Project Management for Graphic Design Professionals

How to Manage projects with tight deadlines for Graphic Designers

Our business is run on impossible deadlines. But sometimes it’s particularly bad. You know the times – you’re cruising along and you’re busy, but it’s manageable. And then all of a sudden, BOOM, the heavens open, every client needs something, and they need it NOW!

And what pisses us off is that there’s really no such thing as a marketing emergency. There’s no design emergency. This isn’t Grey’s Anatomy. You’re not saving a life. It’s ridiculous.

But it seems like, in this industry, everyone is always under-timed and over worked. It can lead to burn out (listen to our podcast on burnout here!), exhaustion, and stress. And you can even end up losing clients. It’s crazy. It’s a real problem.

Our tips for dealing with impossible deadlines

An impossible deadline is never fun, but here’s how we’ve learned to cope and keep calm under A LOT of pressure:

Clear your work schedule

The first thing you gotta do when the job comes in is clear your work schedule.

This isn’t easy. You’ve got other clients and you don’t want to piss them off either.

Start by clearing your list of anything that isn’t a high priority. Ask clients if they can push things back if you need to – or, our sneaky trick is to postpone things by asking questions about the job. They’re legitimate questions that you would ask anyway. So you’ve not only bought yourself some more time for the urgent project, but you’re actually also helping the other job along too and gaining more information. Everyone’s a winner, but especially you.

Work as a team

Get help right from the beginning. If things are hectic, reach out to the team straight away, don’t leave it until the last minute. When you’re accepting the crazy job, start thinking about the resources you can use to get through it. What, or who, do you need to get the job done?

Build in a buffer deadline

It might not be possible but, if you can, build in a buffer deadline so you’ve got a bit of extra wiggle room if you need longer to tie the job up.

Break that mother f*cker down

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

It sounds obvious but, when you’re faced with an impossible deadline, it’s all-too tempting to dive right in and attack it from all angles. Instead, Break. It. Down. This way it will seem a lot more manageable, and you’ll know exactly what you need to do and how long you’ll need for each stage.

Take it one step at a time

Once you’ve broken your project down, focus on the first task first. Then, when you’ve completed the first task, move on to the next one. And so on. Don’t start in the middle. Don’t jump around. Finish one step at a time.

Check tasks off

To keep yourself motivated, check each task off your list as you go. You’ll have a clear idea of how far through the project you are, and how much further you’ve got to go.

Use software

Making use of software is super important. We have a platform here that we built in house called LaunchList that we love. It’s awesome. You can follow your jobs day to day, see when things are due, what stage they’re at, what’s left to be done, etc. And no, we’re not promoting it. If you don’t work for us, you can’t use it. But there are loads of other options out there. Find a good one and use it to keep your project on track.

Deadlines are tough. But we meet them. It’s part of the job. While we all hear stories of people with these ever expanding deadlines and unlimited budgets, reality is, they’re like unicorns – fake. But like every other part of this space, the better you get at managing tight deadlines, the easier it gets!

Don’t let the yesterday economy get you down.

Head over to our podcast to find out more.

Graphic Design is a marathon, not a sprint. Join us on this journey.

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