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10 Time Management Tips To Help Interior Designers Work Less and Play More

A day in the life of an interior designer is nothing short of a whirlwind. With an ever-growing list of to-dos, the endless beckoning of emails and phone calls, and an event calendar to rival the most popular socialites, an interior designer is always wishing there were more hours in a day. Instead of stressing over sand slipping through the hourglass of time, learn to make the most of your 24 hours with these 10 productivity tips for interior designers that will help you work less so you can play more and get the relaxation needed to nourish your mind, body and soul.


1. Start Your Timer

Before you can make a plan for how to make the most of your time, you need to know exactly how you are spending each minute of the day. Take a scientific approach to recording how you spend your time over the course of one week by using a timer and recording the results. Often, your understanding of how much time you spend on a particular activity is in stark contrast to reality, especially if you break up the time you spend on a task into multiple increments. 

Recording your activities minute by minute is easy with the DM timer. Simply open the Design Manager app on your smartphone or tablet and click to begin the clock. From there, you can enter details about how the time is being spent, and even track it to a specific client or project, making this productivity exercise immediately relevant to your bottom line. You can use the DM timer feature in the desktop version of the software as well. 


2. Budget Your Time


Now that you have data on how you spend your time over a week, examine the results to determine which activities can be eliminated altogether, and which activities are necessary, but are taking too much time. It might not happen overnight, but you can eventually cut down on how long it takes you to complete a certain task by setting time limits for yourself. Give yourself a certain window of time in which you must complete a job, and enforce the limit. To help avoid the common time management problem of procrastination, schedule your least favorite tasks, or those you typically avoid until the 11th hour, for the beginning of the day.


3. Have a Standard Operating Procedure


When you have a set way of handling your projects, you have a much better idea of what will come next. The better you can anticipate your workload ahead of time, the easier it will be to create a realistic schedule, especially now that you know how much time to budget for crucial tasks. As an interior designer, you also rely on the schedules and productivity of others, like clients, vendors, and employees. Laying out your process with all relevant parties ahead of time helps everyone around you stay on schedule and maximize productivity. It also will protect you from a liability perspective, since everyone will have clearly assigned duties to be completed on a mutually agreed upon timeline. Thinking ahead and putting plans into writing will minimize future sources of stress and distraction.  


4. Invest in Business Support Tools


Investing in industry-specific support software can make a positive impact on your productivity. Design Manager, the integrated accounting and project management software solution for interior designers, provides users with a structure for keeping your entire business organized. Design Manager was created to support the specific workflow of interior designers, like creating budgets, proposals, purchase orders for vendors, and invoices for clients. You can customize Design Manager to reflect your specific standard operating procedures and workflow, down to your unique fee structure, which makes it easy to enforce your business policies and keep everyone involved in your projects in check and on track. 


Recently, Design Manager rolled out even more efficiency-enhancing features with its latest version of Pro Cloud and the DM app. The DM Product Clipper and Capture feature within the DM App make adding new items, like furniture or lighting pieces, as fast as it takes to click a screenshot. 


5. Surround Yourself With a Strong Team

The success of an interior design business relies on a strong team of professionals such as lawyers, operations consultants, insurance specialists, financial advisors, and last but not least, accountants and bookkeepers. Diligent bookkeeping is the backbone of any successful business, and it’s particularly important in interior design, where moving parts are ample, sequences are complex and hard to follow, and financial transactions involve multiple parties. Hiring a bookkeeper who is familiar with the interior design business model will go a long way in keeping your business in order so you can use your time elsewhere.   


Depending on where your business is from a growth and profitability standpoint, it may also make sense to hire an employee(s) to lighten your workload. 


6. Prioritize

As much as you love every project, client, and contact in your network, the truth is, not all are equal in what they contribute to your business. As your network grows, it becomes increasingly important to prioritize how much time you spend on a particular person, project, or cause. Develop a tiering system so that you are putting your highest priority contacts first, instead of fielding every call or email as it comes. On the same note, there is rarely time to do everything. As part of your tiering system, determine which contacts you will reach out to regarding life events (such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) and which events you will attend. 


7. Set A Weekly Agenda


Interior designers don't work the standard Monday through Friday 9-5, but pick one day a week to set an agenda for the next 7 days. Make a to-do list on a dry erase board so you can easily move items from the“to-do” list to the “done” category. Keeping track of your “done” items alongside your “to-dos” will not only boost your morale, it will help you find synergies and develop more efficient work processes as you see which tasks can be grouped together, which should be tackled in a particular sequence, and which tasks are spending the most time on the “to-do” versus the “done” column.  


8. Manage Your Calendar


A big part of your job as an interior designer is to work with other people’s schedules. It can be hard enough to manage your own time with so many responsibilities to juggle, so having to accommodate last minute schedule changes can easily push you over the edge. A smart move to minimize scheduling snafus is to take control of the calendar. Use a digital calendar management system, like Google, to not only keep track of your appointments but to send calendar invitations with reminder notices to the people you are scheduling time to meet or speak with. Confirm all of your appointments the day before. If you have a problem with flaky clients frequently cancelling on you at the last minute, consider implementing a policy that stipulates clients pay a fee for cancelling within 24 (or 12) hours of your scheduled meeting. 


9. Recharge Your Creative Mind

Making time for a creative recharge is essential. Now that you are working more efficiently with tips 1-8, you should have more time to carve out for a non-work activity like dinner with friends, time with family, or an exercise class. In fact, your new and improved time management skills should make it possible for you to make self-care a daily ritual. Keeping your stress levels in check will help keep your artistic instincts sharp and open to evolving as times change. 


If possible, try to fit in personal travel at least once a year. Experiencing new, different places will not only relax you, but it will expand your mind and return you as an ever better interior designer than before you left.


10. Get Enough Rest


No matter how hectic your schedule gets, never sacrifice on sleep. It’s often the first thing to be compromised when work is busy, but because your brain does not work at optimal levels without adequate sleep, cutting back is a losing strategy. Health professionals resoundingly recommend sleeping for eight hours each night. Routinely skimping on snooze time can not only lower your day-to-day productivity, but it can also lead to a host of health problems over time.  


Interior design is a profession of passion, but sometimes that love can drive you to push yourself to the point of madness. The job will always require keen attention to detail while juggling multiple responsibilities, but organization and good time management skills will help you work smarter so you can have more time to play and enjoy the fun aspects of being a creative guru. No one can do it all without help, so if you haven't already signed up for Design Manager, try it for free and feel the relief that comes with having easy to use organization and time management tools at your fingertips! 

Interior Design Business Guide

Lindsay Paoli
Lindsay Paoli
Lindsay is in charge of the Sales and Marketing team at Design Manager and has enjoyed growing the DM company for the past 10 years. In her spare time though, you can find her taking care of her two adorably demanding little rugrats, traveling, enjoying new restaurants or cheering on her beloved Philadelphia sports teams with her friends and family.

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