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Don't waste time when you're not busy.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have so much design work that you don’t have time during your work day for anything else?

Come to think of it; I don’t know if I’d like that. I enjoy a bit of downtime now and then, and I’m sure you do too. Downtime, when your brain isn’t working at one hundred per cent concentrating on some important task or churning away pumping out those creative juices.

You need time to give your brain a rest. It’s that old proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

Downtime is good. But downtime doesn’t have to be wasted time.

Downtime can be put to good use and become productive time, benefiting your business while still giving your mind a break. The next time you feel that pull from the rabbit hole that is YouTube or Facebook, I want you to think of productive things you could be doing instead. To help you, I’m going to share ten productive things you can do when you’re not busy.

Let me first state; If you are not busy because you don’t have any projects to work on, then you should ignore this list and concentrate your time on client acquisition. Your first concern as a business owner is to find work that pays the bills. If you can’t pay the bills, then you won’t have a business for long.

What I’m talking about here are those non-busy times between projects. Those times when you complete something 30 minutes before lunch and don’t want to start a new project on an empty stomach. Or Friday afternoons when you know you should be working, but it’s the end of the week, and the design spirit isn't in you.

Instead of wasting those moments doing something mundane and useless, try doing something productive with that time such as:

1) Organise your bookmarks.

If you’re like me, you bookmark a lot of websites that at the moment, seem important, but over time, become redundant. And again, like me, you probably rarely take the time to clean our or organise those bookmarks. Downtime is the perfect time to look over your bookmarks and clean them up.

2) Clean out your email.

Those times when you are not busy are the perfect times to look through your email inbox and delete unnecessary messages. You know the ones, the emails you put aside to look at later that you know you'll never read. Or funny jokes from friends that you'll never pass on.

If your email client allows them, use smart mailboxes to sift through your email and delete anything that is no longer needed.

This downtime is also the perfect opportunity to review your email subscriptions and determine which ones are worth keeping and which ones you should unsubscribe.

3) Watch a tutorial.

I’m sure there are things you would like to know but never find the time to learn. If you’re going to immerse yourself in YouTube, why not make it a learning experience? Find tutorials and training videos that will benefit your business.

If you're a proponent of Just In Time Learning look for interesting video tutorials and put them aside for viewing in the future.

4) Read business articles and books.

Running your own design business means you are not only a designer but a business owner. And being a business owner is not something they teach in school. Use your spare time to brush up on your business skills. Thirty minutes is plenty of time to read an article or a chapter in a book. You’ll be expanding your knowledge and benefiting your business.

5) Organise your office.

I don’t know any business owner that doesn’t have something in their office that needs organising. Most likely it’s that “catch-all” place. In my case, it’s the second drawer on my desk. It’s the place I put things when I don’t know where to put them. It’s my catch-all drawer.

If you have a drawer or a place like that in your office, why not use your 15-30 minutes of downtime to sift through it and start organising its contents.

6) Research potential new clients.

If you don’t feel like doing something physical such as organising a drawer, why not spend some time researching potential new clients? I’m not talking about client outreach, although if you have the time, then why not do some. I’m talking about research into who could be the right person to reach out to when you have more time.

Try a local search for new businesses and start a list of people you may want to contact when you do start your outreach.

7) Organise your computer files.

Is your computer is a mess? My desktop alone is covered with over a hundred files and folders, and my Downloads folder currently contains 1931 files. Both are in desperate need of some cleanup. If you are in a similar situation, why not take the time while you are not busy and organise your fonts, client projects, downloads, applications, stock images, etc. Downtime is the perfect time to do some computer file management.

8) Update your portfolio and website.

If you’re trying to attract new clients, you need to make sure your touch points are in order. A crucial touch point is your website, particularly your portfolio. Take some time to review it and see if it needs updating. While you're at it, look over the rest of your website to see if any other pages need updating. Check out this past podcast episode on creating the perfect About Page.

9) Update your software.

Isn’t it annoying when you’re in the middle of a project, and all of a sudden your software starts updating? Why not take the time between projects to check if any of your software has updates available.

10) Update your social media profiles.

Most people set up their social media profiles when they first open their account and then never look at them again. Does that sound like you? Take a few minutes to look at your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or whatever social networks you frequent. Make sure all your information, including your profile photo, is current and creates the best impression of you.

Bonus Tip: Reboot your computer.

Computers are finicky instruments, and as such, can develop glitches and problems over time. What’s the tried and true #1 remedy for any problem with an electronic device? You got it, Turn it off and on again.

Reboot your computer, your external hard drives, your internet router, even your tablet and phone. You have the time after all, so why not refresh your devices and give them a clean slate for the next time you use them.

Use your downtime productively

If you use your downtime, the time you’re not busy to do productive tasks instead of wasting your time watching movie trailers or cat videos on YouTube, you’ll be benefiting yourself and your business.

Plus you’ll get a little boost of endorphins that will make you feel good about how you are spending your time, even if your not spending that time making money doing design work.

What productive things do you do when you're not busy?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer Community

The Resourceful Designer Community is an active community of designers with a common goal, a goal of improving and growing their design business.

The community is for designers of any levels. Current members include designers just starting their business, members with agency experience, members with knowledge of web design and print design, all willing to share what they know.

The Community interacts via a private and very active Slack group, with new conversations happening every day.

There are also regular video meetings. These video chats are where the magic happens. By seeing each other’s faces and interacting directly with each other, members become closer and more invested in what each of their fellow members is doing with their business. If a member can’t make the live video chats, they can view the recording which is archived for members to watch at their convenience.

If have your own design business or are thinking of starting one, regardless of your skills as a designer, and you are looking for a tight-knit group of designers to help you by being mentors, confidants and friends, then you need to be part of the Resourceful Designer Community.


Help nominate Resourceful Designer for the 2020 Podcast Awards.

Podcast Awards

If you enjoy the Resourceful Designer podcast, please help nominate it for a 2020 People's Choice Podcast Award. Once on the site click the line that reads "CLICK ME TO NOMINATE MY FAVORITE PODCASTS". Then select Resourceful Designer in both the Arts and the Education categories. Feel free to chose your favourite podcasts from the remaining categories.

If you're not sure who to select in the Sports category, Wayne Henderson, the voiceover guy you hear at the beginning of every Resourceful Designer episode, hosts the Packers Fan Podcast also on the nomination list.


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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com