I am busy. To say the least. The culmination of all my skills, experience and self-learning has created a lot of design work and opportunities. I couldn’t manage my career or projects without being totally organized. What I have been using are my own custom journal pages to keep track of my hours and make sure I’m not wasting precious time. If you bill by the hour, you need to stay focused on not losing money to the clock.

Over the 20+ years of designing, I’ve learned the most crucial part of my job: organizing or staying organized is by creating habits and having routine or consistency.

I wake up every day around 4 AM. It’s a great time of the day to be productive. No phone calls, no people, no emails or other distractions. This is the best time to start thinking about the day’s tasks I need to complete or I reflect on yesterday’s achievements or failures. This gets me mentally prepared and gives me clear direction for the whole day. It always is to sleep better at night and makes sure I’m not doing things at the last minute. The last-minute should be spent polishing work, not trying to get it done for the sake of getting paid.

Being a senior designer, I have a lot of responsibilities. I have to insure I don’t make a lot of mistakes which could cost the company or clients money. Being organized (visually) with task lists allows me to triple check the work going out to clients, fabricators and/or junior designers. I do not use digital task lists as these require a lot more work to fill out and maintain. (Money vs time). It would take me 3 to 4x more time to open an app or website and type instead of scribbling or doodling on the paper that is always beside me. Or I use my custom journal.

I believe the habits I’ve built over the last 20+ years are extremely important, so I teach the benefits of being organized in my design studio course at Carleton University. I want to instill these habits early into new designers. I wish I was taught these insights when I started my career, so I’m making sure my students, interns and junior designers form these organized habits as early as possible. I really can’t stress how important these are for both your career and outside of work life. It will help you sleep better, work more efficiently, enjoy your time off to spend with family and friends.

If you are interested in my custom design journal. You can find a PDF of it here. I do not give it away free as I’ve learned, most people do not value free things compared to something that costs a small amount. Most designers that have bought the journal report they are more organized and feel generally better about their workload. Enjoy.

Sample Journal

Check out an example of what my design journal looks like filled in. I’ve tested this with students and the feedback has been positive.

The After Class Dispatch

Portfolio Building Newsletter.

Sometimes we stayed after class to talk to students about design, our experiences and stories. I invite you to sign up to continue with what we believe we think is important after class. I promise we won’t send you much. The occasional email about something we think may help you out in the future.