The risk of inaction may be one of the least obvious risks of doing business. Businesses may fail if we make the wrong decisions. They may run out of funds if we don’t spend wisely. We also understand the threat of competition. As a result, we plan, set goals and strategize to minimize these risks. Too often though, we do not fully grasp the magnitude of the risk of inaction.…
We can take a variety of paths to start our career. It could start as a hobby or interest that grew into a business. Alternatively, it could be an opportunity we seized to make money. Yet still, it could also be a path that was chosen for us where we had little choice or input. Regardless of how we got to the career path we are currently on, there is one thing we need. It is what allows us to remain motivated and determined to press on. The source of our drive is a defining purpose that we may not have yet explicitly identified.…
Entrepreneurs are no strangers to working long hours and having the lines between work and personal time blurred. Many times, the very success of our business correlates with how much time and effort we invest into it. This concentrated effort might be both necessary and sustainable in the short run but can be detrimental in the long run. A light workload day can help maintain some balance in both our work and personal life.…
Bad days are inevitable for anyone doing business. Therefore, we may periodically feel the urge to let off some steam by venting to others. In stressful times having someone to relate to can comfort us and make us feel that we are not alone. There is also the relief of getting something that has been on our mind out in the open. Considering the emotion state that leads us to vent we must exercise caution and remember to vent responsibly.…
Getting inspiration can sometimes seem like a daunting task, especially for creatives. It is normal to look for inspiration from others or seek enlightenment from those who have experienced things that we have not. There’s nothing wrong in that. This helps us to be better rounded individuals with a more diverse perspective. We should not ignore a source of inspiration much closer to home though – our past.…
Ever get a great idea while doing something totally unrelated to work? Ever hesitate to make a note of that idea? How many times do we actually remember this great idea by the time we have finished our current task? Even a little procrastination can derail our train of thought and interrupt a spontaneous spur of productivity. This is not to say that we must drop everything whenever we get an idea. Nevertheless, we should be weary of how procrastination affects our productivity.…
Some people think of design as strictly an artistic process where the primary goal is to make things look attractive. Design however, is as much about usability as it is about aesthetics. Designers use the various tools at their disposal to solve their client’s problems while creating solutions that look good. This could include creating compelling graphics or designing a website that meets a business objective. It could also be the creation of intriguing package design to encourage sales. While it ‘s easy to focus on aesthetics, creating the ideal experience through design is more complicated and more important.…
Entrepreneurs, new business owners and even bloggers often pop up on the scene with vigour and motivation. Driven by determination to see our projects succeed we invest time, money and effort in the project or business. We strive to ensure that it has the best chance of success. This may include working extra hours or sacrificing other things to tend to our new endeavour. While this may be necessary, how we handle the inevitable slowdown may decide how successful we really are.…
A job can be a stressful experience and it is not always one that we look forward to. This is especially true when we are not doing the jobs that we really want to do. Those of us who are overworked may find it hard to concentrate and react harshly to distractions that make use of already limited time. Those of us who are underworked may feel that our contributions are insignificant or inadequate. These negative feelings that get associated with work over time can demotivate us and stifle our creativity. Personal projects related to work can help us harness our creativity and encourage self-motivation in addition to creating a break from the more frustrating parts of a job.
Choosing a personal project
The key to choosing an appropriate personal project is that it has to provide some intrinsic value to the organization for which we work. Approval may be necessary before we can start working on a personal project and if we work on the project during company time it is very likely that the results will belong to the company and not to us personally. Nevertheless, if we spend 40 hours or more each week at an organization it is in our best interest to improve our working conditions and efficiency. A personal project may alleviate some of the problems we face at work if we follow these steps and choose it wisely.
1. Identify organization’s shortcomings
Think about the things in our business or organization that we would complain about. We may need to put ourselves in the shoes of a customer or outsider to get a more unbiased view. We do not need to identify the solutions to these problems at this stage. Focusing solely on identifying the shortcomings will allow us to brainstorm both those that we think can be solved easily and those that seem beyond our scope. This is necessary because the resources which we will have at our disposal to take on the project are not yet confirmed. Later projects which are not feasible can easily be eliminated.
2. Focus on individual and collective strengths
We all have unique skill sets and talents. Often times our proficiencies may extend beyond our daily job assignments. These skills may be easy for a boss or supervisor to overlook since they are not directly related to the job at hand. A project allows us to utilize and improve these skills while still contributing in a meaningful way to the development of the organization. It is also not uncommon for someone to get employed in the field where the vacancy exists rather than the field that best suits the individual’s qualifications. Knowing our strengths allows us to contribute in ways beyond what is expected and may open up new opportunities. Co-workers may also be able to identify “hidden” talents in us and we may be able to do the same in them. By identifying these strengths we get a better idea of which projects are feasible.
3. Collaborate with others
Many projects cannot be done alone. Others can just be done better or quicker with the help of others. The contribution and feedback of a team can lead to discoveries that a single person may have overlooked. Team members may also have different specialities which when combined make more complex projects feasible. Entire products or services can be born as a result of a collaborative effort. Collaboration can also help build better relationships among co-workers striving for a common goal and enhance communication in the organization. It is not only a problem solving exercise but also a team building opportunity.
4. Work with passion
A project is extra work and at times we may need something to justify spending the additional effort and energy. Choosing something we are passionate about can help motivate us and even allow us to have some fun. Remember a project can be a productive distraction from other more mundane tasks. Progress made on personal projects give us a sense of achievement and lessons learned on a project can be applied to regular work. The interest and desire generated from personal projects can have a positive effect on mood and productivity.
Getting the project off the ground
Resources will be required for any personal project and we may need approval or investment in the project before we can start. It therefore becomes imperative to sell the project to those in control of the resources which we require in order to get the ball rolling. This will require having an in depth understanding of the project requirements and being able to explain how the project will benefit the organization. For smaller projects we may be able to contribute in our down time. For larger projects, however, some level of coordination and project management will be required. At this stage the goals and mission of the project should be established and all stakeholders should be identified. We may also need to provide a plan on how the project will be run without interfering with everyday activities.
Once we have started a personal project we can use it to express ourself creatively and to motivate us to succeed. Since the project is what we chose it should be a challenge we are willing to take on and progress can be used as inspiration. Even small failures can teach important lessons that can be applied to other areas of work. The best part is that when one project is completed another one can be chosen to repeat the cycle and reap further benefits.
The way that I design websites has evolved over the years. From simple HTML written in Notepad to custom websites coded in programs like Dreamweaver to the use of content management systems such as WordPress. Each method has it’s pros and cons and the demands of my target audience have often been a key factor in how I design my websites.
In the beginning
When I started creating websites I would code everything by hand. I would also create my own graphics and learn to code whatever functionality was required. As you can imagine this was a time consuming process and required proficiency in many related disciplines – web design, web development and graphic design. I enjoyed doing this though because it allowed me to learn a lot and the end product was always unique. The downside was that it took a lot of time to roll out a website and would also cost more than a template based approach. Allowing clients to update their own content would require the creation of a content management system or the use of a software solution such as Adobe Contribute.
What works now
Nowadays, nearly every client I come across wants control over modifying and updating their website content in-house. The simplest way of doing this is with a content management system (CMS). There are numerous options when it comes to choosing a CMS but I find that WordPress is one of the easiest to use and manage. As a result of this, I design quite a few websites using WordPress. There are a lot of themes and plugins available for that platform which makes getting a website up and running much quicker than if I had to code from scratch.
Merging both worlds
While content management systems make life easier, they can also give websites a cookie cutter look and feel that lacks originality and does not stand out. Just imagine another website using the same theme and layout and you can see how brand recognition can be affected. While themes can be tweaked and CSS can be modified, I am exploring the option of creating my own WordPress themes for both personal use and for my clients. This will bring back some of the originality of a hand coded website while keeping the valuable content management aspects of WordPress.
The journey continues
As I delve into the world of WordPress themes I have been directed to valuable resources for developing a new theme. Underscores is a starter theme which allows you to set up some basic details about your theme even before downloading it. I also intend on spending some time in the Theme Development section of WordPress Codex.
The end result of all this will hopefully be a more unique look and feel for my personal sites and business websites along with those of my clients. This is an interesting challenge and any feedback or tips are always welcome in the comments.