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How to Learn Web Design in Your Free Time

Chris Misterek

I talk to people almost every day now who tell me they’d love to learn web design they just don’t have enough time!

I get it. Life is busy. BUT….(you knew it was coming)

You probably have more time than you think you do.

I remember the season of life when I didn’t have any kids. It’s been 11 years at the time of this blog post.

For some reason, even though I had 1/4 of the responsibilities I do now, I felt like I didn’t have enough time to get everything done that I needed to.

Then I had my oldest, Ashlynn.

That’s her on the first day of school, this year 🙂

After I had her I wondered why I thought I was so busy before I had kids.

Then I had my second daughter, Annabelle. And, I wondered why I thought I was so busy with just 1 kid.

Now, I’m months away from having my 4th! Can I get a “What what!” for the first boy in the family?

The point is that whatever season of life you’re in you have more time than you think you do. Please, please, please don’t keep yourself from learning web design because you’re too busy. BECAUSE YOU AREN’T.

Your future is too important to put on hold because you can’t find time to grow.

Okay, enough preaching, here are some practical things I’ve found that have helped me learn web design quickly and in my free time.

  1. Be Intentional About Your Schedule

    Writing out your schedule is one of the best things I learned when I was younger.

    You can be as detailed or as general as you want. The point is just put something down.

    Every day at work before I begin, I create a google calendar where I break up my day into different tasks. I’ve been doing this for years.

    It helps me stay intentional about my time and keeps me focused.

    Here’s a secret. It’s not always super detailed and I don’t always stick to it.

    That’s not the point. The point is I have something that guides my day so that I don’t waste it doing things I don’t want to be doing.

    Biologically, we are genetically bent to avoid hard tasks. Along the evolutionary path, our genes made survival the highest priority.

    And, the more energy you burn doing things that are tough the more you don’t have to survive or avoid that dinosaur that’s about to jump out from behind the bush.

    The bottom line, we are naturally more drawn to tasks we are familiar with that use less energy to accomplish.

    So, knowing that, you have to make sure you’re intentional about the things you set up to do during the day.

  2. Utilize Idle Time

    Every one of us has moments in our day when we aren’t doing anything. And, no I’m not talking about when you’re sleeping.

    Unless you work from home, you have a commute to and from your work. At minimal you have time when mother nature calls and you have to excuse yourself to take care of business.

    During those times don’t mindlessly wander through Facebook. USE IT PURPOSEFULLY.

    Have a book to read. Have a course ready in your web browser or app that you can go to right away. Queue up whatever it is that you’re wanting to focus on so you don’t have to think too much. You just click a button and boom, you’re learning.

    My favorite time to learn is when I’m on the treadmill.

    I feel like I’m being doubley productive. I usually have an Udemy course going or a podcast where I’m learning something new.

    Cal Newport talks about this concept in his book “Deep Work.” I’d highly suggest the read.

  3. Put Other Things on Hold

    I talked to a guy once that really wanted to finish this project he’d been dreaming of but just didn’t have the time to do it.

    When I dug a little deeper it turned out that not having the time meant he worked out for an hour a day and read for another hour.

    AKA he had two hours a day that he was unwilling to put on hold to accomplish his dreams.

    Listen, I’m all about living a healthy lifestyle. You should be taking care of yourself and making space for things that keep you sane.

    BUT, any time you’re trying to forge a path with something new you’re going to have to push pause on some other things.

    The key is you don’t have to do it forever. In fact, if you are constantly finding yourself in a pattern of not taking care of yourself because of all the “projects” you’ve got going, you probably have some unhealthy mindsets you need to address.

    But, I’m pretty sure most of us are on the other end of the spectrum. We avoid putting the things we do to relax on hold so that we can make some headway in life.

  4. Night Owl vs. Early Bird

    So many people talk about how the most successful people get up at 3:30 am. I think that’s bogus.

    In fact, there are more and more studies coming out to disprove that theory.

    A while ago, I always felt like I was failing because I’d sleep in until about 8am. So, I’d make my schedule to get up at 5am. I’d inevitably fail and my whole day would be thrown off.

    Plus I felt a pretty hefty amount of guilt.

    Then, I decided to stop fighting my body’s natural rhythm. Rather than trying to get up at 5am, I’d stay up until 2am.

    The key is that I would make sure I was doing something productive until that time.

    Truthfully, it is much easier to do things that are not productive when you’re tired. The later it gets the harder it is to stay focused and not go on a Netflix binger.

    So, the problem isn’t really about whether you stay up late or wake up early. The problem is having the self-discipline to stay focused no matter what time of the day works best for your body.

    When I was freelancing, I didn’t want my projects to get in the way of my time with my kiddos. I was a single dad at the time.

    So, work hours started when they went to sleep at 8:30. I’d work until about 1 or 2 in the morning, wake up at 7:30, take them to school and then head to my full-time job. I did this for 5 years building my business and knowledge of web design.

  5. Remove Distractions

    The amount of time it takes to get work done comes down to how often we allow ourselves to be distracted.

    I’m not great at this. BUT, when I know I have tight deadlines I can turn it on and crank out some work.

    When those deadlines come, I turn the TV off. I silence all notifications and I get to work.

    Learning to work undistracted is becoming a lost art these days. BUT, it’s so important to cultivate when you’re learning web design.

    In fact, it’s a really fun thing when you get into a “flow.” A “flow” is when you feel like you’re firing on all cylinders.

    You’re at the peak of your efficiency and time just seems to be flying by.

    This kind of work takes effort.

    So, here are some tips for working without distraction:

    First, set up your environment.

    It’s harder to pay attention when you’re distracted by the dirty dishes or the clothes left on the dryer.

    So, take a break and do that thing that keeps bugging you. BUT, don’t let it keep you from coming back.

    Put that phone in another room. There are studies that say it’s not enough just to turn the phone off. You actually have to put the phone in a completely different room.

    Work in 25-minute intervals. This is called the Pomodoro Technique.

    It was developed by a software designer named Francesco Cirillo. When he was studying at school he would take his mom’s kitchen timer shaped like a tomato and set it for 25 minutes.

    When the timer went off he would take a quick break to clear his mind and then come right back to it.

    He found he could work longer and stay more focused by doing it this way.

    There are plenty of resources out there to help you learn how to stay super focused for longer.

    It’s always good to make sure you’re not allowing yourself to fall into the distraction traps.

  6. Naps are Your Friend

    When I was staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning by noon the same day I was done. More than done, really.

    That’s when I learned the power of a cat nap.

    One of my favorite online mentors, Michael Hyatt, talks about how he takes a 20 – 30 minute nap every day.

    There’s all sorts of research that shows why this is so good. And, a lot of workplaces are falling suit with the new findings by offering siesta rooms for their employees.

    Workers who nap are more productive and happier overall.

    I love naps. BUT, there are a few things you have to do to make sure they actually help you.

    First, you have to make sure you don’t sleep more than 20 – 30 minutes.

    There’s a lot of research being done about sleep. From everything I’ve read, there’s still not a lot of really solid data about how to get better sleep or even WHY we need sleep.

    But, one of the more commonly held beliefs is that we need a certain amount of REM sleep to keep healthy. REM sleep is really deep sleep.

    It’s the sleep where you dream and your eyes move around really quickly behind your eyelids. Thus, REM = Rapid Eye Movement.

    If you allow yourself to sleep too long, your body starts a slow descent into REM sleep. This is the toughest sleep to wake up from.

    They say that it takes the same amount of time to get out of REM sleep that it took to get you there.

    So, that’s why if you sleep too long in your naps it will actually be less beneficial for you.

    So, make sure that you set a timer and be disciplined enough to get up once it goes off.

    I like Mel Robbin’s countdown rule. The idea is that when you’ve got something that you know you should do but you really don’t want to try counting down from 5 seconds like a blast off of sorts.

    When that 5 seconds is over launch into the rest of your day.

    Obviously, there are other ways to hack the snooze button. BUT, it’s doable. And, trust me, the nap is worth the effort to figure it out.

  7. Watch Your Inner Critic

    No, this isn’t a rant on the power of positive thinking. The self-esteem movement has been largely proved false.

    But, something that is very real is your inner critic. It’s estimated that we have somewhere between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.

    Of those thoughts about 80% are negative.

    Think about that!

    I know personally when I don’t reach a goal or I get sidetracked I spend a good deal of time just trying to muster up the strength to get back on the wagon.

    So, it’s important to learn how to handle the little mini-failures that we all face every day.

    It’s okay that you fail at some of your own personal goals. In fact, it’s a good sign that you’re pushing yourself.

    But, don’t look at those failures as a statement about who you are and what your value is.

    See them for what they are: a learning experience. And, then make an adjustment and move on.

    This technique is a form of what’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

    In general, what you’re doing is pausing your thoughts assessing them and speaking truth to them.

    This method, unlike the self-esteem movement, has been proven to be incredibly helpful.

    The whole point is to be careful of the weight you put on not sticking to a schedule or getting distracted. Don’t ignore those moments and throw yourself a little mini self-esteem party.

    Acknowledge them for what they are, make the adjustment and keep going.

    Growth takes effort. Effort that you aren’t naturally inclined to offer.

    If you find yourself having a hard time get past a certain point when you’re learning web design you’re not lazy or dumb!

    You’re very normal. Just keep going. Make adjustments and don’t give up.

You can do this. Someone once told me that you have all the time you need to accomplish the things that you need to.

I think that’s absolutely true. The key is making sure you’re intentional and taking advantage of every moment you’ve got.

Now it’s your turn! What things have you found help you stay on task and get more done with less time?

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