Becoming a production manager is typically the next step in an exciting design career. But once you’re there, how do you manage it all? From the projects to the clients to the people, consolidating and coordinating the work of a team may seem overwhelming.
Production managers don’t just oversee projects as they happen. They communicate across teams, organize deadlines, track goal completion, provide perspective, and ensure quality.
To manage these responsibilities effectively, production managers use a variety of tools and tricks that keep them on top of their duties.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a valuable method for decision-making that takes the guesswork out of which goals are top priority. This time management technique has you rank tasks as urgent or not urgent and important or not important. From there, you can determine what to do based on the following order:
The Eisenhower method of time management is an effective way to stay on top of your tasks and to help the teams you manage determine what is important and what they can delegate themselves.
Trello is a list-making app that helps you “prioritize what’s important.” You can make boards, lists and cards that help you collaborate with your team to determine what needs doing and what is already done. It allows you to set deadlines, add attachments, and it integrates with many apps that you may be using already including, but not limited to:
As an added bonus, its base program is free. Businesses can upgrade to Business Class or Enterprise for a small per user, per month fee.
Slack is a popular tool because of its ease of use and opportunities for global communication. You can set up multiple channels that allow you to collaborate with different teams at different stages of a project. It also offers private messaging, reminder setting, an emergency help setting, hashtags, and even custom emoji creation. Slack has pricing options for organizations of any size.
Using the cloud for storage and easy access is no longer an esoteric idea. Today, it is expected. Dropbox provides this solution for businesses by giving you a central place to store your files. Dropbox provides the security you need through advanced security measures and has a free 30-day trial for business solutions with low monthly costs for enterprises.
Another file storage solution, Google Drive is also so much more. With access to Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, Drive is an all-in-one collaboration and cloud storage tool. Businesses only pay for the storage they use. Google Drive integrates with Word, allows for storage of any file type, and delivers easy sharing options as well as a powerful search tool with Google AI (We’re just as shocked as you that Google has a powerful search option!).
WeTransfer is a free, no-registration option that allows you to send files upwards of 2GB in size. The files can be transferred directly to an email address or sent as a link that leads the user to download the file. You can use the service as many times as you want. Upgrading to the “Plus” tier allows you to password protect your files, send up to 20 GB, store up to 100 GB and set a deletion date.
An innovative online note taker, Evernote has several features that make it easier to keep track of important information. These features include:
The basic plan is free with business options for collaborative note taking starting at $14.99 per user.
Typeform offers analytics and insights that are easy for users to deliver. It’s a versatile tool you can use for contact forms, quizzes, employee feedback, and online shops. The free plan gives you 100 responses a month and up to 10 questions per form. Typeform’s Pro and Pro+ plans both have unlimited responses and questions, with Pro+ offering removal of the Typeform branding.
Real-time collaboration combines with dynamic presentation software in Apple’s Keynote tool. You can use iPads to draw directly on the presentation, creating illustrations and diagrams. It is available to use on iOS, Mac, PC, or at icloud.com. It also offers themes, image galleries, and over 700 customizable shapes. Keynote is compatible with PowerPoint and free on the App Store.
Taskade is a workflow management platform that helps teams organize their planning and decision making in one place. It seeks to make productivity seamless so that teams can spend less time in the planning and organizing phases and more time in the production phase of a project. Use it for weekly agendas, team meetings, project outlines, product roadmaps, and more. The basic product is free and there is no limit on users, but upgrading to Taskade Pro brings more customizable options.
Not providing a clear brief for projects is a productivity killer. Designers will not know exactly what to do and will have to guess what specifications you want, which can lead to multiple iterations, lower quality work, and deadline issues.
So, before you issue a project plan to the team, spend some time putting together the brief. You should outline the design requirements (including size, colors, branding, and output format), deadlines, responsibilities, and design checkpoints.
You’re going to be very busy as a production manager, so it’s important that you try to control your time in a way that puts you ahead each day. If, for example, you schedule email and other written responses for the morning when you arrive at work (like 8 AM to 10 AM), following up on any loose ends or questions that came through at the end of the day prior, you can jump into the fray easier each day.
Avoid scheduling your calls and thinking tasks during that time because you will need to wrap up those texts, chats, or emails so you don’t lose track of them with interruptions. Then, dedicate a time for phone calls, meetings, and thinking tasks (like 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.). This way, you can focus on those and not worry about the emails sitting in your inbox.
Of course, this is a difficult one, but it truly affects productivity. You could even run a campaign within your team, asking them all to remove social apps and track productivity versus a week when they have access to it. If your company has a strict mobile policy, this probably won’t apply.
This last step can be a boon to your tomorrow. Not only does it provide you with a springboard for the next day, it also helps you lay to rest the work you have left ahead of you which means you go home with a clear head.
It may be difficult to do, but having space for your hands and feet to roam can really help you boost creativity. If you need something that just says YOU to help you find inspiration, consider doing a small trinket basket or box with your favorite inspirational items that you can pull out when you need them. Keeping the clutter contained will be freeing to your mind, but having inspirational items nearby to play with or place in front of you when you just need a change of scenery can help too.
When you and the team are working hard for a client, it can be easy to get stuck to your seat. But moving around gets the blood flowing again, which can help boost your creativity and stamina as you work. Better yet, if you can pick up your work on laptops and move to another space, both the walk and the new scenery can be the last bit of motivation you need to push through the day.
Speaking of getting up every hour, nothing can be more revitalizing than the sun. If you can’t put your desk near a window, work outside where possible. Go out on your lunch break for a short walk or take the whole team into the garden during a brainstorming session. As it turns out, sunlight causes a release of serotonin and endorphins which can make you feel better too. A happier you means a more productive you and a better manager for your team.
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