How Understanding the Design Process can Increase Your Efficiency

In the last week I have had 2 people tell me that I am the most efficient person they know.

One of them I deflected with, “that’s just because I am time poor” and he answered, “’Tina I am time poor, and I am not nearly as efficient as you”.

I took that as a compliment.

Each New Year I set a theme for the year.  This year’s theme is “Make Shit Happen”. Considering I am Ambassador to the Africa Sunrise Foundation, which is raising funds to stop the Open Defecation of 840+ students and their teachers at 2 Schools in Elmina, Ghana, it is really quite ironic isn’t it? 

Beyond Toilets, the theme reminds me each day to be focussed on how I am spending my time.  Will the choices I make, the people I mix with and the learning that I expose myself to, bring me closer to my end goal, or further away from it?

Make Shit Happen

In a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, researchers measured how frequently people exercised over a two-week period. They found that those who wrote down their intention to exercise, had a greater success rate (91%) than those that read motivational texts about working out.

While recording our needs and goals is an invaluable tool, they mean nothing if we don’t follow through.

As a designer, I am highly attuned to the ebb and flow of the creative process.  Some days we are full of ideas (and need to jot them down!) and other days there is a creative desert in our brains, but that doesn’t stop us from having to deliver meaningful work to our clients, on time and on budget.

I believe it is understanding, and working with, this natural process that allows me to Make Shit Happen effectively.  How?

  1. Understand your natural workflow. Are you most energetic and alert in the morning, or late at night?  Whatever it is, chose to tackle the hard stuff at that time.

When I wrote my book, while still working in an Interior Design firm, I negotiated to have a couple of mornings to work on my script (my most creative time) and then go into the office later those days.

Interestingly, I found that in the days between writing, ideas that I was working on developed further, almost unconsciously, as I went about my other business.


  1. Don’t allow distractions when you are working in your flow.

Turn the email and Facebook notifications off at that time, and choose to follow a version of the Pomodoro Effect that works for you.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method, which uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.  I find that I can work longer than that in the morning, but when I feel a downturn in my concentration, I use the small break time to QUICKLY jump onto social media, go to the loo (there’s the toilet reference again!) or make a cuppa, as my brain still continues to process what I am doing. By the time I sit down again, I often have the next piece worked out, and just need to get it out of my head and into whatever format I am using to create.

PS. Most emails can wait an hour to be answered. In fact, often the people cc’d have answered the question and you have no need to respond!


  1. Focus. On one task at a time.

Having project milestones – Tender, Construction, etc – have helped me to focus on what is at hand so that I can meet those deadlines.

They are also a useful tool for learning, when it is in your best interest to buckle down and Make Design Happen.

Whoever told us we can multitask and work efficiently is having us on.

In their research, Supertaskers: Profiles in extraordinary multitasking ability, Watson and Strayer found that only “2.5% of the sample showed absolutely no performance decrements with respect to performing single and dual tasks”.

Don’t know about you, but I recognise the real cost of jumping between tasks (even that microsecond) when I say to myself “now, what was I doing again?” It is less efficient, we make more mistakes, and it can really sap your energy when you leave the office after another busy day and feel that you haven’t achieved as much as you had planned.


  1. Bundle similar tasks together

 Just like we design a kitchen or workspace to have the tools we need accessible to each other, work flows like this too; so aim to bundle similar projects / tasks together.

For instance, I record all my podcast episodes over 2 days so I don’t waste time setting up the audio equipment for each episode – it’s all done once only.  I am also in the flow as I record the intros and outros for each episode, so I know my voice is more consistent and it means less re-records.

If a guest can’t make the timeslot, that’s OK – there will be another time in a couple of months and we will try again then.  Hey, let me know if you want to be a guest – let’s chat!


  1. Learn to say no.

 Recently I was asked to have a spur of the moment meeting, because my colleague “had some spare time”…um “NO!”

With Architectural teams recording our time with timesheets, we understand that time is money.

Meetings are effective when they are facilitated so the agreed outcomes are reached through focussed discussion and agreement.  In 30+ years of attending corporate meetings, I often see that time is wasted while we wait for late comers, we dial in to technology that hasn’t been set up, and when the goals for the meeting are forgotten or strayed from.

As a past manager, all I can see is 10 people with rates of say $250 an hour, taking up valuable time.

Can you dial in to the meeting or is it imperative that you are present?

Allow your brain to follow its creative process, listen to your own ‘interior design’ telling you when you work best, and manage your day so you work most effectively, and you’ll be surprised with what you can achieve.


At certain times in our life it is normal to feel stuck. If you are ready to become the architect in your life and Design You® feel free to check out how personal coaching, attending a Design You workshop or buying the book, will help. There’s more on my website #designyou