TCG 411: How To Stay Cool When Things Heat Up

Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group

We may be emerging from the recession, but many in-house designers are still stretched thin, taking on extra responsibilities and putting in longer hours at the office. If you’re among this group, your job is already difficult enough. But, you could be doing things that are making your work life harder than it has to be – and not even realize it.

Here are three actions that could be sabotaging your productivity and tips for avoiding them:

  • Confusing urgent with important. If you find yourself with a lot on your plate, shifting some assignments to the back burner can help you better manage the workload. But be strategic about what gets pushed; a common mistake is to prioritize projects based solely on their urgency – but urgency does not always accurately indicate a project’s importance. For example, you may have some e-mails or phone calls to return by the end of the day, but they can wait until after you’ve completed a mockup for a new company-wide e-mail campaign.

Before deciding which projects to focus on or skip, make a list of your assignments and determine the priority of each. Consult the list on a daily basis so you keep on top of your most important tasks and can adjust the order as projects are added, deadlines shift and deliverables change.

  • Leaving your manager alone. Remaining in close contact with your manager – no matter how busy he or she may be – is essential to ensuring you focus on the highest-priority projects and meet performance expectations. It also ensures you have the information and resources you need to complete your work. So don’t be afraid of “being a pest” when you have questions or need clarification regarding a particular project. Try to schedule regular meetings with your supervisor so you can keep him or her apprised of your current workload, request resources when needed and discuss strategies for overcoming potential roadblocks. Also, keep your supervisor apprised of the progress you’re making and the tasks you’ve successfully completed.
  • Being satisfied with the status quo. When workloads and stress levels are high, professionals often move career development down the list of priorities – but this could put you at a big disadvantage.  Changes in technology and new developments in the creative field mean that you could quickly fall behind if you don’t continually add to your repertoire of skills.

Be proactive and approach your manager with a list of training opportunities you are interested in and explain how pursuing them would benefit you and the company. Your boss may be able to support your efforts by subsidizing the cost, providing you with the necessary time off or recommending other avenues for development.

Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at