If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.
That well-said piece of wisdom comes from Abe Lincoln himself. I can’t recall anything that Lincoln did which illustrates this particularly well; he doesn’t come up in history class much here in Canada. But, that doesn’t mean this isn’t very good advice.
When you plan out your projects, you will write fewer bugs when you know what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Your pages will be tighter. Your prose will be better, and your ideas more concise. Plus, you won’t be tearing your hair out tracking down those bugs and extra words. Although for page layouts, it might have been better of Abe had ended his quotation with the words, “Also, fuck IE6.”
By the same token, you will work less in the long run, if you always make sure you know what you’re doing before you do it.
How To Plan
Be Productive Away from a Computer
This is a big one for me; I don’t spend a lot of time in one place, since I go to university full-time and work between classes. So, I make sure to always carry around a Moleskine notebook and a Bullet Space Pen, both of which are extremely worthwhile investments. That link is the best deal on Amazon for it, by the way; I checked.
When I’m waiting for a class to start, or for a bus, or anywhere else where it’s inconvenient to pull out my laptop (yes, that includes the can), I can spend a few moments scribbling pseudocode or sketching out database arrangements or page designs or notes for blog posts or whatever.
Define a Process
To define a process means to step back and look at how you usually do what you do. If you’re looking to design a process for complete web project, you should look at the steps you take. Meeting a client? Set the initial meeting location, which contract or forms to bring and have signed (you have a contract, right?), etc. Standardize your server setup process. Figure out what part you want to do first. Photoshop mockups?
Decide on the order and manner of going about things in a very specific way, and your time expenditure will drop dramatically. I just hope you’re charging by the project.