Questions and answers, but mainly questions.

stuff to learn & time to burn … or not.

Last night, driving home from slingin’ coffee, I got really excited about the website I’m working on for Love A Child. I’ve been trying to force a design for a couple weeks that just isn’t right for our organization. Last night I caught a vision for something much better. At 11:00 pm, caffeine coursing through my veins, I was telling Kristin all about it.

“This is the career for you,” she said. “This is right where you should be.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked as I hung up my jacket.
“Because you can afford to be indecisive for a while – in fact, it’s a good thing. You’re always like. ‘I’m doing this with my life – no wait, I’m going to do this. Or … maybe I’ll do this other thing instead.’ Your job right now kind of requires you to keep questioning what you’re doing.” (This is paraphrased – Kristin was actually much less wordy.)

deano the clownSo anyway – I’m stoked about my new idea. Here’s my problem: I’m horrible with time management (cue blog). In the past I’ve gotten along all right despite my daydreaming, unbridled web-surfing, and debilitating adversity to multi-tasking. Why is this becoming an issue now? A little background:
Hired on here a few months ago as a graphic designer, I was told that – eventually – we would want to bring our website in-house and that they’d pay for my learning curve (because I told them in my interview I’d never touched web design before). This was all true – which is awesome because I’m getting payed handsomely to learn a very valuable skill. What wasn’t so clear was that “eventually” bringing our site in-house really meant “ideally by February ’06.”

Furthermore – I’m a perfectionist, or at least I really, really try to be. What I mean is, though I’m not meticulous, I do like to do good work. Since I’m the only web designer here, this is going to mean learning a lot more than just graphics for the web. Tackling all of this for the first time, my studying is taking a lot of tangents (and coffee breaks). I’ve got a fairly decent handle on CSS and XHTML. Now, while continuing to enhance those skills, I’m wanting to learn PHP, Javascripting, and get better in Flash. Does anyone have any suggestions on 1) developing better time management skills and/or 2) streamlining my flow of learning in these areas (e.g. CSS – PHP – Java – Flash – etc.)?

The good news is I’m really motivated to learn and have covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. The bad news is I’m really motivated because I’m very caffienated and coffee renders me both wildly imaginative and mournfully unproductive (once again – I’m still writing this blog instead of learning or actually making something). I’m afraid to quit caffeine because, while I may get more done, I’m worried my work will be mediocre. It makes me think I ought to pray for a natural spirit of excitement tempered with some focus/sobriety.
I guess I’m really juiced right now because I read some articles on A List Apart that I’d been looking for for a while. I also stumbled on another really helpful site that answered some technique conundrums I’ve been facing concerning rounded edges and CSS.

Seriously though – ANY advice is appreciated. Unless you just tell me to make a list. I need intense help because all previous attempts to actually make a list and then both maintain it and keep it handy have fallen short of success.


11 responses

  1. danielle

    ok, seriously, you need to talk to derek about this. he has pretty much mastered th art of time management…or at least he pretends that he has. i remember when i first started working with him, he had us do all sorts of crazy time management worksheet calendar things. he also handed us this effectiveness thing the other day, which might be a good motivator. email/call him.

    one thing i’m starting is a hu-age dry erase wall calendar with bix boxes for each day of the month, and i’m going to write deadlines for projects wherever they may fall (i’m also color-coding them, but that’s the organized freak in me). i’m a visual person, and i think you are too, and it helps to actually SEE what’s coming at you (me).

    as for learning all this stuff, i don’t know what to tell you. i’m actually very bad at wanting to learn things like this. i would rather hire someone who can do it more efficiently (i.e. rachel). i’m trying to learn bits at a time. i can’t read books on these things, i just need to spend time trying and failing. and that is NOT the best use of my time. :-/

    December 16, 2005 at 12:50 pm

  2. danielle

    sorry about the typos. ugh.

    December 16, 2005 at 12:50 pm

  3. Rachel

    learning is all about doing – i agree. but with time management, as depressing and cop-outish as it may seem, i think anyone in a design related field who spends mondo time at the computer and who is always web-surfing for ideas or just for fun, is destined to have a significant amount of time wasting that happens. i find that without breaks and outside communication (i.e., blogs, email, IM) i am actually less creative and much more fidgety. i’m not saying this is the best way to work, but i’ve sort of accepted it as part of my work-style. however, there is a point that it gets too much and you HAVE to get on the ball.

    my newest time management technique has been to utilize the programs on my computer to remind me to keep on task. i have a thing called a “task manager” in my microsoft entourage program (mac version of outlook) and when someone asks me to do something, i immediately enter it in. this way if i start to lag i can always go back to the list and see where i’m at. you can also easily delete and adapt these lists (rather than writing them out and crossing out/erasing/scribbling) and you can “check mark” them finished and they will get a line through them. you can also set reminders for yourself to go off throughout the day. these are SO helpful for me, especially when i’m busy to keep me on task with what i’m supposed to be doing. it has been a big help for me.

    and seriously – i’ve gotten through web design without knowing anything about CSS styles or rounded corners. i just format the text and i use photoshop to make rounded corner images. i find it just as easy and it takes about the same amount of time.

    rounded corners are so hot right now.

    December 16, 2005 at 1:59 pm

  4. danielle: Thanks a ton. I will definitely get a hold of Derek.

    Rachel: I’ll mess around in outlook and see if I can figure out the task manager. I also agree completely about breaks and outside communication. I’m in an office all by myself and don’t really see anyone all day. It’s difficult to manage myself. What ends up happening is I either surf the web all day, or work like a mad man all day and don’t eat or drink anything or possibly even go to the bathroom. tmi?

    You’ve certainly manged to pull off designing really well. Grace’s site is great and it looks like yours is coming along well too. I HIGHLY recommend learning CSS. At first, it was a bit of a feat to get my head around it – but it makes web design SO much faster.

    December 16, 2005 at 2:18 pm

  5. danielle

    rounded corners are so hot right now. we totally started it.

    December 16, 2005 at 6:04 pm

  6. Matt, kick the caffiene after three pm, and go to BED! Being motivated because you are rested is way better than an artificial high. Your wife and daughter will thank you for it as well. I don’t care how silly you think that is, but it is the best thing you can do. No matter what is on your plate, put it aside and crawl into bed with your lovely wife at a reasonable hour. There you have taken the first step towards time management. And learned a little better how to say NO to something so you can say yes to something natural and needed. Yes, this is the deeply imbedded mom in me talking. It will change you. I promise. Go to bed.

    December 17, 2005 at 1:47 am

  7. Rachel

    i know… the adobe-macromedia merger is pretty much awesome. i doubt i’ll be able to get the programs though – they are so expensive and we are a small business. the upgrades happen too often for normal people to keep up!!!

    December 20, 2005 at 9:26 am

  8. What I’ve found is that the first week of being off caffeine sucks b/c I have no energy and no reason to wake up. But after about a week I realize that caffeine only works when I use it sparingly and once I get to the point that quitting causes headaches, caffeine no longer spikes me up, rather it simply allows me to function. So I think that you should quit caffiene from time to time. But who cares. It’s caffiene. It’s not like you are doing black tar heroine or something right?

    December 21, 2005 at 1:37 am

  9. Rachel

    i have to say – i agree with Sember on the caffeine thing. the most cafeeine i drink is a cup of tea a couple time a week and some soda occasionally. i use cold water in the morning to wake me up and make sure i eat a healthy breakfast of cereal with low-fat milk. this mostly always keeps me going. i’ve never needed coffee! (plus, don’t shoot me, i really hate it)

    December 21, 2005 at 9:16 am

  10. Dutch

    I agree with Sember. Your mind will be rested and better able to be creative. Also, the time spent with Kristen will pay huge dividends in ways that may not be apparent at the onset.

    Let us know how it goes…

    December 21, 2005 at 10:25 am

  11. rich

    no advice, but i laughed out loud when i read “I’m a perfectionist, or at least I really, really try to be” :O)

    December 29, 2005 at 5:08 pm

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