Project planning is a skill I’m still learning, and I think I always will be. Every project is different, every client is different, and so every plan is different. But there are a few principles I try and stick by every time I sit down and try and work out what I’m doing.

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In my experience, quite often, the smarter people are the less they feel like they need to plan. If you’ve managed to think your way out of everything, or talk your way out, the less you actually put the work in at the start. Even if you can coast by without a plan, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one.


Planning well takes time, which can be frustrating when you’re itching to get started (or just up against a ticking deadline). Not only that but once you start planning you know when stuff isn’t going to plan, and no one ever wants to be off track. But ultimately these pain points are worth it in the end. Projects that have a clear direction, and sense of method, work out being completed quicker in the end, and you work more efficiently. As hard as it is realising you’re not living up to your own expectations, when you know where you’ve deviated you can work out why and what’s gone wrong or needs to be changed in your plan.


When you start planning, pen in hand, fresh sheet of A4, tick boxes flying everywhere, you’re flush with confidence. You think you can do anything and everything. You can’t. Try to be realistic about what you can do, and how quickly. Making a plan you can, and do, actually follow is how you start being productive and stop seeing planning as busy work that has no purpose.


By this I don’t mean that a plan should be a small novel. But a key part of the planning process is interrogating everything you set out to do and try and think of any problems you might encounter. You can’t plan for everything, but you should do your best to be prepared for things to go wrong. Plus, the more you plan for problems, the fewer you face.


At work we’ve been talking a lot about ‘Emergent Strategy’, which is basically the idea that your business is a walk on a beach in the dark and strategy should come in two parts a light house to guide the way and dealing with all of the shit on your way to the lighthouse. I really like this as a philosophy for project planning too. It’s all too easy to create a plan so detailed that you can’t help but veer from it and then feel bad because circumstances have changed. Your plan should guide your work and the choices you make, but you have to be flexible to what’s happening around you. Don’t feel bad if your plan has to wiggle, use it as a canary to tell you that something has changed and then reflect and rethink the plan moving forward.

As Hannah Montana told us many years ago: “Everybody has those days / Everybody makes mistakes / Everybody knows what I’m talking about / Everybody gets that way”.

Despite Hannah’s wisdom, in a world where we’re always trying to do more and expect to be able to do everything, it can be hard to get over an unproductive day. There are a few things you can do to instantly get over a bad day though:


Doing some small tasks like answering emails, organising your planner, or popping to the supermarket, can make you feel more productive and leave you in a more positive mindset.


Set out your clothes for the next day or do some meal prep. By doing something for your future self you’ll not only feel a bit more productive, you also set yourself up for a more productive day.


Cleaning up your workspace can help clear your mind and make you feel more productive. As well as your physical space it can also be helpful to clear up your digital space, just empty the trash folder. If your desk is generally tidy, why not get started on a tidying task that will help you in the long run like alphabetising books or organising old photos.


This might sound counterintuitive – the instinct is to add everything you’ve not done today to an even bigger list for tomorrow – but this actually works. Quite often the reason behind an unproductive day is an overwhelming list of tasks. Analysing your to do list, and breaking down any bigger tasks into smaller ones, sets you up for success.


This is probably the most important thing to do. Bad days happen, and it’s essential you don’t let them get you into a tail spin. Be kind to yourself and good things will follow.

I’ve just about settled my morning routine. Now that I have to be a real person and go to work everyday (man do I miss only having to get up for 11am lectures), I’ve started out on a quest to become more of a morning person.I’m trying to get up at the same time every day, and not press snooze – it’s a real struggle. Here are the 8 things I’ve added to, or altered in, my morning routine, which I’ve found have really helped.



It’s good for you. It will make you feel better. It takes 10 seconds. It’s that simple.*

*I don’t really eat (I do quite often have a banana on the bus though) before I leave on weekdays because I like to take advantage of the breakfast at work, so this is especially important then.


This one is less about skin care and more about doing something that makes me feel good. Because I’m an evening shower person (TMI?), I find that washing my face really refreshes and wakes me up in the morning. It’s also something I really enjoy. I like having a skincare routine I can work through. A little morning pampering goes a long way, so recently I’ve been taking my time and enjoying the process. Skincare could easily be replaced by an indulgent breakfast, straightening your hair, or even something like reading the paper.


I would love to say I’m someone who goes for a 5 mile run every morning, I’m not. I’m never going to be one of those people either. Instead I start my morning with a short series of pilates-esque stretches and low impact exercises. Getting your body moving in the morning, particularly if you’re going to be sitting at a desk all day, really helps you wake up and get your blood flowing so you’re able to focus all day long.


This might seem like a given, and on weekdays it is, but I know that the urge to lounge around in pyjamas on the weekend is very real and very strong. I don’t know about anyone else, but for me the longer I stay in my pjs the harder it is to get out of them and get going. So theoretically, the quicker you get dressed and ready for the day the easier it is to start working and being productive. Having tested this hypothesis for quite a while now, I feel quite confident in suggesting it holds in real life as well as theory.


Every evening I like to set out my bullet journal for the next day. Even though its already been written out I like to review my to do list and any events, and make sure I have my plan for the day fresh in my mind. It’s hard to be productive if you don’t know what you’re meant to be doing.


I’ve only started meditating recently but I’ve found it’s really helped me manage my anxiety and be more productive. Taking 5 minutes for yourself to start your day right can make a world of difference. I would recommend using a meditation app like Calm. These usually have a variety of guided sessions, but on a morning I find using the simple self guided sessions (especially if I’m a bit pressed for time) the best for working on my own individual focus.


The first thing I used to do after I’d opened my eyes was check my email. This was a mistake. It made my morning about work, about Facebook notifications, about junk I didn’t want to see. By delaying checking my phone until I’ve completed the rest of my morning routine, I’m able to reclaim a little bit of time for myself and only start work when I’m ready and at my best. It’s a tiny life change that has made a huge difference, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone. I’ve even replaced my phone alarm with a good old fashioned alarm clock, to reduce the urge to scroll.


This is probably the most important thing on this list. I’m not someone who believes that positive thinking is the key to changing the world, in fact I’m quite skeptical that you can think yourself happy. However, I’ve been trying really hard to start the day thinking about what I can look forward to. By getting excited about what lies ahead for the day, I’ve found I start to enjoy it more. If you’re struggling with getting excited for your day try and schedule in something fun or wear something that makes you feel good.

That’s it. I’m always looking for ways to start the day a bit better, do you have any advice or morning hacks that I should be trying out?

The space you work in has a huge effect on how productive you are. Given how much time you’ll likely be spending there it seems only natural to put some thought into how it can make you the most efficient you can be, as well as making it look nice.



This is probably the most important piece of advice on this list. Creating a workspace that’s separate from where you relax is key to being able to work and to being able to rest. You subconsciously associate different places with whatever you do there, so if you’re working where you sleep you’re not going to be able to relax as easily. I’m very lucky to have a kind of office room, but a workspace doesn’t have to be a room to itself. Setting up a desk away from your bed or sofa, or even just working on one side of the dining table, would work just as well. Basically, as long as you’re not working in your bed, you’re going to be more productive and sleep better.


If you can set up somewhere near a window, or under a sky light. A number of studies have shown that exposure to natural light improves your focus and performance . Not only that but having access to sunlight can help you sleep better.


Common sense dictates that you’re not going to be able to focus very well, or for very long, if you’re not comfortable. So find a comfortable chair or a thought out standing desk set up. Make sure you can work with good posture. I know it’s in every office place health and safety guide out there, and so ignored on a daily basis, but it’s super important for your long term health. So try not to hunch over that laptop.


It’s so easy to fill your desk with everything but the kitchen sink. Every notebook, pen, 3 year old receipt and lost bobby pin can migrate onto your desk without you even noticing. Streamlining what you have on your desk is really worthwhile though, it means you don’t have to hunt to find what you’re looking for or get distracted by things you don’t need. To find out what I actually used I put all of my stuff away in a box for a week and only pulled things out when I used them, anything I used every day, or thereabouts, made it onto my new desk.


  • Pen Pot (ft. pens, pencil, stylus, scissors, x-acto)
  • Journals
  • Post-It Notes
  • Water
  • Week Planner
  • Speaker
  • Hand Cream
  • Plant
  • Inspiration Wall

(The last two aren’t practical necessities but I really missed them)


I’m a huge believer in a clear desk leading to a clear mind, I definitely notice a difference in my ability to concentrate when my workspace is tidy. This is a natural by-product of only having what you need on your desk, but it’s also something you, or at least I, have to consciously work on. Keeping cables and loose papers tidy not only looks nice but saves you so much frustration and time.


Making your workspace isn’t just a vanity project, if it looks good you’re going to want to spend more time there. Personally I like having art postcards and bits of inspiration around as visual stimuli. But whatever you want to decorate with, here are some tips for creating a really aesthetically pleasing space:

  • Things look better in odd numbers, so put images up in 3s, 5s, 7s etc.
  • Pay with texture, adding in a plant or something sculptural can really help break up a space
  • Play around with scale, having pieces in different sizes encourages your eyes to move around
  • Consider colour, whether you’re going for something bright and bold or subtle with small pops of colour, plan out what you’re putting up

What are your desk essentials?

When you realise you have the same number of hours in your day as Beyonce, it’s quite easy to feel like you’re wasting your time. One reaction to such news is to feel bad. The other is to acknowledge while that you don’t have a small army of people helping you do all of the little things (laundry I’m looking at you), you can still maximise your time to get the most out of it, and perhaps get around to working on that grammy award winning album.

Once you feel good about your productivity, it’s much easier to capitalise on it and find new ways of being more efficient.


If you’re looking for some ways to maximise your time, here are some things I’ve learned:


It’s easy to keep putting off projects you’re passionate about until the perfect moment lands in your lap. I’ll start that drawing once all of the chores are done. I can’t take photos for my blog until the lighting is just right. Once the sun and the moon have aligned correctly I’ll find inspiration for that new series I want to design.

Waiting for just the right moment almost always means waiting so long that you don’t do a thing. Schedule in time for designing, or blogging, or whatever else t is you want to be doing, in the same way you would a work out or cooking dinner. From the outside that might make doing something fun sound like doing something, well, not so fun, but once you set aside time to work on what you’re passionate about you stop feeling guilty about it and just do it.


When you’re working on things for yourself, rather than things for a client, it’s easy to let them slip so far to the bottom of your priorities list that you forget about them. Setting deadlines on personal projects makes them more tangible and gives you a reason to start working. Think of yourself as your own client. If keeping to your own deadlines is a struggle, tell a friend what you’re working on and promise to show them on a set day, or turn to social media to keep you honest.


This is advice my mum gave me when I was very small, but it’s taken me until now to really put it into practice and truly understand how important it is. It’s so easy to get distracted (Facebook I’m looking at you) or to decide half way through a task that something else on your to do list is more exciting, but finishing one job at a time is the most efficient way to work. It’s also the most satisfying way to work. It’s easier said than done though. Some things I’ve found that make it easier include:

1 – Blocking out distractions, that means turning off notifications and moving your phone out of reach. I particularly like working on paper if that’s an option, or using Writer’s Block if I’m writing.

2 – Order tasks and give each one a set time period. Using this method, rather than a random to do list (that’s not to say I don’t still love to do lists) means you work to a schedule rather than which task is most appealing.

3 – Mix up jobs. I find having an alternating scheme of long and short, digital and analog, tasks helps keep me engaged with my work.


Having real down time is key to having efficient working times. If you’re well rested you have more energy and you’re less likely to get distracted. Emotional, as well as physical rest, is really important. Taking time for yourself, whether that means having a quiet night in with a movie, visiting a museum, or just going for a walk, allows you to recharge your batteries. As an introvert I’m particularly aware of how much energy I’m spending socially, I can literally feel my energy depleting. Time away from work, of whatever kind, is also essential for finding inspiration.


Divide where you work from where you relax. That doesn’t mean you need a separate room (space in London is at such a premium, ain’t nobody got money for that). Simply working at a desk, or even a different side of the dining table, can be enough. Separating work and leisure helps you enjoy both more.