#2 — Productive and lazy

😎 Work smarter with tips and AI

Hey there, design friends!

I’ve been stuck at home for the past 3 weeks because I broke my foot and I am getting bored. Very bored. I’m halfway through recovery, so if you have any books, tv shows, or things to do that don’t require walking, send them my way!

Today, I’m talking about the difference between activity and productivity and sharing tips to help you design for outcomes and impact.

Happy reading,
Julie — @syswarren

Table of contents

  1. Resources and links

  2. Designing for outcomes and impact

  3. TL;DR

  4. Community spotlight

Resources and links
AI as your teammate

I’m sure you’ve heard, but AI is everywhere… and you can definitely use AI tools to facilitate your work or help you find inspiration. I’d still recommend making edits to what is AI generated, just like collaborating with a teammate.

AI tools
✏️ Relume Ipsum — Generate website copy directly from Figma.
🤖 FigGPT — Figma plugin that helps you compose and edit copy.
🧠 Galileo AI — A copilot for interface design.

Interesting articles
How to Create a Survey with ChatGPT: ChatGPT can assist you in creating UX surveys, limiting bias, and avoiding leading questions.

Embracing AI in Brand Design at Alan: Edouard Wautier, Lead Designer at Alan.eu, explains how they trained an AI model to generate more illustrations of their mascot.

Alan’s mascot, generated by AI

Designing for outcomes and impact

⏱️ Reading time: 3 min 08 sec

Last week, I received a "productivity report" from the tasks management app we use at work, saying that I completed fewer tasks than my teammates. First, I was like, "Ouch, thanks. It's really motivating." But then I started thinking about what this meant. Did they confuse activity with productivity?

A hamster running on a wheel moves a lot but doesn't go anywhere… and activity doesn't necessarily equate to productivity.

A hamster running on a computer keyboard

Made by MidJourney, my imaginary teammate

While it can be helpful for big teams to keep an eye on the number of tasks completed because it informs planning and hiring needs or for a design agency to aim for a specific number of deliverables because it’s in the contract, for solo designers, productivity is all about the outcome and impact of your work.

Lazy is a quick way of saying efficient

I recently worked 5 minutes on a design, which resulted in a 160% increase in one of our main goals—these few minutes of work had more impact than all the tasks I completed these past 6 months.

Sadly, this didn't count toward my "productivity report" because I didn't bother to create and complete a task. Does it mean I wasn't productive? Was I more productive when I completed dozen of tasks every week that didn't have much impact? 🤔

Outcomes and impact

When working on a project, I don't think of the number of hours or designs I’ll present to the team. Instead, I focus on the goal and the why.

The goal is a simple sentence with the outcome and measurable impact. 

A goal is a sentence composed of an outcome and a measurable impact. Example "Create a better login experience" is the outcome "that will increase logged-in users by X%" is the measurable impact.

The outcome is the effect on the users, the problems solved, or the new experiences you create.

The impact is a change you can measure (increased conversion rate, change in revenue, number of people mentioning your company on social media…)

The why provides facts and assumptions to help you understand the problem and work on smart solutions.

The why are facts and assumptions that help you frame the problem and focus on the right solutions. Example "We know that only 20% of our users are logged in. Our login experience is too complex and could be simplified. We think we are not giving enough incentives to our users to log in.

💡 Design for outcomes and impact

  • Define your goal with outcomes and impact at the start of a project to stay focused on what matters.

  • Help frame your work using the why.

Work smarter, not harder

Be smart about how you spend your time. Instead of taking 20 hours to design icons, take 5 minutes to find a nice icon set. It frees your time to focus on what is truly important and helps support designers who create and share resources.

💡 Use resources when it makes sense

  • When your goal is to make an impact, it's smart to use resources that others have created.

  • When you have time, creating things yourself and learning new skills make sense.

Give yourself time to focus

A crucial aspect of productivity is finding your flow state, where you feel creative and focused.

💡 Protect your flow state

  • Use asynchronous communication to avoid interruptions. Pause your notifications when you're focused.

  • Schedule blocks of time for deep, focused work on your calendar, and protect these periods from distractions.

  • Allow breaks and recharge time to ensure you have the energy needed to maintain productivity throughout the day.

  • Instead of scheduling a meeting to present your work in the middle of your day because it is the only time that works for everyone, record a video with Loom or Screenity when it's best for you and ask your teammates to provide feedback when it's best for them.

Know when to stop

Perfection is fleeting in an iterative design process, so focus on making progress instead.

💡 Don’t waste your time

  • Share your work early to get feedback from your team.

  • Don't spend excessive time refining a design that nobody has seen just because you have time before the deadline.

Note that deadlines can inadvertently foster procrastination, something I'm very good at, and according to Parkinson's Law, I'm not alone.
Deadlines can also make us lose sight of our goals. If you're like me:

  • Replace deadlines with a simple to-do list with your main goals for the week.

  • Create momentum and a positive mindset by completing easy tasks first.

Rest fuels creativity

Never underestimate the power of recovery and rest. Ensuring you're well-rested and taking time for yourself will fuel your productivity and help you stay creative.

💡 Recharge your productivity and creativity

  • Take a break and go outside or have lunch with a friend.

  • Recharge by doing work that's less energy-consuming for you.

  • Plan time off regularly.

By prioritizing your work, leveraging available resources, protecting your flow state, and allowing time for recovery and rest, you'll be better equipped to tackle your design projects and maximize your productivity as a design team of one.


Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean being productive.
As a solo designer, here are things you can do to be productive:

  • Set goals that include outcomes and impact. If you don’t work in an agency, don’t focus on the number of deliverables; work on what will have the most impact.

  • Use resources when it makes sense. As a solo designer, use all the resources available to you. Other designers created them to help you in your work.

  • Protect your flow state. You can’t do great work if you can’t focus. Silence notifications, and when possible, replace meetings with async communication.

  • Don’t waste your time: Share your work early to avoid spending too much time on the wrong things. Don’t try to stay busy until the deadline.

  • Recharge: Take breaks and time off to stay creative and productive.

Community spotlight

Because we talked about AI this week, it makes sense to shine some light on Ayda, next-generation AI-driven solo designer, who recently launched her new (and first) Framer website.

I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to reply to the first issue this week. Getting your feedback and your questions was really helpful and motivating. Special thanks to Kyle U. for the discussion about using resources. It was inspiring.

See you next week!

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