2 exercises every designer needs to be productive

You probably kick off the week by piling up tasks on your to-do list wishing and swearing you’ll finish everything but Friday arrives and your list is even longer than it was on Monday. Learn how to stop this ASAP with these 2 exercises.

As we have experienced this situation over and over again, we are going to tell you two exercises that we use at Bardo to keep deadlines under control, establish priorities, concentrate on what really matters and actually be more efficient.

We combine two exercises: Time-boxing and Impact/Effort Scale.


It is such a simple technique that many professionals overlook it. We never start anything — a meeting, a workshop or the design of a product for a client — without defining how much time we have to devote to that task. The pressure this time limit gives us is essential.

Depending on the time we have, the same task can take 1 day or 1 month. Whatever we do we always define a really clear deadline and it is always a bit  closer than what would be ideal for us. Deadlines keep us moving fast. Also, we don’t cheat. You can’t work overtime. If it is a meeting, we set a timer, if it is a job with a client we work with tools like Asana or Basecamp to keep things on schedule. We know that if there is a deadline, it has been set according to the time we have so we must be able to do it.

The whole idea of time-boxing is to divide your time in specific tasks so that you are not shifting between projects and other stuff you need to do. This is what a time-boxed week may look like:

Time-boxing. A time-boxed week.

Impact/Effort Scale

So, as we’ve mentioned before, we combine Time-boxing with the Impact-Effort scale. The main idea of this scale is to assess the importance of each task over the urgency. It is important that we think about the impact of each large-scale action so as not to drown in immediacy and day-to-day life and end up working on a lot of different things in a totally unproductive way.

You need to be able to leave work at the end of the day feeling good, knowing that you’ve made a difference.

So, you will take your list of things to do and you will write each task in a separate post-it. Then you will draw a very simple Impact/Effort Scale. The Impact will be represented by the y-axis and the effort by the x-axis.

The next step will be to locate all these post-its in different points of this scale according to the amount of effort involved and the impact generated by each task.

Pay special attention to the upper left quadrant. That is where you will make the least effort for the greatest impact. You should complete those tasks first.

The upper right quadrant usually has tasks that might need to become individual projects. The lower left quadrant are simple tasks that have to be done but are not a priority and the lower right quadrant contains tasks that make no sense to do for now.

We recommend doing this exercise once a week, ideally on Monday morning or immediately after defining what you have to achieve this week. After prioritizing and establishing deadlines for each task you will know exactly how to spend your time during the week.

These same techniques are used in Design Sprints to organize the week and define which features to add to a prototype. You can learn more about that here.

I hope you have served this and if you have any questions you can just send me an email at josefina@bybardo.co :)


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