The Bulletin Board ›

I’ve been reading Austin Kleon’s blog since January, I find the way that he speaks about his notebooks and how he uses them very inspiring. Today’s post is about his bulletin board and how he pins images, clippings, index cards, and various other bits to it for inspiration while he is writing a book.

The analog nature of lots of things that Austin does has really caught my attention. I love technology, but as a designer I also love objects and paper. When I was a student I covered the wall of my room in halls with bits of graphics that I liked. The whole thing turned into one giant collage of inspiration. That’s something I would like to get back into my creative life, something tactile and away from a glowing rectangle.

Things 3.4 Brings Powerful New Automation Features and App Integrations ›

I’ve been using Things since version 3 came out and found it to be the best task app around, with one exception, the ability to automate task creation was a bit limited. This new version fixes that, and goes a lot further than I thought I needed.

MacStories have a great article that highlights some of the possibilities using the new, and very comprehensive, URL scheme found in Things 3.4. I’ve already spent some time this evening updating a couple of Workflows that I use to create tasks, looking forward to seeing what else I can do thanks to this update.

Establishing New Habits Without Apps ›

I’ve been trying to establish some new habits lately so this was a timely post from CJ Chilvers. I’ve been using the app Streaks like he mentions to keep focused on some of my habits, but there is a certain lack of accountability that goes with it. When a big streak gets broken it’s very hard to find the energy to start again.

One thing I’ve found a bit easier to face when starting—or restarting—a project is to break it down to months. Define the goal, decide to begin it at the start of the next month, and then make sure you’re ready to go in the time in between. The space allows you to process what you’re aiming to accomplish, and allows you the time you need to make sure you’re ready to get going.

A mid‐year review

Last week I was away at the CMJ Conference, I had the pleasure of joining them to take photos of the event, post to social media throughout it on their accounts, and to hear some excellent bible teaching in the process. It lasted from Friday afternoon to late Sunday afternoon, and by the time I got home I was absolutely exhausted. I spent most of the week recovering whilst trying to work and, thankfully, have spent most of this weekend doing some serious introverting at home.

Last Saturday afternoon while I was sat on the sofa reading and watching Le Tour, it struck me that we are nearly at the end of July. We’re over halfway through the year and it seemed like a good time to review some of the goals I set out with at the start of the year.

For those who don’t know, I laid them out in my now page at the start of the year, which saw an update in April. Whilst I didn’t make a post here about those updates, a mid year review of those aims seems like a good thing to make note of.

Health & Personal

One of my aims at the start of the year was to take better care of myself than I’ve done in previous years. I bought a Fitbit and set out to hit the 10,000 steps per day goal. That aim is going reasonably well. I’m hitting an average of 9,219 steps per day, which isn’t quite the 10,000 I’m aiming for. However when you consider that I’ve spent a total of 2 weeks taken out by illness (thanks former housemates for sharing your bugs) or my wisdom tooth operation when I barely hit 1000 steps a day, I’ll take it.

In terms of exercise, I was playing football most weeks until it stopped for the summer, although I wasn’t enjoying it quite as much as I had done. The couch to 5K plan hasn’t really happened either, running is something I do not enjoy, I find it frustrating and boring so easily become demotivated to do it. I have however been doing a Fitstar work out most weeks since May, although I confess that June/July has not been great on this front I’ve started that up again this weekend.

Faith

I’m pleased to say that I am still working through the 5 Day Reading Plan. I’ve gotten behind a few times but never more than a week, and what’s more, I don’t find myself reading out of obligation but out of desire to keep reading The Word of The Lord.

My use of the Prayer Mate app has also continued although much more spottily. I go through phases of using it everyday and then phases of only using it here and there. That’s ok though, it’s a tool after all and not an obligation or the only way to pray. The times I’ve used it well it’s been beneficial, but so have the times when I have not used it as much.

When it comes to the memorisation of scripture, I’ve not been quite so good. The Verses app is still on my iPhone, but I haven’t used it as much as I hoped. I plan to be more intentional over the second half of the year to make use of this app.

Freelancing

I’m still continuing to do this, and in fact the last couple of months have been busy and very enjoyable. Please do recommend me or get in touch if you know anyone who might need some design work.

This Site

I am posting to this site more regularly, although the majority of the posts are small status type posts I have been able to post a few more considered posts. One thing I’ve noticed it that I am posting less links which means that more of the content here is original and not pointing to somewhere else. One thing I have decided to do is put less pressure on myself to post, it’s my site after all and so why should there be a pressure to put something here if I’m not feeling creative in that way.

I have also started another side project, and I can’t decide whether to dual post here as well as there. In the mean time it will remain where it is and on Medium as a publication.

Reading

My Goodreads Reading Challenge is on track. Of the 25 books I pledged to read I’ve read 13 so far and am a good chunk through 2 more. Once again the number of fiction books are outweighing the non‐fiction ones, which is understandable as I read at the end of each day to help me relax, it is something I would like to be more even over the next half of the year.


On reflection it’s been a pretty good first half of the year, both in terms of the goals I set out to accomplish and in some of the things that happen in life. My prayer is that the second will continue in this vein, perhaps with a bit more progress on the healthier living side of things than I’ve had so far.

Workloads and Creativity

I’ve noticed over the last few weeks a distinct correlation between my ability to spend time on side projects and the amount of design work I have going on. Juggling a part time job in the Coffee House alongside running my design business makes for a distinct lack of energy to keep my side/personal projects going when things get busy. I find my motivation drops as my energy gets used up juggling the two, and it’s a source of disappointment since I know the importance of doing my own creative things on the side.

It seems to be a matter of margin or focus, I’m yet to work out which, but my gut (which is usually right) tells my it’s about focus. When I become invested in a project it dominates my mind. It becomes what I think about when I’m not really thinking and I’ve certainly become aware that this is what has been happening of late. It’s the reason I’ve started yet another side project that will operate on a schedule and is on a topic completely unrelated to any of my other side projects.

Whilst having a project sit at the top of my mind is helpful for work, it’s not always helpful for me mentally. I need to be able to create things just for the sake of creating them. It brings me a joy and satisfaction that creating for a client doesn’t always bring. Eric Liddell once said

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.

I’ve never thought about it in that way but I can certainly relate to it. Like Liddell I believe God made me for a purpose, but I know He also gave me a gift of creativity and a passion for design. When I use my gift, especially just for the sake of it and not just for my work, I feel His pleasure.

God created the world because he wanted to, because it gave him satisfaction and joy to do it (Genesis 1 v 31). He enjoyed walking in his creation and meeting with the people he created, which we learn from Genesis 3 v 9 when God goes looking for Adam & Eve. When I create something because I want to, I feel God’s pleasure because in some way I am mirroring Him and that is an incredible thing.

My God is the God of creation and He has given me the gift of creativity. When I use that gift to create I feel His pleasure and that’s why I need to firm my resolve to create for the sake of creating something because I want to create it.

Haptic Architects Teach the Benefits of the Scandinavian “Work Life Balance” ›

Work/Life balance is a thing many of us struggle with. I know when I was 100% self‐employed it was the thing I struggled with most, there was always something I felt I should be doing. Whilst many people claim that doing what you love means you have a perfect work/life balance that seems far to idealistic to me. Work is work, whether we love what we do or not and we need a good balance between it and the rest of our lives.

It seems Haptic Architects have that same awareness, and so I was interested to read about the Benefits of the Scandinavian Work/Life Balance that they have implemented in their design studios. It seems a healthy approach to work and demonstrates a real awareness and care towards their employees.

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook Review ›

Being a designer I always appreciate a good notebook. They’re the places ideas are born, grow, and often die. They play a key role in the creative process, almost becoming an extension of my brain. I also enjoy a good journal, the best ones are handwritten, so a notebook often serves as both, or it works in tandem with another allowing for a bit of separation. It’s a tension which I often do battle with.

Tools & Toys recently posted a review of The Midori Traveler’s Notebook which seems like it might be a good solution to solving that tension. The expandability of it seems ideal to provide a place for ideas while designing and a place for journaling, one overall notebook with two internal notebooks. The utility seems ideal, the question is, could I give up my beloved Baron Fig Confidant?

Employment vs. Self‐Employment ›

Occasionally I’ll come across an article on the internet that I find myself reading more than once. Usually it’s because the piece resonates deeply with me, but sometimes it’s because it’s something I want to be able to write myself. In this instance it’s just that, a piece I would like to be able to write in a years time, but with my own perspective.

In a piece about Employment vs. Self‐Employment Garret Dimon wrote this paragraph.

Being self‐employed is great. And it’s not so great. Like anything, there are tradeoffs. For you, the tradeoffs may be worth it. Or, they might not. Or, they may not be the right tradeoffs at this point in your life. Just don’t put self‐employment on a pedestal. There are plenty of other options that are darn near self‐employment without the burdens.

I’ve been on both ends of Employment and Self‐Employment. For the last 5 years I’ve been running my own design business, and during the last year and a half of that I’ve been running it alongside another job in a coffee house. I’ve loved every minute of it, but it’s also been the most stressful time of my life. So stressful that it made me ill. The last couple of months I’ve been thinking about and making steps to begin looking for a full time design job working for someone. Through it all I have to keep reminding myself that self‐employment is not the be all and end all, there is a lot of important work being done by many different people and companies that it will be a privilege to be a part of.

The Dedication Olympics

As I sit writing this the BBC are showing their roundup video of the Rio Olympics. Normally when it comes to the Olympics I’m pretty glued to it for the few weeks that it runs. This year, maybe due to the time difference, it took a week or so for me to get in to it.

It was only when the track cycling came on and Team GB started to win medals that I started to watch. The success of the British team on this field is mind‐blowing, every four years the team hits form perfectly and brings home gold medal after gold medal. Similarly, the success of the Brownlee brothers in the Triathlon, so consistent year after year resulting this year in the first triathlete to retain the gold medal. Then there’s Andy Murray, only weeks after winning Wimbledon, retaining his gold medal. Not to mention the many other athletes who’ve won medals for Team GB, helping us as a nation to finish second in the medal table.

Most years by the end of the games I’m inspired. I want to try a new sport, or return to an old one I used to play. This year is a bit different. I’ve not been inspired to go and do sport, but instead by the dedication that unites these athletes. Each and every one of them has a level of dedication that blows me away. They are able to apply themselves for every single day between olympic cycles. For four years they are able to focus their energy on one thing so that they can give themselves the best possible shot to win that gold medal.

During one of the events one of the commentators picked up on this. I don’t think it was what he meant, but the way it came across as he spoke of it was that these athletes seem to have a gift none of the rest of the world does. Not in terms of their sporting prowess, but in their ability to apply themselves and dedicate themselves to their chosen discipline. It’s an easy mindset to fall into, but it’s also a dangerous one.

Discipline or dedication is not a thing that we just have, it’s something we can learn. Each and everyone of us can learn discipline and self control in order to focus on something. In order to grow and develop into a great writer it takes dedication and discipline to turn up and write each day. For the artist it takes hours of painting, the musician hours of playing their instrument. Dedication is something we can grow in and get better at. The more we dedicate ourselves to do something, the more likely we are to do it. For the olympic athlete, turning up to training on a wet Monday morning in November makes them more likely to turn up for training on a wet November Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Likewise, writing a post for this blog on a Sunday makes me more likely to want to write one for tomorrow. I don’t want to break the chain or waste the time I spent the day before.

As many people are want to say on the internet at the moment, the key to everything is showing up everyday. The key to winning a gold medal is showing up everyday with an unrelenting dedication to your sport. The key to growing in dedication to our chosen discipline is the same.

Kill Your To Do List ›

Here’s what’s always bothered me about task management systems: it’s not what Presidents use.

I’ve never thought of this before. It’s never even crossed my mind about the methods of working for people in high powered positions, or national office. Yet it shouldn’t be a surprise when you think about.

After reading this excellent article from CJ Chilvers it struck me that in the last few months this is something I’ve started to do subconsciously.When I think back to how I’ve progressed some projects recently it’s all been down to clearly blocking out time on my calendar and then working during those times.

Of course I’ve not entirely scrapped my to do list, and I think it would be wrong to scrap it completely. It’s a useful tool for keeping track of the client projects I’m working on. The important thing, I think, is to not let your to do list dictate your time and instead to let your calendar dictate your to do list.

The calendar doesn’t lie. It’s brutal about how much time you actually have in a day to complete your projects. It’s honest. We need to stop wishing, determine what’s important enough to spend our very limited time on and get it scheduled.

You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At. ›

Do what you love has been a bit of a mantra of late on the internet, at least on the blogs I seem to have been reading over the last couple of years. It’s something that I love the sentiment of, but at the same time something that has never quite sat properly with me. So when I saw the phrase You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At in a tweet link to the matching article I instantly saved it to my Instapaper.

I agree entirely with this point:

We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.

But more importantly, you are not meant to do what you love. You are meant to do what you’re skilled at.

The trouble comes when the people who are espousing the mantra of do what you love are the fortunate few who’s skill also happen to be what they love. It gives them a distorted view that everyone should be doing this and it creates a worldview that doing work is a bad thing unless it’s something you love.

The husband of an old colleague of mine had a period of unemployment not long after they got married. It really impacted him as a person and I remember talking to my colleague about how her husband felt worthless because of it. He wanted to work because not working made him feel worthless. When he did get a job, it was not in something he loved, but it gave him meaning again. He was contributing to society, not reliant on it. He was giving something of himself to do it and what he was doing had value because of it.

As a Christian I believe we are designed to work, God even designed and modelled the week around it six days of work and one day of rest (Sabbath). The theologian Tim Keller in his book Every Good Endeavour states

Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

This is exactly what my colleague’s husband experienced. Without work he struggled in exactly the way Tim suggests we will. When we fall into the trap of telling people to only do what they love, we do a disservice to work. For some people their work involves doing what they love, whilst for others it involves doing what they are skilled at. For some, maybe even the majority, it involves doing a job because it gives them value and helps them serve people around them.

The article finishes with this quote which I think sums up the value of work, of any kind, superbly.

The real joy of daily work is in what we have to give. We are not fulfilled by what we can seek to please us, but what we can build and offer. It is not fame, or money, or recognition that makes for a thoroughly meaningful life, it is how we put our gifts to use. It is how we give.

Drawing the Calendar ›

I absolutely love the idea behind drawing your own calendar. It’s a fascinating way of processing your time planning and as a method of building new habits. The utility of a digital calendar is unparalleled, it’s always there no matter what device I’m suing or have with me, but the appeal of a diary planner is a constant pull for me.

The Longest Shortest Distance ›

“So I propose we forget the phrase “just do what you love” because it’s exhausting and misleading. We need less instant gratification and more patience in our practice”

I couldn’t help but identify with these final few words from Kyle Steed. Society today is so desperate to do just the things we love and to get there in the shortest possible way that it forgets the value in having to do things we don’t want to do, but that we need to do. It sets so many people up for massive falls as they make big leaps to begin doing things that they’re not yet ready to do. There’s too much I want it now and not enough willingness to work and explore and grow into whatever that it is.

Founding Baron Fig ›

I’ve linked to the series that’s being written on Medium of the founding of Baron Fig in the past, but they’ve recently been publishing new parts of the series. As ever it’s a good glimpse into the life of a new startup and the problems they’ve faced. The guys at Baron Fig continue to inspire me.

Why Margin is Critical for Doing Your Best Creative Work ›

A healthy dose of margin in your life gives you the space you need to think, dream, strategize, wrestle through complexity, focus deeply, and, ultimately, do your best creative work.

This piece by Shawn Blanc has been sat in my Instapaper for quite a while, but when I read the sentence above I immediately agreed. When you’re in constant hustle mode, when everything down to what jobs you work on and when you can find time to send out those all important invoices is imperative to your ability to exist in life, decisions and dreams disappear. When there’s no margin in anything in your life, your ability to work well goes and your ability to even think creatively vanishes let alone do the work your business depends on.

I’ve learnt the hard way, margin in life is imperative to being able to create well.