Pulse Check: How are the Vital Signs for Your Business?

If you work in marketing, web development, or SEO, you’ve probably already heard about Google’s latest metric for user experience – Core Web Vitals.

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick overview. (I promise this ties back to freelancing.)

Core Web Vitals are a set of standardized metrics that attempt to assess the quality of a user’s experience when they land on a given web page. They cover things like page load times, visibility/accessibility of interactive elements like buttons, and the stability of elements on the page as a user browses the site.

What does that mean in English?

As a user, if you’re trying to visit a site and it takes forever to load, you’re having a bad time.

If you’re trying to shop for sneakers and the buy button is too small for you to tap on your iPhone, you’re having a bad time.

If you’re happily scrolling through a blog article and then the entire page shifts to reveal an advertisement or an email sign-up form unexpectedly, you’re having a bad time.

In other words, Core Web Vitals are a collection of items that, when addressed and managed properly, make your website faster and more effective.

So, how does this relate to freelancing?

Well, I would argue that most of us don’t spend enough time thinking about the status of our own Core Web Life Vitals.

You know, all of those things that, when they are in good shape, help us be more efficient and more effective in our freelance practice. But if they are neglected or aren’t being managed properly, they can fester and make our professional lives rather unpleasant.

As I look back on the last year or so, it’s hard to imagine anyone is getting high scores across the board for their Core Life Vitals. 

A global pandemic, widespread quarantines, extreme weather events, societal and political unrest, global conflicts… There is a lot of negativity out there, whether you’re looking for it or not.

So it’s easy to see how we might not exactly be on top of our game when it comes to taking care of the things that take care of us (and our businesses.)

We promise to make everything we send you valuable and actionable, so here are a few of my Core Life Vitals and their current status. I hope that you’ll take the time to do a self-assessment and figure out where you’re at and put together an action plan for getting yourself back “into the green.”

Vital #1: Diet & Exercise

When I don’t eat well or get enough exercise, it shows up in my life and my work. I’m not an overly aggressive person, but if I don’t find a way to release some of my pent up energy, I find that I make poor decisions and can be a little bit… snappier than I’d like. 

Right now my habits in both areas can be described as “haphazard.” I’m not totally neglecting them, but I definitely don’t have a concrete plan or schedule for either. Starting next week, I’m going to put exercise on the calendar before anything else and work out a meal planning practice.

Vital #2: Family Time

This is something I’ve been very good about, especially since having kids. I pretty much stop work every day by 3:00 and only sign back on in the evenings if I want to. This has motivated me to try to get eight hours of work done in just six, which has some follow-on effects, but overall I think this is working well for all of us.

I’m not perfect, though. I still check my phone after 3:00, especially because most of my team is in a different time zone where they are just hitting their stride. So my action plan going forward is to put the phone in another room and be more present with my loved ones.

Vital #3: Organization & Focus

Here is where I’m struggling the most. I’m well aware of how susceptible I am to “shiny object syndrome,” so I’m actively fighting against starting new projects. However, I’m also really bad at telling other people “no,” so I commit myself to wayyy too much and then lose sleep trying to get it all done on time – or, even worse, let someone down.

I’ve already started using a product called Sunsama to help me allocate “physical space” to my tasks, which gives me a visual representation of just how little bandwidth I have to offer. This is making it easier to say “no” or “not right now,” so I’m optimistic that I’ll have a higher score in this area in the next month or so.

Vital #4: Feedback Loops

I’ve been working 100% remotely and independently for about 5 years, and while I don’t need the “watercooler chat” to keep me happy, I do need feedback on my work. I need to know when I missed the mark, and I need to know when I knocked something out of the park. One helps me get better while the other motivates me to do more.

I would say my current situation in this area is “so-so.” As I reluctantly move further away from being a “maker” and step into the role of “manager,” I find that I’m frequently the one giving the feedback while receiving very little in return. Also, with two young kids running around my wife and I don’t have as much time to connect about anything other than tomorrow’s schedule, so there’s work to be done there.

My plan going forward is to actively seek out feedback and directly request it from everyone I interact with, even my kids. Little questions like, “Was this meeting helpful for you?” or “Did you like coming to this park more than the one we went to last week?” can go a long way.

Vital #5: Service

I am at my happiest when I’m volunteering, coaching, mentoring, training, or otherwise helping others get one step closer to their goals. Even if these activities don’t contribute directly to my own goals, I find them incredibly rewarding and often feel more motivated to kick ass when I finally get back to my own desk.

As the world starts to constrict again and public events with mixed groups start to dwindle, it’s harder to make this a regular practice, but I’m optimistic that our work on Freelance Focus will provide more opportunities to check the box in the “Service” category.

As I think about what makes me a more effective and more efficient husband, parent, and professional, those are the five areas that tend to influence my performance. 

When they are healthy, I’m firing on all cylinders and the quality of my results and relationships tends to be higher than when I’m slipping up in one or two areas.