In this article I want to talk about how to leverage the two main resources you have as a web designer: your time and your energy. You can learn how to use these resources to get more work done, be more profitable in the time you do spend, and avoid the drawbacks of burnout and overwhelm that often plague us.
Before we get started here, if you’d like to learn more and gain access to a community of like-minded people all working to build their business, come visit us at secretweapon.club and check out all the resources I have available there.
Okay, let’s get started. Most businesses have four main resources to leverage: time, energy, money, and people. However, when you’re in a service-based business, especially when it’s just you, you really only have time and energy to leverage consistently.
You’re generally not in a place to outsource a lot of work. So leveraging people is out. You may also not have a lot of extra profit in your projects either, so leveraging money is likely not an option either.
So let’s take a look at time and energy. I’ve discovered a few ways to properly leverage these over the years, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.
There are tons of resources about time management out there, and for good reason. It’s a super important topic that goes hand in hand with productivity. We’re always trying to get the most out of our time so that we can be more productive.
A lot of the advice out there works, some of it doesn’t, and a lot of it needs to be tweaked to suit our own personalities and styles of working. As I’ve gone through this process of focusing on leveraging my own time, I found two things that really worked for me to help me get the most out of my own time.
The first is being brutally restrictive with my schedule. It’s kind of funny—when people see my Google calendar, they just have to laugh. It’s always completely full, there’s no space in there. And I’ve done that on purpose, because it actually allows me more freedom. I’ve scheduled out everything in my life. That might seem like a bit of a disconnect, so let’s take a closer look.
I’ve scheduled out my sleep time, my family time, my self care. I schedule any sort of meetings, and any sort of work. Everything is laid out in my schedule exactly how I know I need it to be. At any given moment of any day, I know what I should be focusing on.
When it comes to client work, I don’t really enter the specific task or project I’m working on each day, but I do have several blocks of time each day that are assigned to whatever projects I’m working on that fall into a certain category of work.
When you live your life by your schedule, you’ll be much better able to answer with a solid yes or no to anything new coming your way. It really helps combat shiny object syndrome. Even when you’re tempted by a project or opportunity, your calendar will tell you definitively whether you have the time. It’ll really help you stay on task and give you the ability to see what’s happening.
When I look at my schedule and see all these different blocks of time, I see the times I’ve blocked off for the things that are important to me. Family time, morning meditation, relaxing with a book… it’s all there.
When someone else sees my calendar they may think “oh my god you have so much to do today!” but the reality is that it’s freeing, because I know I have made time in my day for all of the things that are important to me.
Work tasks get completed during those specific work time blocks, personal activities have their time, and I feel so much more prepared to handle each day.
The second technique I use to leverage my time the best is to block out sections of time for specific tasks. I’m not super granular with my schedule. You won’t see something that looks like “work on client project X is on Tuesday at 9:00 AM.” What I do is have blocks of time carved out for types of tasks. The first work block in the morning is for content creation. That’s when I do my writing, because I find that I’m more productive when I write first thing in the morning.
On Mondays, I block off a lot of time just to play catch up on emails and other tiny little administrative tasks, those little things that take five or ten minutes here and there. Grouping them together and getting a bunch of them done on Monday feels more productive than having them constantly interrupting my other workflows.
Then on Tuesday I book as many of my calls as I can on that day, and I also record my podcast. So you can see how time blocking in this manner gives you some freedom in terms of what specifically you’ll be doing, but it lets you group similar tasks together.
This way, you’re not losing that time to context switching. You’re not jumping from writing to designing to coding in a given time period. Instead, you’re able to stay focused in one mode so that you’re not bouncing all over the place.
Those two techniques are ones that have really helped me immensely to leverage my time effectively when working both in my business and on all my client projects.
If you want to learn about these topics in a lot more depth, come on over to secretweapon.club, where you can get a free audiobook version of my book, which has a lot more detail about all the ways you can build your business and improve your productivity.
The second resource you have to leverage as a web designer is your energy. Unlike time, energy is far more renewable, but it needs to be consistently maintained. You wake up every morning with the same amount of time, but not the same amount of energy. Energy is dependent on so many factors.
I fall short here a lot. Even though I know better, I often have trouble maintaining my energy, and that affects everything: my business, my family, and my whole life.
Essentially, it comes down to self care. I’ve been struggling with my own energy levels because I chose for the last couple of weeks to not stick to my sleep schedule and exercise schedule because it’s been bitterly cold up here in Edmonton. It was around -40 all week. We couldn’t go out for dog walks, we had to stay inside, and I didn’t replace those missing walks with other activities. That means I ended up with too much work and not enough play.
When ‘m needing to focus on refilling that energy tank, it’s about nutrition, downtime, extracurricular activities and hobbies. It’s about family time and sleep. Whether it’s time out in nature or a bubble bath and a glass of wine, whatever refills your tank is important. You deserve to focus on yourself and keeping your batteries charged.
So often, we put ourselves last. We focus on our clients, our business, our families, and we don’t save any energy and time for ourselves. We’re left running on empty.
When I was growing up, my boyfriend’s dad had a habit of filling up his gas tank when it reached the halfway mark. I used to wonder why, and he’d always say, “you’re always filling your tank when it reaches a certain point anyway, right? You have that level that you won’t go under. For most people it’s a quarter tank or an eighth of a tank, or when the light comes on. I just chose that the threshold for me is half a tank. I never have to worry about running out of gas, because I always have at least half a tank.”
At the time, I was young, and I didn’t realize how impactful that would be. Now I realize that there’s a lot of wisdom in that mentality. It’s useful not just for keeping your car’s gas tank full, but also for keeping your own energy at a reasonable level.
When we reset our threshold for recharging so that we’re actually at halfway, not running ourselves dry, we can start avoiding the burnout and overwhelm that happens when we don’t take the time to replenish our energy levels.
So how do you actually manage your energy?
I find that it’s easiest to focus on one self-care change at a time. When we try to change all the things at once, we end up sticking with none of them. When we choose one thing at a time, then we’re going to set ourselves up for success rather than failure.
Pick one area to focus on. Maybe it’s your sleep, or eating habits, or exercise.
Focus on that one thing for a while, at least three or four weeks. Do that one thing really well, and let it become part of your routine. Once you find yourself not having to think about it much, you can move on to the next one.
Right now, the biggest problem factor for me has always been sleep. When I don’t get a good seven and a half hours of sleep each night, coupled with a proper wind down period, I’m running on a deficit the next day. I can’t just shut the laptop and then hop into bed. I need about an hour buffer where I get to read a book, wash my face, do all that self-care fun stuff. If I don’t get that, I’m basically a waste of space the next day.
The main idea here is that any sort of self-care is going to help you leverage your energy levels. It’ll give you better focus for when you’re working on client work, and it will help your overall productivity during the day. And that’s really key. When we ignore those energy levels, we get things like overwhelm and burnout, and the repercussions of that filter through to everything.
Bringing it all together
As a service provider, especially a web designer, running your own business you’re restricted in the types of resources you have available to leverage. Until you get to the point where you’re profitable enough to outsource, people and money aren’t available to you, leaving you with your time and your energy.
The two main techniques that have worked really well for me are micromanaging my schedule and grouping similar tasks in blocks of time.
First, I schedule everything: work, breaks, family time, and everything else so that I don’t miss out on anything important. This let me know definitively if I can fit in something else. I’m very protective of my schedule and let it tell me where I am at any given point in time.
The second technique is to use blocks of times for similar tasks. All my writing goes in one block, all my design in another, one for coding, one for admin, and so on. This helps reduce context switching and allows me the flexibility to both schedule these blocks of time in my calendar but be a little bit more open and what exactly you’re working on at the time as long as it fits that specific type of work.
Then you have your energy, and leveraging this effectively comes down to self care. You can choose not to ever work on an empty tank. Set your new empty point as halfway, and then begin keeping yourself topped up by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and making time for your family, your hobbies, and anything else that helps keep you feeling refreshed and energized.
Here’s the key point to remember: when you’re not properly leveraging the resources you have, time and energy, it’s going to cost you in the resources you don’t have, which is money and people.
If I’m not productive and I don’t have enough energy, I actually have less leverage with people in my life, which is my family: I’m crankier with them. I don’t have enough time to spend with them. And with money, if I get sick, it costs me money, either in actual costs to get better, or losses from not working.
Finding the balance of your resources and being aware of how they work in your business is vital if you want to have a profitable and sustainable business.
If you want to learn more about this and many other topics related to building your web design business, come join us at secretweapon.club. You’ll have access to a ton of freebies, and a community of people just like you.