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. ∞
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. ∞
There’s been a lot of talk on the internet circles I follow about focus and deep work. They’re thought provoking and often resonate with me, but there’s one thing I’ve been struggling to reconcile in it all. The focus of all these discussions is usually aimed at putting your individual desires first, which doesn’t really jive with my Christian beliefs.
Chris Bowler, in his excellently considered article Deep Prayer > Deep Work, seems to demonstrate I’m not alone. In doing so he seems to capture exactly how this kind of thinking should be influencing my approach to my faith.
But over and over, I come back to the fact that while Newport’s concept of increasing our ability to focus is crucial to a successful career, it’s even more crucial to a successful Christian life. One that is lived attuned to the Spirit. One that is carefully watching to see where God is working, then ready and willing to join him in it.
At the start of last week I set myself the challenge to blog everyday between then and the end of the year. Yesterday I didn’t manage to post to this site, in some people’s eyes I’ve failed the challenge already. Maybe I have, but it’s not going to stop me carrying on.
These types of challenges are great to do, they add an extra bit of impetus to get going on something you want to do. A little bit of healthy competition goes a long way. But yesterday life happened, two friends got married and the day was rightly taken up celebrating that. There simply wasn’t time in the day to sit down and write a post for this site, it was an exception to the norm and that’s ok. I realised this early on and gave myself permission to have a day off.
A few years ago had I set myself this challenge I would’ve let it defeat me. The chain would’ve been broken and I would’ve let the day off turn into two, three or four days, before giving it one last effort and then stopping it. Over the last year and a half I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s ok to give myself permission to say, it’s just not going to happen today. As long as it doesn’t turn into a regular occurrence that’s perfectly OK, I just pick up where I left off the next day.
It’s been an important lesson for me to learn, perfect is unattainable and being somewhat of a perfectionist it’s a difficult thing to accept. Now in the context of this challenge, had I realised earlier in the week when I started it, I’d have written an extra post in the week so I had one in the bag and didn’t break the chain. In the context of real everyday life, it’s a far more important lesson to learn. I’ve had to learn how to give myself permission to say this is ok, this is good enough and I’m ok with putting it out there.
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.
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.
This morning I gave something a try for the first time. I left my MacBook Pro at home and took my iPad and Bluetooth keyboard out to do a bit of work. Since the release of iOS 9 last September I’ve heard many people talking about it has enabled them to use their iPad to do a lot of work. Being a designer I just pushed them aside, no software is able to produce artwork to the that the Creative Cloud apps can on my Mac, and so I just marked it as not yet for me. I have noticed recently that I’ve been naturally reaching for my iPad to do certain bits of work, largely emails and admin. I decided it was time to give it a try. Interestingly I’ve really enjoyed it and I think with a little thinking through, I could switch some of my web site maintenance tasks to the iPad. ∞
“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.
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.
I’m a fan of the book, really enjoyed the film and the soundtrack is pretty darn awesome as well. I’ve spent the evening working with it in the background and it completely sucked me into my work. It’s been a long time since I found a soundtrack that did that.
An extensive particle from Viticci of MacStories about working on the iPad. I can speak from experience as well. I upgraded my iPad 2 to an iPad Air 2 in November last year and its becoming my go to device for any computing other than the design work I need to use my Mac for.
We’ve done it. All of us. Good job everyone. We’ve made it through January and we’re into February.
I always find January a bit of an odd month, it’s full of the initial hopes and dreams of the year ahead, yet it’s a hard slog. We spend the first week getting back into the swing of things, the second week doing our utmost to get new patterns of behaviour, thinking and habits off the ground. The third week pushing through the struggles of motivation, or lack there of; and the final week looking towards pay day to give us a glimpse that the slog has been worth while; and then before we know it, we’re into February.
February always feels like a month of transition. The weather and days start to show glimpses of spring, the evenings get noticeably lighter and we start to look forward to summer. Those new habits we tried to establish in January either live or die. We either stick by them and they become established, or they whither and die while we slip into our old established ways. Admitting defeat we move on convinced we’re never going to accomplish what we want to this year, resigning ourselves to another year of nearly but not quite.
Let’s make this year different. We’re a twelfth of the way through the year, and there’s 11 more months to go. It’s never too late to establish new habits, or find the focus we need to move on and make the year live up to the hopes we had at the start of January. Change doesn’t happen in 4 weeks, it takes work and turning up everyday to make things happen. The 21 days that it takes to establish a habit has only just passed, keep turning up and those days will turn into 42 and a well established pattern of behaviour.
I write this post as encouragement to myself as much as to anyone who reads it. Don’t give up, focus and push through. Turn up and do the work, you never know what you can achieve,
I’ll leave you with the words of Chef Gusteau from the Pixar film Ratatouille
If you focus on what you left behind you will never see what lies ahead!
Interesting comments from Ben Brooks on Why iOS is compelling. Since iOS 9 the iPad has become so capable I now do all my non‐design work on it. It’s also the first computer I recommend to people when they ask me what’s worth considering these days. I think for most people it’s a case of conquering the fear of something being different that’s the biggest stumbling block.
Khoi Vinh on using the iPad to do real design work. I agree with much of what he says, I’m imcreasingly using the iPad in my design work these days, but I do wish the Adobe apps were more capable and able to produce more fully finished files that I would be comfortable proofing to a client.
After a brief break last week, I was on a mini‐holiday, The Week in links is back with it’s 26th edition. This weeks take a look at how we work and think, how the design of the web is pushed a bit more. And then some furter thoughts on Apple Watch, headphones, cameras, and the often speculated Apple Car.
Whole Brain Creativity – Shawn Blanc with a really interesting take on how we think. Each of us has our own strengths in the work we do and it really is in our interests to seek to work with those who complement that with strengths in other areas.
Online Reading is Becoming More like Print—Why We Think That’s a Great Idea | AIGA Eye on Design – I really like the sentiment behind this piece. I’d love to see more considered article based design take place on the web. Coming from a print background but with a fascination of working on the web finding the right balance between the two mediums seems to be something we are constantly being challenged with. It’s interestingly timed given the recent comments about how the web is starting to look the same.
A Design Guru’s Work Lair on The New York Times
B&O BeoPlay H8 on Minimally Minimal
Please Don’t Buy a Digital SLR on The Brooks Review
The Apple Watch at Work and Play by Fraser Speirs
Ways to think about cars by Benedict Evans
Building Better Defaults by Shawn Blanc
Another Sunday and another edition of The Week in Links. This weeks featured links focus largely on the iPad and it’s ability to be used for work and not just for consumption. It’s a debate that has been raging for years, and one which we seem to be no closer to ending, although we might be a step closer once iOS 9 arrives in September.
I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday, sit back with a coffee and have a read.
- Crossing the iPad Rubicon — 500ish Words – I love the idea of working solely on an iPad, along with many others, and the constant discussion of whether it can actually be done is interesting. But every time I read an article like this one, I can stop but come away feeling like the whole thing is just a romantic notion. That’s not to say that no one can solely work on an iPad, but I know I won’t ever be able too. My work requires a Mac, with professional software in the form of Creative Cloud. That said, if I had an office job of some kind, and only used a computer at home for the likes of email and writing for this site, then I’m pretty sure I could go all in right now.
- The Tools & Toys Guide to Writing with an iPad — Tools and Toys – It seems to be a bit of a theme this week, the topic of working on an iPad. This is a really good guide for those looking to find out where to begin using their iPad as a more serious work tool by doing some writing on it. Personally I’m a Byword fan and use it on all my computing devices that I use to publish to this site.
The Best of the Rest
It’s been a buy and stressful week since the last edition of The Week in Links, but that’s why we call it work. It’s not always fluffy clouds and bright sunshine, even for those of us fortunate enough to be doing what we love for a living.
Despite all that, I have enjoyed quite a bit of reading this week. Once again I’ve highlighted a couple of articles which I really connected with. One from Shawn Blanc about work and one about working for yourself… probably not a coincidence after reading that first paragraph.
So sit back and enjoy this weeks edition alongside your Sunday coffee.
- Concerning the Ebb and Flow of “Work” by Shawn Blanc – This is sometihng I’m learning about myself at the moment. Even before I was self‐eployed my tendency was to do things all the time, I used to give my holidays to go and do a bible holiday club for two weeks every summer. It was different but incredibly tiring and it caught up with me. Now I’m self‐employed forcing myself to rest is hard, in fact it hit me last weekend. I need to be away from home to rest and shut out my work, otherwise I and my work suffer.
- Master working for yourself without crushing your soul — Dispatches from Paul Jarvis – Really interesting insights and thoughts on the areas on which to focus if you’re a freelancer. Focus upon what you want to do, talk about it lots and don’t be afraid of saying no. That final bit can be the hardest of all.
The Best of the Rest
- The Death Of Conversation on Babycakes Romero
- Hey, Internet: Stop Trying To Inspire Me on Medium
- The Thief of Intimacy, Busyness by Omid Safi on On Being
- What Does Investing in Yourself Look Like…For Me by Jorge Quinteros
- My Favorite Mac: The New 12″ Retina MacBook on MacStories
- Review: Three Months of Apple Watch on 512 Pixels
This weeks edition continues the evolution of the The Week in Links. Rather than presenting a list of links of varying length I decided it was time to start adding a little commentary and injecting some more of my interests and personality into the column. It is after all my personal blog that it appears in.
This week covers some technology news, some views on Art and Creativity, Le Tour de France, how dressing could affect our approach to work and an incredible video that I highly recommend you watch with your Sunday morning coffee or evening glass of wine.
- The story of Windows 10 from inside Microsoft – It’s been a big week for computing with the arrival of Windows 10. I’ve long been a Mac user, and will be for a long time to come, but I have to say this release of Windows has me intrigued. I’m interested to see how it does and whether it can bring any traction in the mobile space.
- Approval & Art by David duChemin – I really identified with this when I read it, in particular this short paragraph:
The problem is that safety, in many ways, is toxic to art. We get addicted to it. We cling to it and venture out less and less. We risk less. We repeat what “works” and avoid what doesn’t. But if what works is what holds us back, it becomes a kind of sabotage to keep doing it.
- Taking on the Tour de France – With the end of Le Tour last week, this VSCO Journal is timed nicely. Rather than your usual photographic essay looking at Le Tour with a focus on the Peloton this one has a more interesting take looking at those who are watching as well.
- Creativity is a Gift by Shawn Blanc
- HP slaps dress code on R&D geeks: Bin that T‐shirt, put on this tie on The Register
- Toronto at Night by Guillermo Ramos
This weeks edition is coming to you slightly late, no excuses other than yesterday flew by and I forgot to post it. I’ve tried something a little different this week, adding some commentary to a couple of links I really enjoyed and then listing some other good reads below them. I’m hoping to evolve this series a little over the summer to inject a bit more of myself into them. Hope you enjoy this weeks edition.
- THE ALPS by STRAVA – The last week of this year’s Le Tour de France has been through the Alps. This photo story from Strava catches some of what the Peloton has been through these last few days. Even if you’re not a cycling fan these photos are worth viewing. The mountains are stunningly beautiful, I could sit and look at them all day and I loved visiting the Alps the three times I’ve been skiing.
- Don’t Let Success Breed Failure — Shawn Blanc – The second half of this article from Shawn resonated with me and is why I’ve included it in this weeks edition. As a self employed person I spend a lot of time thinking about this kind of thing, especially after events earlier this year. It’s so tempting to continually say yes to everything, but it’s not possible to do it all. It takes a laser focus and discipline to make sure that workloads and priorities remain manageable.