Table of Contents
- Neglecting time management
- Looking for the best …
- Ignoring (selfless) self-promotion
- Closing thoughts on big mistakes holding you back as a web designer
As a web designer you have a lot to take care of. You have to be good at managing your time and your tools. You also has to find a way to stand out from the crowd. This article will help you get better in all these domains and avoid many commonly made mistakes. Find out how to optimize your time management, managing the tools you use and selfless self-promotion.
8 Big Mistakes Holding You Back as a Web Designer Part 1.
8 Big Mistakes Holding You Back as a Web Designer Part 2.
Neglecting time management
There is at least one thing you, me, your friends and all people around the world share. It is the amount of time we have each and every day. None of us has less and none of us has more. Well, accidents happen from time to time. So, for the sake of this article, let’s assume that you are living in a relatively safe environment and your health is good. This means that each of us has 24 hours every day.
That being said, the only thing that matters, then, is how we spend these hours, how we invest our time. We talked about many mistakes that might hold you back as a web designer through this series. One of the biggest mistakes was not learning and not experimenting. We discussed these two in the first part. Now it is time to say something some of you will probably not like to hear.
It is your responsibility
It is part of your work as a web designer to continually learn new stuff and skills, grow and make progress. And, it is also a responsibility of every web designer to make the time necessary to do engage in these activities. There is no one who will stand behind your back and force you to learn, at least if you are a web designer working as freelancer or you run your own business. In this case, you are your boss and manager.
And, even if you do work for someone else, you can’t rely on that person. There are hundreds of other things she has to take care of. Also, keep in mind that even if you are an employee, it is in your own interest to take the responsibility for your professional and personal growth into your hands. Employers don’t like to constantly watch their employees and force them to learn. Employers usually fire these employees.
So, it doesn’t really matter if you are employed, self-employed or running a business. As a web designer, it is your responsibility to mange your day. This includes the hours you spend in work as well as the hours outside it, dedicated to learning. And, of course, the time you spend on your personal activities. Well, at least if you believe in the work-life balance thing.
Time distribution for beginners
How much should you spend on work and projects and how much on learning and other things? This depends on a number of factors. How good web designer are you? Do you have a lot of work and projects now? Do you have scheduled work projects for the next months in your calendar? Do you have some financial cushion? In other words, can you afford to dedicate more time to learning, in the next month or two?
What about your skills? Are you currently on the cutting-edge of the industry? Or, are you behind and trying to catch up with all those things happening right now? These are some of the questions that might help you figure out usable ratio for dividing your time between work and learning. I know. This questionnaire is basic and far from perfect. Yet, it can be helpful at least for doing your first rough assessment. Then, you can tweak it.
Let’s say you are an advanced web designer with decent skills and knowledge about the latest technologies. Then, you can afford to spend most of your time on work and projects. There is chance that you are continuously learning new stuff while you work because you made experimentation and innovation part of your work. Maybe even your brand. This is probably the best-case scenario. If this is true, congratulations.
What if this is not case? What if you are a beginner, a web designer who just started. Then, consider how much money do you have in reserve and the level of your skills and knowledge. The bigger your financial cushion and the bigger your knowledge gap the more time you should dedicate to learning. This approach might be more expensive since you will have to sacrifice some work. However, it will help you learn and progress faster.
Finally, what if you can afford to accept fewer projects? If you just started as a web designer, you might need the opposite. This is where I was when I started as a web designer. No money, no clients, little to no skills and knowledge. This is a very tough place to begin, but I believe it is also the best. We are often the most productive and learn fastest when our backs are against the wall.
So, take this as an opportunity or a challenge. About the time? Start with 7:3 ratio and see how it works. Meaning, spend 70% of your time on work, projects and prospecting and 30% on learning. Then, adjust as necessary. Sometimes you will have to go for 6:4 and sometimes for 8:2. That is okay. Stay flexible and adaptable.
Tomatoes and the deep work
So far, we talked about time management from long-term view, managing weeks and months. However, time management is also about managing hours, or your daily work. Two best practices or methods for managing daily work are pomodoro and deep work. We already discussed the first in Pomodoro Technique article. And, for deep work, I found this very good summary.
In short, pomodoro is about short sessions of work followed by short rests. Sessions of work usually last about 25 minutes and breaks 5 minutes. One session of work and one break is called pomodoro. When you finish four pomodoros, you take a longer break, anything between 15 and 30 minutes. Then, you repeat this simple process as many times as you want and can handle.
A quick overview of deep work. This method is about working with absolute focus for number of hours without any interruptions. And, I mean any interruption. No phone, no social media, no browsing internet, no games. Nothing else other than the work you want to do. You basically lock yourself away from the world. How long? How long can you handle. It can be anything from one hour to the whole day.
So, if you feel you can handle three hours, go ahead. Try different lengths and find your own sweet spot. Just remember to focus only on your work. Avoid any possible distractions. When something comes to your mind during the session, write it down on your to do list and continue working. Then, when you finish your session, take a break and take care of the things on your to do list. When you work, you work.
Pomodoro and deep work are currently the most popular methods for time management and work. My preferred method is deep work. I started with pomodoro. It was not the right fit. Then, I found deep work and never looked back. Deep work works for me much better. Here, I outlined some problems with pomodoro and reasons why I think deep work is better. Read it, try both and see what works for you.
The other side of time management
So far, we talked about only one side of time management. Our focus was optimizing effectivity and effectiveness of our work. In other words, it was about doing as much meaningful and important work as we can. However, this is not everything. And, it is also not enough if we want to keep our work schedule sustainable. Unsustainable working schedule will sooner or later lead to exhaustion and then burnout.
This is not the path for I would suggest any web designer to follow. Sure, you may and probably get more work done in the beginning. As a result, you may also make more money and build name, or brand, for yourself and your business faster. Still, the time will come and you will hit wall. And, it will be very painful crash. I am talking from my experience as a web designer. It is not worth it. How to make it sustainable?
Fortunately, the answer is very simple. Schedule regular breaks. Then, include these breaks in your schedule. This is important. Don’t try to just remember that you will take a break after specific amount of time you spent working. Instead, you have to create some type of notification, something that will remind you about the fact that it is time to take a break. And, this notification has to be uncompromising.
In the text above, we talked about two interesting tested approaches for doing productive work. Both were based on amount of time you spend working and time you spend resting. One was the pomodoro technique and the other was deep work. By now, you know the main differences and how to use both of these techniques. So, now, it is time for a warning. It is simple. Don’t ignore the breaks.
Designed with sustainability in mind
Whether you choose pomodoro or deep work, follow the methodology diligently. Breaks are one reason why these methods work, and why they work so well. These methods are designed in a specific way, with specific numbers of sessions, lengths of work as well as lengths of rest. You can think about or imagine it as a tripod. All three legs are necessary for perfect stability and flawless function.
If you decide to take one leg away, tripod will collapse. It may not collapse immediately, but it will definitely. These methods are the same. You have to use them as they are. Sure, you may tweak some part here and there so it fits your needs. However, don’t try to remove or ignore any part. Engage in sessions of work and sessions of rest, and limit the number of sessions per day to what you can handle.
Part of what holds you back as a web designer, and a lot of others, is sometimes trying to do too much. This is something you probably don’t want to hear. At least I didn’t want to hear when I started as a web designer. However, it is the truth. In order to make progress, in anything and anywhere, we have to stretch ourselves beyond our current limits. Then, we also have to take the time for recovery. Only then will we grow.
Looking for the best …
Another thing that might be holding you back as a web designer is constantly trying to find what is the best. There are dozens of tools a web designer can choose from. And, this number is getting higher almost every month. You can’t keep up with all these tools and also master them all. That is neither sustainable nor productive. Sure try and experiment with different tools so you can find the right fit for you.
However, don’t change your choice every time something new is released. Choose one tool you like and invest your time and energy in mastering it. This is the key to doing productive work, mastering one or few tools you use every day. It is not about barely knowing how to use dozens of them. A web designer who achieved true mastery with Photoshop, XD, Sketch, Figma, Affinity, Gimp, InkScape, Illustrator, Supernova, etc. will always beat a web designer who is constantly switching to the new hot thing.
The same or similar principle applies to languages, technologies and just everything else. Try different languages and technologies. Find the one you like and master it. Learn everything you can about it. Then, only when you become highly proficient in it, try something else. Remember, it is better to be a Jack of many trades and master of one than Jack of all trades and master of none. True mastery is what matters.
Ignoring (selfless) self-promotion
This is the mistake you can make as a web designer. You ignore self-promotion. For some reason, many people think that doing great work is all it takes to stand out, build a name, brand, business. This is false assumption. This is not how the world works. Reality works differently. If you want to stand out, yes, you have to do great work. However, you also has to share your work with the world.
This is why there are so many web designers who never gained significant recognition, even though they are really good. Understand that your skills alone are not enough. World also has to know you have these skills. World has to know you are so good no one can or should ignore you. How do you think anyone can recognize how good you are if it is hard or even impossible to find any example of your work?
However, don’t make the mistake many web designers do. Don’t think about self-promotion in the terms of spamming, bothering, boasting, shouting, etc. Instead think about self-promotion rather as selfless self-promotion. What does it mean? This means sharing your ideas, thoughts and opinions with others through meaningful and intelligent conversations. It can also mean writing them down and sharing them as blog articles.
Another way is making contributions and becoming part of the community. You can do this, again, through blogging, posting tips and answers on forums, engaging in chat rooms, attending events and helping other web designers. Why just attend? You can also host your own events and create new communities of people passionate about web design and technologies. Also, who says that self-promotion is all about you?
A great and selfless way to promote yourself is by helping others promote their work. There is a lot of space on the internet for everyone. So, when you find something you like, share it with the world. And, get in touch with author. Use this to create new meaningful and interesting connections and relationships. You never how many interesting people you can meet this way.
Whatever way you choose, please remember that it is not all about you. It is about how you can help the community, how you can be useful.
Closing thoughts on big mistakes holding you back as a web designer
This is it. Now you know about the 8 big mistakes that might be holding you back as a web designer. And, I hope hat you also know how to either avoid these mistakes or fix them immediately. Remember that just knowing is never enough. You also have to apply what you’ve learned. Otherwise, it will have no effect and everything was a waste of your time and energy. So, now go and apply.
Do you have any questions, recommendations, thoughts, advice or tip you would like to share with other readers of this blog, and me? Great! Please share it in a comment. Or, if you want to keep things more "private", feel free to contact me on twitter or send me a mail. I would love to hear from you.
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