Designers share how they get focused

4 min read
Shakti Sotomayor
  •  Oct 14, 2016
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Maybe you have a list of effective rituals to help you double down on your workload. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’re looking for some new ideas to help regain your focus throughout the day.

We asked the InVision community to share tips for when they’re having trouble getting “in the zone” and we got some seriously good answers. Here’s what they had to say:

“Our office is on a bike trail, so I’ll go on a walk with a coworker who isn’t on the project to run the problem by them. Fresh air goes well with a fresh perspective.Twitter Logo I come back with a head full of ideas and a couple thousand steps on my Fitbit!”

Jon Moore, Senior Design Partner at Innovatemap

“For me, about it’s understanding that concentration and focus are resources you can improve.Twitter Logo A concentration master might have 4 hours’ worth of focus in a day, while a novice might only have one hour. What helps me get in the zone is knowing that every time I’m going deep into a task or project, I’m training my concentration skills to be better in the long run. That means I need to be mindful and identify when I’m distracted and how to eliminate distractions—but knowing there’s a reward a little later down the line makes it all worth it.”

Cassius Kiani, Partner at Mikleo

“Concentration and focus are resources you can improve.”

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“I leave my workspace to take a walk, get a cup of coffee, or whatever will get me away from staring at my screen. Often I run into something that gives me a source of inspiration or insight into something I hadn’t thought of. Then I go back, jam to my newest pump-up song, and get down to work. Some of my best work comes from that process.”

–Meghan Lojeski, Graphic Designer at Bright Cellars

“Usually when I’m having trouble getting in the zone at work, it’s because my mind is racing with ideas and I can’t focus on the task. I have to write down those thoughts so I can forget them and move on. Another thing I like to do is take a quick break and relax in our Eames Lounge Chair.”

–Shannon Ramelot, UX Designer at Corktown Labs

“I drink a couple glasses of water (and sometimes a shot of espresso), plug in my earbuds, and listen to instrumental music like Tycho or Gramatik loud enough that I can’t hear the people around me chatting.”

–Stephanie Polus, Project Manager at Ideapark

“I listen to an episode of the Design Matters podcast.”

–Kara Fellows, Creative Manager at Sanitas Skincare

“I get some coffee, move to a different space, and put some headphones on.”

–Katelyn Robertson, Front-end Developer/Designer at DigitalMarketer

“If it’s really bad, I’ll make a quick cold brew or matcha latte run to a local shop to get some ‘human photosynthesis’ and embrace the weather. Next level down is taking a one-minute breather (typically a walk around the office) and getting away from my computer to refocus and realign. “When I come back, I’ve got a few playlists on Spotify to listen to depending on my mood with noise-cancelling headphones. Once my endorphins are up and running, it’s smooth sailing.”

Alexis Lucio, Product Designer at Sysdig

“Get some coffee, move to a different space, and put on headphones.”

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“Coffee. And sometimes techno music. As a designer, I tend to absorb the emotions around me, and that translates into my design work. So I find something to set the mood to get myself started.”

–Jamie Thom, Media and IT Specialist at The Navigators of Canada

“It’s hard to focus when there are too many distractions either physically on my desk, in my brain, or digitally onscreen. I find that sometimes I just need to get it all out of my system—do all the commenting, tweeting, organizing, reading, and writing that I need to—then put on headphones to start cranking out real work.”

Ching Hsieh, Product Designer at Bay Labs

“I put on headphones and listen to the same song on repeat. It may seem odd, but the repetition makes me forget about time and I slowly lose myself in the process.”

Chris Rudloff, Senior Graphic Designer at New World Group Inc.

“Give yourself a set period of procrastination.”

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“First, I give myself a set period of procrastination time to get all the things I’d normally do to distract myself from the task out of the way. Once that time is up, I book a room or find a space where I can be isolated from the rest of the office. Then I shut my phone off, make sure I have a cup of coffee, a cup of water, and all the design supplies I might need on hand. Once I go down the checklist I pick an album (currently The Party by Andy Shauf), put it on repeat, and go to town until what needs to be done is done.”

Ryan Neufeld, Visual Interface Designer at Index Exchange

“I have a carefully curated playlist of songs I’m too embarrassed to admit I like, which I put on when I’m hammering out screens. But if I’m struggling with where to even begin, I pull in a teammate and a whiteboard and just start talking and sketching.”

Christian Beck, Principal Design Partner at Innovatemap

“I put my headphones on, ignore all notifications, emails, and general office chatter, and push play on the album Razia’s Shadow by Forgive Durden on Spotify. There’s something about it that really helps me focus! I’ll also sometimes use a Pomodoro timer if I’m struggling to concentrate and have a lot to do.”

Charli Prangley, Designer at EDITED

Related story: Dogs of design agencies.

How do you get in the zone?

Be right back—Googling “how to cold brew.”

Have some good tips for focusing you’d like to share? Share them with us on Twitter!

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