before (step #2), you’re making it one single chronological timeline. Sure, you can organize and segment the tasks however you want, but ultimately it doesn’t make a difference what task you’re tackling next. You’re simply going through them one by one. The first task could be for one project or client, the second task for another one, and so forth. When you’re completing a task, it doesn’t matter what project or client it’s for: only that you finished it effectively.
By not seeing all of your projects and clients you’re taking on and instead only focusing on that single timeline of tasks, you’re giving yourself more time and energy to get results done and do higher-quality work faster. You’ve diminished any feeling of overwhelm because you see nothing to get overwhelmed by – all you see is a list of tasks that need completion and that’s it. The fact that they belong to multiple projects and clients is irrelevant to you.
This way, you’ll get more quality work done in less time for multiple projects and clients. Heck, you could even take on more work. As much as your schedule humanly allows. The focus won’t be on the number of projects and clients but rather on if you have the time and energy.
Juggle Multiple Projects and Clients Without Going Crazy
Yeah, we all should strive towards simplicity and doing more with less. But the reality for many designers and firms is that you simply need to work with multiple clients and on multiple projects now and then. And by using these 3 methods, you can stay on top, not feel overwhelmed, and get more effective results with possibly less work – because you spent your mental and physical energy actually working on stuff rather than working to figure out what you need to do.
To recap, here are the 3 ways on how to juggle multiple projects and clients without going crazy:
- Stay organized: use to-do lists or a project management app
- Maximize your work time: write your tasks out the day before
- Avoid overwhelm: see all projects and clients as one timeline
Have you needed to juggle multiple projects and/or clients? If so, what other ways have been most effective for you? Share your favorite tips in the comments below.