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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Do you practice Just In Time Learning?

I first talked about Just In Time Learning in episode 8 of the podcast. If you haven't heard that episode I suggest you listen to it before continuing with this one.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, Just In Time Learning essentially means you only learn things that you will need for your next task at hand. Learning things you don’t need right now is a waste of time.

There are only so many hours you can work in a day. No matter how good you are at time management, there will never be enough time to get everything done. That’s a fact.

In order to make the most of your time, you should be spending it on what makes you the most productive and what brings in money.

There are many things that take up your time during a typical workday. Things that are not considered productive or that don’t generate money for you. In this episode of the podcast, I talk about just one of them, learning. Whether you're learning something new or you're brushing up on a seldom used skill, learning can take up a lot of time. Often, it's time you don't need to spend learning. To get the full story from this episode I recommend you listen to the podcast where I go into more detail than what is written here.

Learning can be done in many ways.

  • You could read books, manuals and magazines
  • You could take a class at a learning institute
  • You could take a free or paid online course
  • You could watch a webinar
  • You could read blog posts
  • You could watch tutorial videos
  • You could learn from a mentor or peer.

And I’m sure there are many others I’m missing.

Learning can take up only a few minutes of your time, or it could take several hours, days even. The time you spend learning is time you are not spending running your design business and earning money.

Don’t get me wrong. You need to learn. Learning is what keeps you current. Learning helps you develop your skills. Learning helps you broaden yourself as a designer and as a person.

I’m not at all saying you shouldn’t be spending your time learning. What I’m saying, is you should be spending your learning time wisely.

That’s where Just In Time Learning comes in.

As I stated earlier. Just In Time Learning means you only learn the things that you need when you need them.

Let me give you an example to put this in perspective. 

You stumble upon a YouTube video teaching how to create a wonderful effect in Photoshop. You think to yourself, that looks cool, I'd love to know how they did that. So you spend the time watching the 20-minute video teaching you how to create that effect. Great.

Now here’s the issue. You don’t have any projects you’re currently working on that require that effect. In fact, you may never have a need for that effect at all. But you spent 20 minutes learning it and you’re happy. Chalk up one more thing you know how to do in Photoshop.

A year later you find yourself working on a client project that could use some sort of effect on it. You remember that video you watched and think that effect would be perfect. The problem is, you don't remember how to do it. So you go back to YouTube and search for that video. If you’re lucky you’ll find the same one you watched, or perhaps another one teaching the same thing. You watch it again and complete the effect much to the delight of your client.

So in hindsight, what you did was spend 40 minutes learning something that should have only taken you 20 minutes to learn.

Learning what instead of how

The trick with Just In Time Learning is not to learn how to do things when you find the instructions, but to learn what can be done and file it away to learn when the time comes and you do need it.

In other words. You didn't need to learn how to create that effect in Photoshop a year ago. At the time all you needed to learn was that that effect is achievable in Photoshop. Then, if or when you ever need to achieve that effect that's when you learn how to do it.

Just In Time Learning, it’s that simple.

A library of future knowledge

What do you do when you come across an amazing course or tutorial for something you think may be useful but isn't something you need to know right now? You add it to your library of future knowledge.

A library of future knowledge is a place where you keep track of all the tutorials, manuals, courses, instructional videos and links to useful material that you may need to know someday.

I use Evernote for this but I'm sure there are other programs or Apps you could use. Every time I come across a blog post, an online course, a YouTube video or anything that I think contains useful knowledge, I tag it and add it to Evernote for the day I may need it. That day may never come, but if it does I'll be ready.

Evernote allows you to create Notebooks for storing information. I have Notebooks for Photoshop, Illustrator, WordPress, CSS, Divi and many other programs and areas I may need to learn more about.

Every time I come across an interesting link on how to do something I add it to the appropriate Notebook. I make sure to tag the link with any appropriate tags which will make it easier to search for in the future. Then, should the time ever come, I can quickly look in Evernote to find the tutorial or course I need for the task at hand.

There are other ways you could do this. Creating a bookmark hierarchy in your browser. That's how I used to do it before Evernote. You could also create a folder hierarchy on your computer and include links to all the sites you want to keep.

Whichever way you choose, you should have some way of organizing them for the future.

Picking and choosing from within

Not every tutorial or course needs to be put off for the day you may need it. Sometimes you simply want to take a course, watch a tutorial or read a book in order to learn something new so you can gain general knowledge or add a service to your business. Maybe you read books in your off hours in order to become a better business person or simply to be inspired. The information may not be immediately usable by you right now, but knowing it will improve your chances of getting better work in the future.

Even in these circumstances, you could take a hint from Just In Time Learning. A book on starting a business may be a great read if you are considering opening up your own design business. But if you plan on working by yourself from home, there's no need to read the chapter on hiring employees. Gain knowledge from the areas you need and skip those that don't apply to you. If one day your design business grows to the point where you need to hire people that will be the time to gain that knowledge, not now.

You get the idea

I hope you get the idea. There’s so much involved with running a successful design business, and there never seems to be enough time to do it all. So why waste your time on courses and tutorials that don’t help you right now. Instead, make note of them in something like Evernote and should the need ever arise for you to know those things, that's when you take the time to learn them.

Do you follow the Just In Time Learning method?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Randy

I have a question regarding opening up a personal or business account. As a sole proprietor, should I open a personal account or a business account (Backblaze, Paypal, CashApp, etc.)

To find out what I told Randy you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Evernote

Evernote is, in my opinion, one of the best organization and note taking applications there is. I use it on a daily basis to keep track of everything from podcast and blog topics, to business contacts, websites I need to revisit, and so much more. Evernote's ability to sync across all my devices means I can access it no matter where I am. It's become one of the most invaluable tools in my arsenal. If Evernote sounds like something you could use sign up for their free plan and give it a try.

Episode Sponsor

Thank you to this week's sponsor, Storyblocks. Save on Millions of stock photos, vectors and more at Storyblocks.

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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