What I Messed Up in 2009 Design Projects and 6 Things I’m Changing for 2010

New Year Fireworks2009 was a great year in which I accomplished more than any other year before. However, the goal of this post is not to recount past achievements. Instead, I want to focus on what I did wrong in 2009 so that not only can I plan for my own changes in 2010, but hopefully help others avoid the mistakes I made as well.

Bad timelines

Confession: My timelines during the majority of 2009 were awful. Most of the time, I relied on a standard 4-week delivery timeframe for web projects that made no sense. Many of these were fairly complex web sites that required intense client interaction. All this done in a month or less? It proved to be unrealistic unless quality was sacrificed.

Resolution: I’ve already implemented a new 10-week base schedule that has more time built in for client interaction, content collection and coding. This schedule is tied together with a standard set of milestones. The new timeframe is already proving to be a success. Prospects don’t scoff at the length and I’m stressing less about meeting deadlines. I hope to continue this trend in 2010 while tweaking the timeline to be more flexible and accurate.

Bizarre priorities

Confession: I’m the type of person who, when confronted with an issue, will try to tackle it right away. It doesn’t matter if the issue is minor. I’ll leap to get it out of my inbox. The problem in doing this is that I sacrifice time that I can spend on more important project activities. While minor issues here and there don’t seem like a lot, they certainly do add up and can drain the life out of you.

Resolution: For 2010, my goal is to implement smarter daily plans that will enable me to focus more attention on higher-paying projects than on minor issues. One way I can accomplish this is by allocating more time to projects during the day. This means shutting everything else out during project time. No email, no phone and no issues. Those can all wait their turn.

Too reactive

Confession: I spent too much of 2009 being reactive. An issue pops up, I deal with it. A milestone becomes late, I work at full capacity to meet it. A client problem surfaces, I haphazardly look for solutions. The problem is that none of this is proactive. Issues, milestones, problems and clients are coming to me instead of me going to them.

Resolution: For the new year, I need to be more proactive. Instead of waiting for a client issue to confront me, I need to check up on the client. I must become more engaged with my milestones and stop procrastinating. Some of the ways I plan on tackling this include more intelligent daily and weekly plans as well as a communication plan for reaching out to clients.

Inconsistent post-project client communication

Confession: Building on my previous confession, I don’t dedicate enough time to clients after a project is complete. Instead, I launch the site, see if the client has any questions and then move on to the next project. Problems or concerns with the site then find their way to me, and I miss out on opportunities to engage the client on other services.

Resolution: I hinted at this in the resolution above, which is a communication plan for clients. Using an organized routine, I can contact and check in with clients I’ve completed work for. This may be an email or a phone call, and while it may generate more work for me, it will help to keep my foot in the client’s door.

Unwillingness to change

Confession: The problem in getting comfortable with the way you work is that you’re unlikely to change. And as much as I hate to admit, my way is probably not the best way. Unfortunately, in being attracted to comfort, I rarely changed my ways or experimented with new ways of working in 2009.

Resolution: I’ve already begun working on this, but for 2010, my plan is to work smarter and become more explorative. I want to try out new work routines to discover what motivates me the most. This could mean a change in the hours I work or the scenery. I also need to try out new tools, software and methods that can help me get more done in less time. Furthermore, I must allow myself to read, explore and learn about new and creative things going on in the world. I’ve already loaded up on some interesting RSS feeds and have a few books I want to digest.

Too available

Confession: I spent too much of 2009 working on projects that frankly were not worth my time. These could be small web site projects or monthly engagements that just didn’t turn a profit after factoring in all the time and headaches to get through them. Instead of being selective, I was accepting of all work and considered any potential source of revenue a golden gift.

Resolution: Thankfully, I’ve started getting into the habit of saying “no.” I know most people preach that you should always be saying “yes,” but that’s only if you don’t value your time. If there’s one thing I learned in economics class it’s opportunity cost. That’s the value of your time if you were doing something else. So if I’m working my tail off on a project that isn’t paying anything, my opportunity cost could be a much more lucrative activity that is very much worth my time. In 2010 I will get smarter about screening prospects to determine whether or not the time investment is worth it. I will further value my time by outsourcing or delegating tasks that I shouldn’t be doing. This will help to free up my time to work on things that matter most to me.

So there you have it. Six defined resolutions for 2010. While I find resolutions to be a little corny, they do have some value in helping to define goals. I hope to take what I’ve written here and implement a plan to put them in action.

What about you? What are you looking to change for 2010?

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