It’s almost ready to go: the first decent website I’ve created for myself in years.
I’m the kind of person who will tell an author to let go of the editing process so they can finish the book, then take ten years writing my own novel because I can’t stop editing it to death. The type who wants to build an immersive web experience for myself, but jeez….who has the time? I’m a working designer; all my big chunks of time and creativity go into serving my clients.
Sometimes it goes that way, you know – like when you think you’re ready to make a commitment to your fitness and you join a gym, but then you realize you have social commitments, family commitments, projects, and paltry daily tasks like eating, cooking, running errands and sleeping, and you just….never…quite…get back to that gym after the first couple times. Life gets in the way.
Somewhere along the line, I realized I wasn’t using my time as efficiently as I could. It dawned on me I could continue to hit goals in my personal projects if I managed my work-time more effectively. It seems like a no-brainer, but for me, working in a home office and being in this space constantly, everything was bleeding together and I was spreading slowly outward like a puddle of molasses.
I couldn’t figure out where work and personal lives stopped intersecting. I had to create stronger boundaries to figure that out. Some of the clients I trained poorly with my own poor work habits are annoyed I don’t work on weekends anymore. Some of them don’t understand why I won’t come along on their “my lack of preparation means you need to do it on Sunday” ride. I used to be worried not joining those types of clients in a constant, insane game of catch-up would lose business. It did, surely. I ended up losing the type of clients who made my life so chaotic I couldn’t take on good clients. It’s amazing how much good comes of having mutually respectful and reciprocal relationships. You may think you handle crazy well, and you might, but why? To what end? And at what cost to yourself and your business?
Betterer by the day
I’m using a few new sets of tools to help increase my productivity.
I’m a big fan of my new Passion Planner. It offers blank spaces where you can mind map your projects and write various thoughts and ideas throughout the weeks and months, has normal day-timer stuff in the month and week-view calendar pages, and asks sets of questions at the end of each month intended to help you assess how you’ve spent your time and where you can become more efficient. In terms of size and layout, it’s just kind of the perfect planner. I recommend getting a set of colored pens if you want to look at an awesomely colorful year-in-review. This planner is sometimes a guided journal, so it’s definitely something you’d want to hold onto if that’s your thing. Pretty decently priced at $33, and I’m really happy with the 5.5×8″ size.
My best girlfriend gave me The Five Minute Journal for Christmas, to do with her. I thought it was cheesy at first, kind of one of those “laws of attraction” things, but it’s not. Despite my skepticism, I noticed concrete results in two weeks. For me, it was less about the gratitude, and more about being more self-aware and thoughtful about my daily habits and activities. Not soon after starting, I was able to finish three or four big projects that hung over me like a dark cloud for the better part of last year, and begin (and nearly finish) two more projects!
Doing it, and doing it, and doing it right
I’ve also made the leap to a better time-tracking system and professional accounting software, a human accountant, and getting all my business stuff (DBA, bank account, etc.) squared away. It feels great. I am de-cluttering mentally and taking more accountability for my day-to-day operations. It came as a surprise to me that what came of this is more dedicated time for relaxing. That, in turn, gives me the mental rest I need to be my best and go hard when I’m working. Before, I was trying to do everything and becoming exhausted, thus far less efficient, especially at tasks requiring more creativity and puzzle-solving. By delegating responsibilities and not insisting on doing everything manually, my productivity has soared, and I’ve forced myself into better habits.
There’s still a large degree of success that rests on me remembering and not being lazy about things like tracking my time. I’ve made a deal with myself that the only hours I’m allowed to bill are the ones I track the right way — by stopping and starting the timer. This solves multiple problems I’ve been having: (A) I’m lazy, so I don’t want to keep stopping and starting the timer. This causes me to focus on single tasks in continuous blocks of time. (B) I get a kick in the butt when I forget to start my timer, and it forces me to get into the habit of faithfully tracking my time. A side-effect is that I’m actually getting a lot more insight as to the real amount of time it takes me to do specific things. This will lead to fewer mistakes in estimate phase of project management, and ultimately to a trimmer project bidding process.
Step-by-step I am learning (and re-learning) that, when you have the self-respect and self-worth to pay for relevant professional services and software and to create boundaries for self-care, it leaves you open for better clients, better pay, and a higher quality work experience and personal life. It’s tempting to cut corners, but know it will leave you less time to hone your skills, less space for mental health, and a decrease in your billable hours.
So, here I am with this new website. I finally just sat down and spent a week building it. It’s light years away from the immersive, magical Pook-world I’d love to create, but for the love of monkeys, I needed to get something online I wouldn’t be embarrassed to show someone who asks what I do. Even now, I find myself hesitant to pull the trigger on letting anyone know it’s done because it’s not precisely done. But it’s done enough, you know? It’s done enough that I should be able to release it so I can focus on other, more important things than having the perfect website I know I’ll just fiddle with endlessly and want to change in six months. Because that’s not even where my creative energy should be directed. I should be writing and drawing and blasting through the stars on a mad, creative bent that can’t be stopped.
So here we go, and here’s to all of you struggling to move forward with stagnant projects, and those of you who are traveling the stars already. 2016 is here, let’s do this. It doesn’t have to be perfect; just get it done. We’ll fix it in post.