Why Great Designers Need Time AWAY From Design

Why Great Designers Need Time AWAY From Design

In order to design effectively, we need to understand the world around us. Our design education, whether it was with an institute, internship or self initiated, is far from over. It starts when we are born and will continue for the rest of our lives. Design requires you to bring all of you knowledge and experiences to each project.

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Escaping the 9 to 5 to increase productivity and win the day

Working outside the box. Needing less Coffee.
Afternoon work on the balcony at home post surf.

Working From Home.jpg

It's 9.30am on a Wednesday morning, humpday as It used to feel like, and I've just got out the shower, itching to write this piece. 

When I was 9 I used to wake up at 6am on a Saturday morning and head off to the skatepark on my own. It was my favourite time of day, despite the fact most friends wouldn't be awake for another few hours. It allowed me to get a good 2 hours of skating in before the place got busy. I had the space to myself, to practice, unhindered by busyness and judgement. 

I had a Sunday paper round when I was 12 and loved being back home by 7:30 on a sunday morning. Work done, money earn't, and the morning cartoons still on TV for me to enjoy with a sense of satisfaction my sleepy eyed peers couldn't quite grasp.

The early morning obsession for focus continued right through my teens. I would get up early, especially on weekdays, and go skateboarding. Scoring an empty skatepark to methodically practice. Again the lack of crowds left with with a lack of pressure. There was no one to impress, I could just be what I was and skate. 

Looking back it's no wonder that when I found myself a full time design job that I struggled to focus. I was turning up at 8:30 and trying, with coffee after coffee, to cram my mind into gear. Forcing a focus that had disappeared an hour ago. And so it continued. I moved from England to Australia, the increased sun cheered me up, I even started surfing before work. I could get up at 6, go surf, have breakfast, ride my motorbike to work, and sit at my desk with a nespresso coffee at 9am. Surely that was a perfect morning routine. It sounds dreamy, right? Well it was, but I still couldn't work. Again, coffee after coffee was used to cram my square shaped attention into the round shaped hole of 9am. 

Occasionally I would have the courage and confidence to ask to do an hour or 2 of work at home and come in later. These mornings were great, but I felt bad. Felt like I had to prove that I had been out of the office for a legitimate reason. I again felt the pressure of a crowded skatepark, leering at me to perform. I wasn't myself. I couldn't sit and create like I needed to, I was trying to create while feeling judged. 50% of my attention on looking busy, 30% wishing I was somewhere else, and a meagre 20% left to working. That's not a good way to live. Work consumes so much of our life, if we could bring the 100% of our attention, if could take up less time, and leave us more time for leisure which we might even find ourselves in a better mood for. Less caffeinated, less judged, and more ourselves.

I work for myself now, as a freelance designer. I wake up at 6am almost everyday, and spend an hour or 2 working before I even have breakfast. I'm focused. Productive. Nothing is distracting me, nobody is judging me. I work how I want to naturally work, and it is much better. I can get through more work in a quicker time. Coffee just comes in as a pleasure rather than a need.

Don't you go waking up at 6am and start work because of this though. Just listen to your body. Feel when you have the most focussed energy and attention. When your mind feels least distracted. Then use that time for your most important work. Working when it's productive, and breaking when it's needed. Good luck.

Food for Thought. Digestion for Action

Ah Christmas. The day has finally arrived. Every action an excited rush, done out of necessity before moving onto the real goal. We just about manage to brew a pot of coffee. Check the phone for messages, of which some merit a long enough pause for reply. Then onto the centerpiece. The wrapped presents that beckon us. We pass presents around, open, smile, inspect, and in-between, gulp our now cold coffee.

The bundle of presents now open, stacked in a neat display of hapiness. The small pile of books at one side, bright, crisp and calling for attention.

"We'll just have a light breakfast, save room for overeating at lunch." Jules said.
"I'll just have a coffee and two slices of toast. I need to kick my metabolism into gear so it makes me hungry for a big lunch." I reply.
"They'll be lots of veggies, and my roast potatoes, plenty of food you'll enjoy." She said.
"Oh I know, I'm sure there will be". I was safe in the knowledge more food than I could handle would come my way over the course of the afternoon.

Two styles of roast potatoes, sweet potato, ham, turkey, shrimp, salads, coleslaw and all the liquid options of a bottleshop fill the room. Their only contender for attention is the conversation offered up by the 23 relatives catching up between mouthfuls. And so everyone eats and eats, and once we devour lunch we switch to our dessert stomachs. Filling bowls with icecream, jelly, custard, Christmas cake and slipping the occasional chocolate coin into a free hand. All the food tastes incredible. An occasional grunt of satisfaction, audible as you let the flavours unravel on your palette before getting stuck back in.

As the chaos of the day settles down, the guests leave and the family retreat into the corner of sofas. The reading begins. Towards the end of last week I was fidgety with a restless but lazy mind. I couldn't focus for too long and it seemed like most ideas had faded or died from lack of inspiration. I still have no ideas, but I have peace, focus and the interest of a good book. I read. Page upon page, slowing only for the upwards gaze as a concept unravels itself in my mind. Like micro eureka moments, the discoveries unravel fast and then park themselves in my subconscious and I read on.

At dinner time there is no need for food, still full from Christmas lunch we graze. Single pieces of chocolate, single slices of toast. Though I discover I seem to have a separate stomach for pasta. Eating an entire bowl at 8pm. Aside from this dinner, I'm absorbed by my book.

I read and read and read, consuming as much as I can fit in. Then, as the words start to blur and my eyes force themselves shut, I give in. Sleep. A deep, exhausted slumber. Waking well after the sun rose I sit up, reach for my book and pick back up where I left off.

I'm loving the book, equal parts interest and inspiration. Though today, after a long rest I can feel my mind starting to fidget. It's not uncontrollable yet, but it seems now not to just be unraveling the ideas of the book. Now it has it's own ideas, the convergence of new information with old concepts. And so I sit and read for just 30 more minutes. My stomach seems to be calling me out of bed and towards the kitchen now. Yesterdays overindulgence digested. A second coffee and some toast. The lethargy of the evening before is all but gone now. My energy levels rejuvenated and my mind awake.

I finish breakfast, pick up my book, pause and then set it back down. I'm full of reading and now I have ideas. It's time to create.

And so this cycle seems to continue round and round. Not always at an equal pace, but always in a circle. Consumption, digestion, activity, exhaustion and back to the start. Unavoidable peaks and troughs. I can try to fight it, but it seems almost impossible, a course i must just run with. And so here I am, Monday morning and primed for creation. I'm not sure how long it will last, my books still beckon me from the table, but for now, it's pen to paper.