People often ask me how I can manage so many things at once, so many spinning plates, if you will, while only working 9 AM to 5 PM?
Ask most designers, and they’ll tell you of the many late nights or weekends they work to get the jobs done.
I, on the other hand, rarely work late and hardly ever on weekends. So how do I do it? How do I manage this podcast, my other television show podcast, two design businesses, the Resourceful Designer Community, and a few personal “work-related” projects I have on the go? All within a 40-hour workweek?
I don’t always. In fact, I’m recording this podcast episode on Saturday because I ran out of time during the week. But this is a rarity for me. Normally, I get all my work done between 9 AM and 5 PM, Monday to Friday.
So how do I do it?
I learned many years ago that my time is valuable. I only have so much of it, and I have to figure out the best use of that time for me. I constantly ask myself how can I get the best ROI for my time. And the biggest help was learning to cull my indulgences.
What do I mean by this?
First, let me tell you a story.
As you may or may not know. My wife and I have two kids, both of which are now in their 20s and no longer live with us. Since the kids moved out, Kim and I have had to adjust to the lives of being empty nesters. One of those adjustments is finding television shows we can watch together. Kim loves comedies, dramas and romantic shows. In comparison, I prefer science fiction, fantasy and action-adventure programs.
It wasn’t a problem when our daughter was still here. She and Kim enjoyed the same things, so they would put on one of their shows, and I would slip down to the basement to watch one of mine. But with the kids gone, Kim and I try to find shows to watch together.
A couple of months ago, we started watching a show on Netflix called The Order. It’s a young adult-oriented semi-romantic drama that includes witches, warlocks and werewolves. So it checked off both our interests.
Over the course of two weeks, we would watch an episode here and an episode there until we finished season 1. It wasn’t the best show we’d seen, but it was entertaining and enjoyable.
A few weeks later, season 2 came out, and we decided to start it. That first episode was kind of meh, so it was a few days before we decided to watch another one which didn’t turn out to be much better. When watching episodes 3 and 4, we were questioning if there was something else we wanted to watch instead.
After the fourth episode, we both decided the season wasn’t worth finishing. Our time was too valuable to waste on a program we were no longer enjoying.
Now, this may not be the best example, since the time we saved by not watching The Order, we still ended up spending on the couch watching something else. But the point I’m trying to convey is, your time has value. And it shouldn’t be wasted on things that don’t contribute to that value.
Let’s get back to how I manage my days and get everything done.
As I said earlier, I learned a while back that to be the most productive person I could be; I needed to cull my indulgences. What does that mean?
It means that whenever something catches my eye, whenever I come across something that might be a distraction, I ask myself this. “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?”
Don’t ask yourself if you would be better off if you indulge because the answer will often be a misleading yes. Misleading because knowledge, in general, makes you better, regardless of what that knowledge is. Listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube video, and reading an article will benefit you somehow, even if it’s minute.
But asking if you would be worse off by not indulging gives you a completely different perspective to judge by.
For example, if I come across an article reviewing new features in Adobe Illustrator. I ask myself, “would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in reading this?” The answer is yes. I use Illustrator regularly. If there are new features that can speed up my workflow and make what I do easier, and I don’t lean them. I’ll be worse off.
However, if I come across an article titled “The top 10 design trends to avoid in 2021.” The answer would be no. I might gain some knowledge and benefit from reading the article. But I’m not going to be any worse off if I don’t read it. I tend to do my own thing and not follow trends anyway. So why waste my valuable time reading that article. No matter how curious I am.
Now in some cases, putting off instead of dismissing is an option.
And article titled "The 10 most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe." Oh, this one hits me at my geeky core. As a huge Marvel fan, I want to know if this list coincides with the one I have in my head. But would I be any worse off if I read it and found out? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. I would be. Not because of the knowledge I would gain. But because reading the article would take up valuable time when I should be working. So the smart thing to do is not indulge.
However, the geek in me really wants to know. I mean, who do they have at number 1. Is it the Hulk? Thor? Captain Marvel? Someone, I’m not thinking of? I think it’s Captain Marvel. It has to be Captain Marvel, right? In this case, instead of dismissing the article altogether. I put it aside to look at when I’m not working.
You see, Outside of the hours of 9 to 5, the value I associate with my time diminishes drastically. When I’m not in my office, I allow myself to indulge in these things. I mean, you have to enjoy life, right?
But during working hours. I try to use my time most productively.
In some cases, I encounter an indulgence that I would be worse off if I didn’t read or watch it. However, I wouldn’t be worse off right now.
For example. I like the Divi Blog Extra module by Divi Extended. But I only need it for a couple of websites. In most cases, the default Blog module that comes with Divi is good for the sites I build.
So if an update for Divi Blog Extra is released with new features, not only would I benefit from knowing about them, but I might also be worse off by not knowing about them. However, as I said, I only use Divi Blog Extra on a couple of websites, and they’re working fine as is. Whatever new features the module has is of no consequence to me in regards to those sites. And If I’m not currently working on any new sites that require the module, there’s no reason for me to learn about the new features now.
This goes back to one of the first episodes of the podcast titled Just In Time Learning.
Just In Time Learning is a mindset that makes you more productive. The theory behind Just In Time Learning is there’s no point learning something now if you are not going to use it now. Because chances are, by the time you do need to use it, you’ll have forgotten most of it and have to refresh yourself anyway, doubling the time you spent learning it.
Instead, you put it aside, make a note, and go back to it when you need to learn it.
Just In Time Learning became a huge time saver for me. I have tons of tutorials and articles put aside. I use Evernote to keep track of all of them. They're all there, easily searchable for the day I might need to review them. They’re all cases of things that I may need to know. But I’m not worse off by not knowing them now.
So in Divi Blog Extra's case, until I need to use it on another website, there’s no use learning about the new features. My time can be used for better things right now.
Earlier I mentioned coming across an article listing new features in Adobe Illustrator and how, because of my use of Illustrator, I would be worse off if I didn’t read it. However, I can apply this same principle within an article. As I skim the article, I ask myself, “Would I be any worse off if I don’t know about this particular feature?” If it has to do with things such as the Pathfinder tools or the Appearance panel, then yes, because those are things I use all the time. But I can pass on the part about embedding cloud documents from Photoshop because I have no use for that feature. So I wouldn’t be any worse off if I don’t read that part.
Am I getting my point across?
You’d be amazed at how much time you spend throughout your day or week, indulging in things that are not pertinent to your business, or at least not now when your time could be spent on things pertinent to your business.
So ask yourself, “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?” and see how much time you get back. And use it on everything: articles, tutorials, YouTube Videos, even podcasts.
I may be shooting myself in the foot by saying this. But if I put out a podcast episode and you would be no worse off by not listening to it, then don’t. If it doesn’t apply or is of no use to you. Don’t bother.
I’m subscribed to over 60 different podcasts. Do you think I listen to every episode? Of course not. I judge each episode and decide if it’s something I need to listen to. If it isn’t, I delete it. Now I’m hoping you don’t do that with Resourceful Designer. But I’m also hoping I’m not causing you to waste time you could be spending growing your design business.
Now I’m not saying this idea is foolproof. I still get sucked down the rabbit hole now and again. That’s just life. Sometimes, curiosity or that shiny object gets the better of us. But the more disciplined you are, and the more time you can free up from these indulgences, the more time you’ll have to invest in running and growing your design business.
That’s how I can do two podcasts, run two design businesses, partake in the Resourceful Designer Community, and manage all my personal “work-related” projects and more. All while sticking to a 9-5 schedule.
And you can too.
Just ask yourself, “Would I be any worse off if I don’t indulge in this?”
Resource of the week Dynalist.io
Dynalist.io is a great organizational tool for mind mapping that you can access from any platform. Think of it as an organization or a bullet list on steroids and so much more.
For example. If you’re laying out the structure for a new website project. You can create a list with all your main menus, then their sub-pages, then categories, then perhaps tags. And so forth. It sounds pretty basic. It’s one of those things you have to try in order to truly appreciate what it can do.
Working on a social media campaign? Dynalist will help make sure nothing gets overlooked.
I love its easy move feature. No cumbersome copy, find the right place and paste. Moving an item is as simple as selecting the item and then telling it where to move to.
As I said, you have to see it to appreciate it.
Dynalist does have a $7.99 monthly plan. But I don’t think you’ll need that. I use their free plan and it does everything I need it to do.
So if you’re looking for a great free resource to help keep you organized. Check out Dynalist.io.