5 minute read


Recently, the Obsessed With Design podcast hosted Debbie Millman. Debbie is a widely-respected designer and the host of the Design Matters podcast, one of the top podcasts of 2015. Throughout this conversation, we got a look at the more personal side of Debbie Millman that you don’t usually see. The entire conversation is available for free on iTunes and you can check out the show notes on the Obsessed With Design website.

One of the things that is most remarkable about Debbie is her ability to crank out so much high-quality work. Between her podcast, design work, teaching and more, it seems like she has a dozen full-time jobs. So how is she able to produce so much work at such a high level?

Doing More Work, More Effectively - Productivity Tips For Creatives From Debbie Millman

As business culture continues to move towards ideas like the “Quantified Self” movement, productivity tips and “hacks” are becoming more important. While these tips and tricks might be easily integrated into more straightforward tasks, increasing the productivity of creative workers can prove challenging. You don’t want to rush through projects without giving them the time that they need, but you also need to move fast enough to get things done. In an operations-based role, it’s easy to quantify a 10% increase in productivity, but if you’re a creative, you have to weigh that increase in productivity with a potential decrease in quality.

Debbie’s view is a little different. She believes that creatives can and should focus on productivity and cranking out a high quantity of high quality work. Here are three takeaways for creatives looking to improve their productivity.

You Don’t Find Time, You Make Time

One of the things that makes Debbie so productive is her focus on getting things done. When it comes to productivity, attitude is king, and Debbie’s attitude is no-nonsense. Just read the following quotes that she dropped on productivity for creatives:

  • If you want to do something, you do it. 
  • Busy is a decision. You decide how busy you want to be, or not. 
  • You make time to do the things that you want to do. If you don’t make the time, my guess is that it’s not really a priority. It’s probably just something you say you’d like to do.

The bottom line is that, without the right attitude, all of the productivity hacks in the world won’t save you. By focusing on making time and prioritizing first, you put yourself in a position to succeed.

Improve Your Time-Management Skills

Secondly, Debbie prides herself on her excellent time-management skills. While she doesn’t provide any tips in her interview on how to improve your ability to manage the clock, she emphasizes the importance of effective time-management in improving your productivity. Here are a few resources that can help you improve your time management skills:

Once you’ve committed to a new get-it-done attitude and you’ve improved your ability to manage your time, it’s time for the final step...

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

If you’ve been in the creative field for awhile, you know that there are always things that you want to do and things that you have to do. Sometimes there’s no way around it, but if you have a staff at your disposal, you need to focus on delegating as many tasks as you can. Whether you’re delegating things you don’t want to do, or you’re passing the buck on work that doesn’t seem worth your time, your ability to delegate effectively will directly correlate to your ability to get things done. When in doubt, it’s usually a good idea to delegate:

  • Things that someone else is better at. - If you’re not the strongest writer on your team, don’t spend your time writing. If you hire someone who’s a great video editor, get out of video editing. Let people do what they’re most well-equipped to do and leave your ego at the door.
  • Things that don’t get results. - If a task isn’t helping you accomplish your ultimate goals, such as generating revenue or designing great work, delegate it. Sometimes, it’s better not to sweat the small stuff, and instead focus on the big wins that you know how to get.
  • Things your don’t like to do. - Finally, if you don’t love it, find someone who does. You may hate writing copy or dealing with clients, but there are tons of people who love it. Go find those people, hire them, and delegate.

Also, don’t be afraid to “delegate to the floor” if a task doesn’t seem worth your time. You and your team only have so many hours in the day. It’s not worthwhile to spend them on tasks that won’t get the results you want!