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Shifting Gears: Strategic Focus

by Taylor Slattery | December 29, 2022

An inescapable part of working with clients and teams and especially so in the modern, internet-dependent workplace is correspondence. Email revolutionized the way we communicate and thanks to the widespread adoption of project management and communication tools, we’re now more reachable than ever. This leads to a lot of back-and-forth communication which can distract you from the work you actually should be doing.

Creative fields are no different. The degree to which you have to deal with this sort of correspondence depends on your role and the size of your company, but whether corresponding with team members or clients, pausing our work day to respond to messages is something we all have to deal with.

With many non-creative tasks taking up an increasingly larger portion of our plates, it’s important to think strategically about where we’re placing our effort so we can still be effective at the tasks that make up the core of our roles. This starts with understanding the difference between the two: tasks that contribute to our department’s bottom line and those that do not. Being strategic with our focus means only giving the minimum amount of time necessary to the tasks that fall into the latter category.

When responding to messages, be sure to communicate clearly enough to prevent unnecessary back and forth for clarification, but don’t spend 30 minutes trying to poke holes in your own explanation to ensure that it’s bulletproof. Efficiency is the name of the game so be concise and move on. Another consideration is how you choose to block out your day. It’s a good idea to schedule blocks of uninterrupted time where you can’t be reached to focus on deep work. These are those tasks pertaining to the deliverables expected of your department and usually require the most focus and time to do well. They’re also the most fun and creatively fulfilling so blocking out time where you don’t have to worry about messages popping up and interrupting you allows you to enjoy them more fully. Save those tasks that require less focus like responding to messages for times of the day when your energy is lower and you would already be less productive working on your main tasks.

Beyond just your day-to-day schedule, you can also think strategically about where you place your effort on a project-to-project basis. Just like certain types of tasks, certain projects don’t require you to rack your brain searching for a novel solution or to exhaustively explore all possible directions before landing on an answer. For any given design problem, there are always many possible solutions and oftentimes a solid case can be made for any one of them. Sometimes things just need to ship, so in cases like these where anything will work just focus on functionality and don’t stress yourself out poring over small details or worrying about its originality.

There are only so many hours in the day so to make the most of them it’s important to be strategic about where you place your focus and intentional about when and how you shift gears.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


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