10 Effective Strategies for Managing Deadlines as a Designer

Updated on: May 26, 2024
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Meeting deadlines is crucial for any designer, whether working independently or in collaboration with a team. Efficient deadline management involves various strategies and tools that enhance productivity and ensure timely project completion. Designers must navigate the complexities of creative work while adhering to strict timelines, making effective time management essential.

Clear communication is vital. Establishing transparent lines of communication with clients and team members helps set realistic expectations and prevents misunderstandings. This ensures everyone is on the same page regarding project scope, goals, and timelines. Regular progress check-ins can identify potential roadblocks early, allowing for timely adjustments.

Adopting industry best practices like the Agile methodology can streamline workflows and provide flexibility. Breaking projects into smaller, manageable tasks with flexible deadlines ensures continuous progress. Prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance, often using tools like the Eisenhower Matrix, can also significantly enhance efficiency.

Leveraging modern project management tools and software is another key strategy. Tools like Asana, Trello, and Basecamp facilitate real-time collaboration, task assignment, and deadline tracking. AI-powered project management tools such as Wrike and Smartsheet offer advanced features like timeline predictions and automatic adjustments to keep projects on track.

Incorporating these strategies not only helps in meeting deadlines but also in maintaining a balance between quality and speed. This approach allows designers to deliver high-quality work without the stress of last-minute rushes or missed deadlines.

1. Time Blocking for Enhanced Focus

Time blocking involves dividing your day into dedicated chunks for specific tasks or projects. This strategy helps designers stay focused, minimize distractions, and avoid the pitfalls of multitasking. It is a highly effective method for managing deadlines, improving productivity, and ensuring you have time for both work and relaxation.

Prioritize Tasks Based on Energy Levels

Scheduling high-energy tasks during your peak productivity hours can significantly boost your efficiency. Identify when you are most alert and assign critical design tasks to these periods. This way, you can tackle complex projects with maximum focus.

Use a “Stop Doing” List

Not all tasks are essential. Create a “Stop Doing” list to eliminate or delegate tasks that do not contribute significantly to your project. This allows you to concentrate on high-priority activities that drive your design work forward.

Implement a “Focus Day”

Dedicate one day a week to uninterrupted work. On this “Focus Day,” avoid scheduling meetings or other distractions. Use this time for deep, concentrated work on your design projects. This approach ensures you have substantial blocks of time to make significant progress.

Schedule Breaks

Incorporate regular breaks into your schedule to recharge and avoid burnout. Short breaks between tasks help maintain high levels of productivity and creativity. Use techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, which integrates 5-minute breaks after 25 minutes of focused work.

Set Realistic Time Allocations

Be honest about how long tasks will take. Allocate sufficient time for each task and include buffers to accommodate unexpected interruptions. This prevents over-scheduling and ensures you can complete tasks without feeling rushed.

Use a “Time Box”

Allocate a fixed time slot for a task and challenge yourself to complete it within that timeframe. This technique, known as “Time Boxing,” can enhance focus and efficiency, making it easier to stay on track.

Integrate Time Blocking with Other Productivity Techniques

Combine time blocking with other effective productivity methods like the Pomodoro Technique, Getting Things Done (GTD), or the Eisenhower Matrix. This integration can further enhance your time management and task prioritization.

Utilize Digital Tools

Digital calendar tools like Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and Calendly can simplify time blocking. These tools offer features such as intelligent scheduling, time blocking templates, and customizable reminders. By using these tools, you can easily manage your time blocks and stay on track with your design projects.

Benefits of Time Blocking

  • Increased Productivity: Studies show a 23% increase in productivity for designers using time blocking.
  • Improved Task Completion Rates: Designers complete 72% of their tasks on time with time blocking.
  • Reduced Procrastination: Time blocking reduces procrastination by 45%.
  • Enhanced Work-Life Balance: Designers report a better work-life balance and feel more in control of their schedules.
  • Increased Job Satisfaction: Time blocking leads to a 15% increase in job satisfaction due to greater autonomy and control.

By incorporating these time blocking strategies into your daily routine, you can enhance your focus, meet deadlines more effectively, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

2. Breaking Down Large Tasks

Large projects can be overwhelming, but breaking them into smaller, manageable tasks can make them more approachable. This strategy, often referred to as “divide and conquer,” ensures steady progress and reduces stress.

One effective technique is Task Decomposition. Start by identifying the key objectives of your project. Break these down into smaller tasks that contribute to achieving these goals. For instance, if you’re designing a website, break it down into tasks like creating wireframes, developing the layout, and selecting color schemes.

Another method is User Story Mapping. This involves creating a visual representation of your project’s requirements and breaking them into smaller, actionable tasks. This helps you visualize the project scope and prioritize tasks effectively.

Mind Mapping is also useful. Create a visual map of your project’s requirements and break them down into smaller tasks and subtasks. This technique is especially helpful for complex projects that need a clear structure.

Agile Methodology can be beneficial for iterative tasks. Break down the project into smaller tasks that can be completed in short sprints. This allows for regular feedback and adjustments, ensuring the project stays on track.

Design Systems Thinking involves creating reusable design components and systems. By focusing on smaller, reusable parts, you can streamline your workflow and ensure consistency across the project.

Using Project Management Tools like Trello or Asana enhances task segmentation. These tools help you visualize the project scope, organize and categorize tasks, assign them to team members, set deadlines, and track progress. They also enable real-time collaboration, making it easier to share updates and feedback.

Enhancing Efficiency with Project Management Tools:

  • Visualize the project scope: Use boards, lists, and cards.
  • Organize tasks: Categorize by type, priority, and deadline.
  • Assign tasks: Delegate to team members and track progress.
  • Set deadlines: Ensure tasks are completed on time.
  • Collaborate: Share feedback and updates in real-time.
  • Automate workflows: Use tools like Zapier to automate repetitive tasks.

Breaking down large tasks into manageable pieces not only makes them less daunting but also ensures steady progress, better organization, and timely completion. By implementing these techniques and leveraging project management tools, you can streamline your workflow and stay on track with your design projects.

3. The Pomodoro Technique for Sustained Productivity

The Pomodoro Technique involves working in short, focused bursts, followed by brief breaks to maintain high productivity levels. This method has been widely adapted by designers in 2023 to suit their unique workflows.

Designers have customized Pomodoro intervals to find the optimal balance for their tasks. While the traditional method suggests 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break, some designers prefer longer intervals, such as 90 minutes of work followed by a 10-minute break. This flexibility allows them to dive deeper into complex tasks without frequent interruptions.

Task segmentation is another adaptation. Designers break down complex projects into smaller, manageable chunks, applying the Pomodoro Technique to each segment. For example, a website design project might be divided into research, wireframing, and prototyping. Each phase is tackled with focused Pomodoro sessions, ensuring regular progress and preventing burnout.

Pomodoro sprints have also gained popularity. In these sprints, designers work intensely on a specific task for a set period, followed by a short break. This approach accelerates progress and keeps the momentum going, especially during tight deadlines.

Integration with design tools has made the technique even more effective. Designers use plugins or integrations in tools like Sketch, Figma, or Adobe XD to track their Pomodoro sessions. This seamless integration helps monitor work sessions and breaks without disrupting their creative flow.

Team-based Pomodoro is another innovative adaptation. Design teams work together in synchronized intervals, followed by collective breaks. This collaborative approach enhances communication and productivity, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Recent studies and surveys support the effectiveness of the Pomodoro Technique. A 2022 InVision survey revealed that 71% of designers experienced improved focus and productivity. The University of California, Irvine found that the technique reduced mind-wandering and improved cognitive performance, particularly among individuals with ADHD.

Several new tools and apps released in 2023 cater specifically to designers using the Pomodoro Technique:

  • Pomofocus: A browser extension offering customizable intervals and a distraction-free interface.
  • DesignSprint: Integrates task segmentation and collaboration tools with the Pomodoro Technique.
  • FlowState: An AI-powered app that helps designers maintain flow and boost creative output.
  • Timely: Tracks work sessions, breaks, and project progress with integrated Pomodoro intervals.
  • FocusForge: Combines the Pomodoro Technique with website blocking and productivity analytics.

By adapting the Pomodoro Technique to their needs, designers can maintain sustained productivity, keep stress levels in check, and consistently meet their deadlines.

4. Prioritizing with the Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a powerful tool for prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance, ensuring that critical tasks are tackled first. This four-quadrant matrix helps designers streamline their workflow and focus on what truly matters.

To use the Eisenhower Matrix effectively, start by categorizing your tasks into four quadrants:

  1. Urgent and Important: These tasks require immediate attention. They are often crisis-related or have tight deadlines. For example, finishing a client project due tomorrow.
  2. Important but Not Urgent: These tasks are crucial for long-term success but don’t need immediate action. They include strategic planning and skill development.
  3. Urgent but Not Important: These tasks need quick action but don’t significantly impact your goals. Examples include responding to non-critical emails or attending unscheduled meetings.
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important: These tasks are low-priority and can often be eliminated. They include distractions like checking social media during work hours.

Implementation Steps

  1. List Your Tasks: Write down all tasks you need to complete.
  2. Categorize: Place each task into one of the four quadrants.
  3. Prioritize: Focus first on the urgent and important tasks, then move to important but not urgent tasks.
  4. Delegate or Schedule: For tasks in the urgent but not important quadrant, consider delegating them if possible. Schedule the important but not urgent tasks to ensure they get done.
  5. Eliminate: Remove tasks that fall into the not urgent and not important category to free up your time.

Best Practices

  • Keep It Simple: Avoid overthinking task categorization. Use a straightforward approach to quickly place tasks into the appropriate quadrants.
  • Clear Task Descriptions: Ensure each task is clearly defined. This clarity aids in accurate categorization and prioritization.
  • Regular Reviews: Frequently review and update your matrix. Adjust task priorities as project needs change.


Using the Eisenhower Matrix can significantly enhance your efficiency and productivity:

  • Improved Task Prioritization: By focusing on urgent and important tasks first, you can handle high-impact work more effectively.
  • Reduced Decision Fatigue: The matrix provides a clear framework, reducing the mental load of deciding what to work on next.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: Digital tools like Trello or Asana can visualize the matrix, making it easier to communicate priorities with your team.

Incorporate the Eisenhower Matrix into your workflow to better manage your deadlines and maintain productivity.

5. Task Batching for Improved Efficiency

Batching involves grouping similar tasks and completing them in one session, reducing the time lost in context switching. It’s a strategy that can significantly boost your productivity as a designer.

Research supports task batching as an effective method for enhancing efficiency and minimizing the cognitive load associated with frequent task switching. For instance, a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that task batching can reduce switching costs by up to 40%. Another study highlighted a 25% reduction in task completion time and a 30% reduction in errors for designers who utilized task batching.

How to Implement Task Batching

Designers can implement task batching in various ways:

  • Task Management Tools: Tools like Trello, Asana, or Jira help organize tasks by project, priority, or type. This makes it easier to group similar tasks together.
  • Time Blocking: Schedule specific times of the day or week for different task batches. For example, dedicate mornings to emails and afternoons to creative design work.
  • Pomodoro Technique: Work in focused 25-minute increments followed by a five-minute break. This can help maintain concentration and prevent burnout.
  • Batching by Project Phase: Group tasks by phases such as research, design, and testing. This helps in maintaining a structured workflow.

Benefits of Task Batching

By integrating task batching into your workflow, you can experience several benefits:

  • Improved Efficiency: Completing similar tasks together can help you work faster and more effectively.
  • Reduced Context Switching: Grouping tasks minimizes the mental load of switching between different types of work.
  • Enhanced Creativity: Sustained focus on a single type of task can lead to a state of flow, boosting creativity and problem-solving skills.

Potential Drawbacks

While task batching has its advantages, it’s essential to be aware of potential drawbacks:

  • Overemphasis on Efficiency: Focusing too much on efficiency might compromise the quality or creativity of your work.
  • Inflexibility: Task batching can make it challenging to adapt to changing project needs or unexpected tasks.
  • Burnout: Grouping too many tasks together might lead to exhaustion, impacting your overall well-being and productivity.

By balancing task batching with flexibility and attention to quality, you can optimize your workflow and manage your design deadlines more effectively.

6. Utilizing Scheduling Tools

Scheduling tools like Google Calendar and Fantastical are essential for visualizing your day and managing tasks effectively. These tools help streamline your workflow and ensure you meet deadlines without stress.

Key Features of Google Calendar and Fantastical

Google Calendar:

  • Smart Scheduling: Suggests the best time for meetings based on attendees’ availability.
  • Out of Office: Automatically declines meetings and events during your set out-of-office periods.
  • Improved Integration: Seamlessly integrates with other G Suite apps like Google Drive and Hangouts.
  • Customizable Notifications: Allows setting specific reminders and updates.
  • Enhanced Accessibility: Better support for screen readers and keyboard navigation.


  • Intelligent Input: Create events and reminders using natural language.
  • Task Management: Built-in system to manage tasks alongside calendar events.
  • Integration with Other Apps: Works with Slack, Trello, and GitHub.
  • Customizable Views: Focus views on specific days, weeks, or months.
  • Enhanced Reminders: Set reminders for specific times and dates.

How Top Designers Utilize Scheduling Tools

Successful designers rely on scheduling tools to stay on top of their tasks and deadlines. Here are some strategies:

  1. Blocking Time: Schedule large blocks of uninterrupted time for deep work on specific projects.
  2. Prioritizing Tasks: Use these tools to mark high-priority tasks, ensuring they get done first.
  3. Setting Realistic Deadlines: Ensure that all deadlines are achievable, allowing room for unexpected delays.
  4. Collaborating with Team Members: Share your calendar with team members to keep everyone aligned on project timelines.
  5. Tracking Progress: Regularly check your calendar to monitor progress and adjust plans as needed.

Benefits of Scheduling Tools

  1. Enhanced Organization: Keep all your commitments and deadlines in one place.
  2. Efficient Time Management: Allocate your time wisely, reducing wasted hours.
  3. Improved Collaboration: Share schedules with team members for better coordination.
  4. Reduced Stress: Visualizing your workload helps you plan better and avoid last-minute rushes.

Utilizing scheduling tools like Google Calendar and Fantastical can transform your approach to managing deadlines. By leveraging their features, you can enhance your productivity, stay organized, and ensure timely project completion.

7. Setting Realistic Deadlines

Setting realistic deadlines is crucial to deliver quality work on time without experiencing undue stress. Here are some best practices to help you create achievable timelines for your design projects.

First, break down complex projects into smaller, manageable tasks. This allows you to identify potential roadblocks and estimate task durations more accurately. By having a clear design project timeline, you can better foresee and mitigate risks.

Next, pad your deadlines by 10-20%. This added buffer time helps handle unexpected setbacks without compromising the overall project timeline. For example, if a task is estimated to take five days, consider adding an extra day to account for unforeseen issues.

Regular milestones and check-ins are also essential. These help you track progress, identify potential problems early, and make necessary adjustments. Involving stakeholders in the deadline-setting process ensures everyone is aligned and helps manage client communication effectively.

Always consider your team’s workload and availability. Overcommitting resources can lead to burnout and missed deadlines. Use data from past projects to gauge how long similar tasks have taken and identify areas for improvement.

Tips for Estimating Task Durations and Buffer Times

  1. Bottom-Up Estimation Approach: Estimate the time required for each individual task.
  2. Three-Point Estimation Technique: Use optimistic, most likely, and pessimistic estimates to account for uncertainties.
  3. Historical Data: Leverage data from similar projects to inform your estimates.
  4. Team’s Experience: Factor in the expertise and experience of your team members.

Recent Tools for Gauging Project Complexities

  • Agile Project Management: Methodologies like Scrum and Kanban emphasize flexibility and continuous improvement.
  • Project Management Software: Tools like Asana, Trello, and Basecamp aid in task management and deadline tracking.
  • Gantt Charts and Timelines: Visual tools help identify bottlenecks and critical path activities.
  • Monte Carlo Simulations: These statistical models simulate project outcomes, highlighting potential risks.
  • Design Operations Platforms: Tools like Figma, Sketch, and InVision streamline workflows and improve deadline setting.

By adopting these strategies and leveraging available tools, you can set more realistic deadlines, effectively manage your time, and ensure a smoother project flow. This approach not only improves productivity but also enhances work-life balance for designers.

8. Effective Communication with Clients and Team Members

Clear communication about deadlines and progress with clients and team members prevents misunderstandings and aligns expectations. This section explores best practices and tools to facilitate effective communication.

Utilize Project Management Tools

Project management tools are indispensable for organizing tasks, tracking progress, and setting deadlines. Platforms like Asana, Trello, and Basecamp allow you to:

  • Create Detailed Project Timelines: Outline each phase of the design project, including milestones and deadlines.
  • Assign Tasks: Clearly define who is responsible for each task to avoid confusion.
  • Track Progress: Monitor the project’s status in real-time to ensure everything stays on schedule.

Leverage Design Collaboration Platforms

For real-time design collaboration, tools like Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD, and InVision are invaluable. They enable:

  • Seamless Feedback: Clients and team members can comment directly on designs, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Version Control: Keep track of changes and maintain a record of design iterations.
  • Real-Time Collaboration: Work on designs simultaneously with your team, enhancing efficiency and creativity.

Establish a Communication Plan

A well-defined communication plan is crucial for keeping everyone informed and engaged. Key elements include:

  • Regular Check-Ins: Schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings to discuss progress and address concerns.
  • Defined Channels: Use tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Workspace for instant messaging and video conferencing.
  • Response Times: Set expectations for how quickly team members and clients should respond to communications.

Set Clear Expectations

From the outset, clearly define the project’s scope, objectives, and timelines. A shared document or project brief can help:

  • Outline Goals and Deliverables: Ensure everyone understands what needs to be achieved.
  • Detail the Feedback Process: Specify the number of revisions allowed and what constitutes a “final” design.
  • Share Project Timelines: Keep everyone informed about deadlines and milestones.

Maintain Ongoing Updates

Transparent communication throughout the project is essential. Here are some tips to keep everyone in the loop:

  • Regular Updates: Share status updates via email or project management tools.
  • Use Version Control: Ensure all stakeholders are working with the latest design files.
  • Encourage Open Communication: Foster a culture where team members and clients feel comfortable asking questions and providing feedback.

By following these strategies, you can enhance communication with clients and team members, leading to smoother project execution and better outcomes.

9. Leveraging Automation Tools

Automation tools can handle repetitive tasks, freeing up more time for creative work. With advancements in AI-powered design tools, designers can now streamline workflows and increase efficiency significantly.

Latest Automation Tools in 2023

Some of the most innovative automation tools available in 2023 include:

  • Adobe Fresco: This app uses AI to automate tasks like creating custom brushes and textures. It speeds up the design process by handling mundane tasks.
  • Sketch2Code: Converts Sketch designs into HTML and CSS code using AI, eliminating the need for manual coding.
  • Figma’s Auto-Layout: Automates the creation of responsive designs and layouts, ensuring that your designs adapt seamlessly across different devices.
  • Plugin Alliance’s Automator: Handles batch processing and file organization in Adobe Creative Cloud applications.
  • Automator by Uizard: Automates tasks in design tools such as Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD.
  • Integromat: A visual workflow automation tool that integrates with various design tools to automate repetitive tasks like data transfers and updates.

Benefits of AI-Powered Design Tools

The integration of AI in design tools has brought several advantages:

  • Automation of Mundane Tasks: AI automates repetitive tasks such as image processing and data entry, allowing you to focus on creative aspects.
  • Increased Speed and Accuracy: AI tools perform tasks faster and with fewer errors, boosting productivity.
  • Personalization and Customization: These tools understand your design patterns and preferences, providing tailored suggestions and automating tasks.
  • Streamlined Workflows: AI tools integrate with other design apps, reducing manual interventions and streamlining your workflow.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: AI facilitates better collaboration by automating tasks like design asset management and feedback collection.

Automation Tools like Zapier and IFTTT

To manage workflows effectively, tools like Zapier and IFTTT are invaluable:


  • Increased Productivity: These tools automate repetitive tasks, freeing you up for more creative work.
  • Improved Efficiency: By streamlining workflows, these tools reduce the time and effort needed to complete tasks.
  • Enhanced Consistency: Automation ensures uniformity in design elements, such as formatting and branding.


  • Initial Setup Time: Setting up automation can be time-consuming initially.
  • Limited Customization: These tools may not handle unique or complex design requirements well.
  • Dependence on Technology: They can be prone to technical issues like integration errors or software updates.

By integrating automation tools into your workflow, you can manage your time more effectively and focus on what you do best—creating stunning designs.

10. Balancing Work and Self-Care

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for sustained productivity and creativity. In 2023, designers are embracing new trends and best practices to ensure they stay productive while also taking care of their well-being.

Flexible Work Arrangements

One of the latest trends is flexible work schedules. Remote work allows you to work from anywhere, at any time, as long as you meet deadlines and deliver quality work. This flexibility can help you manage your time better and reduce stress.

Boundary Setting

Setting clear boundaries between work and personal life is crucial. Establish specific work hours and stick to them. Let your clients and colleagues know your availability to avoid constant interruptions. This helps maintain a sense of control over your time and prevents burnout.

Time Blocking

Time blocking is another effective strategy. By scheduling focused work sessions, breaks, and personal activities, you can maintain a balance between work and life. Use productivity tools for designers like Google Calendar or Fantastical to plan your day efficiently.

Prioritizing Self-Care

Self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Make time for activities that nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Whether it’s a daily walk, meditation, or pursuing a hobby, these activities can rejuvenate you and boost your creativity.

Embracing Asynchronous Communication

Using asynchronous communication tools can reduce the pressure of immediate responses. Platforms like Slack or Asana allow for more flexibility in your work schedule, enabling you to respond when it suits you best without disrupting your flow.

The Impact of Breaks, Exercise, and Sleep

Breaks, physical exercise, and adequate sleep are vital for your creativity and productivity. Studies have shown that taking regular breaks can improve focus and reduce stress. For example, taking a short walk can increase creativity. Regular exercise has been proven to boost cognitive function and problem-solving skills. Adequate sleep is essential for cognitive function, memory consolidation, and creativity.

Effective Self-Care Activities

Incorporate these self-care activities into your routine to enhance your well-being:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Reduce stress and improve focus.
  • Journaling: Process emotions and gain clarity.
  • Creative Pursuits: Recharge by engaging in non-work-related creative activities.
  • Nature Walks: Improve mood and reduce stress.
  • Social Connections: Strengthen bonds with friends, family, and colleagues to feel supported.

By integrating these practices into your daily routine, you can achieve a healthier work-life balance, enhance your creativity, and maintain overall well-being. This balance will not only improve your productivity but also ensure you remain passionate and inspired in your design work.


Managing deadlines effectively is vital for designers aiming to deliver high-quality work on time. Incorporating various strategies and tools can streamline your workflow and enhance productivity. Start by breaking down projects into smaller tasks and utilize agile project management methods. This ensures you manage each segment efficiently, reducing the likelihood of being overwhelmed.

Employ time-blocking techniques to stay focused and dedicated during work sessions. Automation tools like Zapier can handle repetitive tasks, freeing up more time for creative endeavors. Additionally, using prioritization frameworks such as the Eisenhower Matrix helps you focus on tasks that have the most significant impact.

Collaboration tools like Asana and Trello facilitate communication and keep everyone on the same page. Clear communication with clients and team members ensures expectations are managed, and everyone is aligned on project timelines.

Balancing high-quality work with meeting tight deadlines requires setting realistic expectations and focusing on essential tasks. Use established design principles and embrace iterative design processes, allowing for ongoing improvement and feedback.

Remember the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Regular breaks, exercise, and sufficient sleep help sustain creativity and productivity. By leveraging these strategies and tools, you can meet your deadlines with confidence while delivering exceptional design work.

Camiel Bos
an experienced designer and digital strategist, embodies a perfect blend of creativity, technical skill, and entrepreneurship. His approach, intertwining design with strategy and sustainability, sets the standard for effective digital communication. Camiel employs methods that create innovative solutions that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, and environmentally conscious, showcasing his unique vision and value.

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