Web Worker Daily had an interesting post on Using Your Down Time Effectively. I don’t remember the last time I had downtime. Here’s the ways I turn my down time into up time.
1. Documentation and Clean up
Write documentation for your previous project. Write down the steps you took to complete it (if they’re complex) in case you need to redo it. Get rid of old versions of documentation and coding. Get rid of or file the old paperwork.
2. Review your Previous Project
See what went right and wrong. Learn from it. Improve your process or knowledge. This is like an accomplishment review for a project.
3. Improve Processes
Take the opportunity to improve processes. Think about what can be done better. What takes too long? What processes are error prone? Improve it.
4. Keep Learning
Is there a skill that will make you more marketable? more productive? Is there a certification that can make you stand out? There’s always something new to learn: learn more about the tools you use. Learn to type faster. Learn about personal finance.
5. Do Your “Somedays”
Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t have the time to do this now, but I want to do this someday”? Your someday has arrived. Start planning your downtime in advance- while you’re working. If you come up with an idea put it on your “someday/maybe” list. (This is “Getting Things Done”(GTD) language for a list of things you may get to in the future). During down time review this list. See which projects will help you most and start working on it.
6. Follow up
Check in on your previous completed projects. Make sure that the results are being used correctly. There may be opportunities for improvement. Your “customer” will be impressed by your dedication quality.
7. Start Building a Machine
When you build a machine you take your downtime to a new level (super-up-time?). When you build a machine you create a long term system. For example if you are a web designer and bid for projects frequently, create a “job making machine”. Building a machine will get you more jobs with less effort. Your machine could include a standard introductory letter, sample web sites by category, a list of testimonials, an up to date web site, follow up letters, sample proposals by target market. You get the idea. Put together everything you need to bid on a project so that it takes you little time to place a bid.
Don’t just start this machine randomly. Launch one step at a time (see layering) e.g. start with one follow up letter at a time. This way if you get interrupted (by a new project) you can take advange of your previous successes that you’ve already accomplished. Then at the next down time you know exactly where you left off.
Using these seven techniques you can eliminate downtime and maximize your efforts.
When was the last time you had downtime? What did you do?