As someone whose previous career was in the design industry, I know how much of a challenge it can be for busy, creative people to get and stay organized. When you’re faced with meeting client deadlines and marketing yourself to find your next gig, it can seem like getting organized is just "one more thing" on the ever-growing to-do list. But taking the time to get organized can help you – and your business – in a variety of ways:
Recognize the benefits of getting organized. When I work with creative professionals of any stripe, one of the concerns they raise is that getting organized could stifle their creativity. In fact, what I’ve seen with my clients is that getting organized can enhance creativity by letting you focus on what’s important to you – rather than the details of "where’s that important client file" or "under which pile of stuff is my extra printer ink." Getting organized takes a little time and focus up front, but can save you lots of time and stress down the road.
Set aside time to organize. I know you’re busy with design projects for your clients, but remember, taking care of the administrative end of your business, including managing paperwork, billing, and email, is critical to the success of any endeavor. Unfortunately, your admin and organizing-related work won’t do itself, so schedule time to work on your organizing projects. Once they’re completed, build a regular appointment with yourself into your calendar to maintain your systems. One rule of thumb – it takes about 15-30 minutes each day to deal with that day’s worth of new paper. Make sure you have enough time set aside to process your paper – especially client billing!
Get creative with your organizing tools. When I’m working with designers and other creative folks, I frequently hear this refrain: "but the organizing tools are so ugly!" Unfortunately, it’s mostly true – many of the containers and other organizing gizmos out there are pretty bare-bones and focus on functionality over form. That said, there are ways to make sure that your organizing tools match your aesthetic sense. One technique I like to use is to get clear containers, and then line them with decorative paper from a high-end paper store. By doing this, you can completely customize the look of your storage, rather than trying to find an off-the shelf solution that fits. Look for organizing tools that you can customize in various ways – either by decorating, painting, or using in new and unexpected ways.
Give things a home. One of the most important concepts when you’re organizing is to recognize when your supplies, files, and other stuff don’t have assigned homes, they simply can’t be put away – they have no homes to go back to, and they become clutter (or "homeless stuff," as I like to think of them). Make sure to take the time to assign homes for each of the things that are around your design studio or office. That way, when it’s time to find things, it’s easy to do so – and it’s equally easy to put things away when you’re done with them.