I know, it’s hard to maintain an organisation and keep all our files (and our lives), folders and projects perfectly organised on a daily basis. We mostly work in a rush, struggling with tough deadlines, dealing with customers and stakeholders, so the organisation is at the bottom of our to-do list each day.
However, when I was a freelancer I discovered that investing some time in creating an organization system that works well for us and maintain it is a must. I had numerous problems due to my lacking organisation at the beginning, some of them were:
- Sometimes, past clients contacted me months after I completed the project, asking me for that PNG, JPEG or document file that they’ve lost… And as I didn’t have my files organised either it took me ages to find it or in the worst scenario, I had to re-do it.
- I added too many tasks to my to-do list for one day and I ended up not doing it all, which led to anxiety and working extra hours.
- I worked on multiple projects at the same time and at the beginning, I didn’t have an overview of all the deadlines so sometimes I prioritised work that shouldn’t be prioritised.
- I wasted a lot of time at the beginning of my day revising what I did the day before and thinking what should I do that day in order to keep all my projects on track.
Based on all these problems I developed an organization system that I maintain even today that I’m not a freelancer anymore and I work in-house. Of course, I modified some details, it’s not the same working all by myself than being part of a team but the basics remain the same.
Let’s start with the digital files:
Projects folder: I keep all the projects in the same folder. It could be named as designs, Projects, etc. Mine is called Designs now.
Each project/user story has its own folder which is organised in sub-folders:
- Sketch file: In this folder, I keep the sketch file or files if I have several.
- Assets: All those photos, icons, typography that I use in the design
- Exports: Screens that I export to share them with my team or to use it in other projects, etc.
- Documentation: Documentation provided by the stakeholders. Could be the company’s logos, style guide, etc.
- Research: All the files related to the UX research that I conducted with its results.
Projects folder name: Now that I work in-house I just name it by the feature name and with a common name for everyone. But when I was a freelancer the organisation was completely different in this case because I had a folder per client (sometimes I worked for the same client several times so I had multiple projects).
Sketch file name:
Final file: feature name_V1 The reason why I use V1 is because sometimes we launch a feature with certain characteristics and we iterate on it in later sprints adding more characteristics or removing some of them.
If I have other sketch files with sketches, etc: feature name_concepts.
Sketch file organisation:
Maintaining an organisation in the sketch file it’s more for the developers than for myself. At least in my case, I don’t have any issues when my sketch file is a bit messy.
- Components: I name the components by its name, for example, main_button / menu/title and so on. I try to use the name that the developers use for that component,
- Folders: I keep every single component in its folder, for example, a button consists of a rectangle and text, then I grouped these two items and I name this folder: “button”.
- Same goes for the symbols.
Notes/pen & paper sketches:
I have an A5 notebook and I try to write and sketch everything here so I have everything in the same place. Of course, for some projects, I draw the sketches in an A4 or A3 (very rarely) sheet but in this case, I fold this sheets and I keep them in the notebook.
Before sketching or writing anything I put the name of the project at the top and if I have several ongoing projects on different pages I use color stickies to highlight where is each project.
So for example, sometimes it happens that I start Project A on page 2. Then, the next day I work in Project B on page 3 and then I continue the Project A on page 4. So on page 2 and 4, I use the same sticky color. When I need to revise all the notes from one project I know where to go.
For the meetings I also have my personal notes in this notebook and usually I document them as follows:
- Name of the meeting and date
- People that attend the meeting
- To-Do list: If I have a to-list that follows this meeting I always try to make a separate list from the general notes, so I have all the to-list tasks together and I don’t forget anything.
Now let’s talk about project organisation and in general, life organisation:
When I was a freelancer I used to have the same calendar for professional tasks and for personal tasks so I used different colours and labels. Now, I have two different calendars which make me have the same event twice (on my “professional” calendar and on my “personal” calendar” but only sometimes) but apart from that I’m quite comfortable with it.
Even now that I’m in-house I work on several projects at the same time or user stories as I call them now. These user stories are in different stages, have different priorities and have different deadlines.
In my current company we use Trello, I personally tried Trello and Asana when I was a freelancer and for small teams and small projects, I prefer Trello so I’m still using it for personal projects.
I have a UX trello board where I organised and keep track of all my user stories. And of course, my team has access to it as well so they know the status of my work. In this Trello board, I have all the user stories that I’m working on during that sprint, and the evolution of each one of them as well as a backlog, similar to a development sprint board.
Together with Trello, I use todoist to organise my days because besides the user stories, I also have “small tasks” that don’t fit in my trello board like: “discuss with the product owner the concepts for the new feature”, “print the scenarios for the usability tests”, “discuss my holidays”, etc.
What I do is at the end of my day I revise what I’ve accomplished during that day and what I have left to do for that week. According to that, I make a todoist for the following day. Then, I block on my calendar time for those important tasks, like for example, if I need to finish some concepts and I have to do it the next day, I block the number of hours that I will need to accomplish that. By doing this I avoid having meetings during that time or being interrupted in general and I make sure that this task will get done. With this set up I start the day at 9:00 and I already have my day completely organised and I know what I have to do, I don’t waste my time thinking: What should I do today? And of course, it’s more difficult to forget something.
I’m always looking for new ways of improving my productivity and how I can be more productive, which tools would help me, etc. So this organization system is a work in progress but for now, it’s working quite good for me. And of course, my days are not 100% organised always, we always have these busy days when we don’t have time for anything and well, the organisation is left behind.
If you would like to know something more in detail, please ask! I just tried to keep it as short as possible but I’m always happy to share more details if it’s something useful to you.
What about you? How do you organise your life?