Why Creative Work Needs Project Management Systems: Work Intake

There was a time when I worked without a project management system. Work intake was scattered and deliverables were all over the place. In my previous role, I realized very quickly that I needed, at the very least, an intake form.

Why is work intake important for designers?

Depending on your work situation, you may or may not receive a creative brief. So many assignments are given via emails, Slack messages, or a quick phone call. If you don’t have or get a creative brief, you’re not getting all the information you need to produce an effective solution. An intake or request form is basically a fill-in-the-blanks creative brief; you just have to ask the right questions.

Here are my non-negotiables for information:

  • Task name, requester name, and department
  • Desired due date — important note: to help avoid the answer of ‘yesterday,’ I always put estimated turnaround times for different types of deliverables at the top of the form, along with a caveat that all requests require a minimum 48 hour turnaround time.
  • Target audience
  • How the asset will be used — sometimes people don’t know what they need, but they have an use case that will help you determine the appropriate deliverable.
  • Goals of the project — this will make sure you’re delivering a solution that aligns with and assists the goals of the project.
  • Assets that need to be included in the deliverable — partner logos, images, etc. It’s best to get these up front so you don’t have to go searching for them later, or not know they were needed.

One important thing that intake forms do is cut down on unnecessary communication—but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to communicate! Let the requester know that you received their request, and give them an ETA of the deliverable. This is also a good opportunity to ask for any information they didn’t include, or to expand on certain points.

By having a request form, you have one centralized point of entry for assignments, and depending on the system you use, you can pull important metrics to share with your manager and/or leadership: number of requests, types of assets most requested, and turnaround time, among others. This will help you correlate your creative output with business needs. (More on this to come!)

You also don’t have to spend as much time following up with random requests that are scattered all over the place with different POCs. Have everything in one place will save a ton of time that you can put back into designing.

A few important points about rolling out a work intake form:

  • Get feedback from your users. This is obvious if you’re a UX/UI designer, but if you want to make sure people can easily use this form. You don’t want it to be a chore for them, because then they won’t do it.
  • Train your users and stakeholders. When you roll this out, schedule a quick training with the people who will be using this form most, and explain how this makes their lives easier as well (one centralized place for info, less time spent answering your sporadic questions about a project).
  • Make this the only way a request is considered. A form is no good if people don’t use it or don’t use it consistently. If someone tries to submit a work request to you any other way, point them towards the form. If it’s not officially sent in, it doesn’t get on your to do list.

Next up: how to manage these requests through the whole project lifecycle.

Thoughts | Remote Work

As someone who is fortunate enough to work from home regularly, I have developed a process for making my remote work time as productive as it can be, but also being responsive enough so that my presence is not missed. A few things that I do that I have found to be effective:

Photo from Unsplash

  • Keep the same hours. Just because your environment has changed does not mean your routine has to. This is also important so that your colleagues can reach you and collaborate with you while you are remote.

Photo from Unsplash

  • Set a goal—or goals—for the day. Know ahead of time what you are going to work on so that you can start off the day with focused energy, rather than bouncing between tasks. I use my remote days to work on large projects that I know I need to spend concentrated, uninterrupted time on, or projects that are part of a larger goal that needs to be kept moving forward. I highly recommend using a tool like the Productivity Planner, where you write down your top five tasks for each day and track how much time it takes you to complete them.

Photo from Unsplash

  • Be responsive. Your colleagues will still need to communicate with you even if you’re not physically there. Make sure that you are responsive to requests, and if you need uninterrupted time, let your team members know that there will be blocks of time when you are unavailable (via a Slack status or calendar block).

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My workspace.

  • Have a dedicated space. When I work from home, I work from my home office so that I have everything I need and minimal distractions. Set up your space so that you have to focus—keep clutter minimal and remove anything you know will distract you from your work.

Photo from Unsplash

  • Move around! Make sure you’re still stretching or walking around and not just sitting at your desk all day. This will give you more energy and a much needed break from the screen.