I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

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.

Seth’s Blog: This Is Post 7,000 ›

Seth God­in made his 7,000th post to his blog yesterday.
7,000.
That’s one post a day for just over 19 years. That’s both inspir­ing and hum­bling at the same time. Inspir­ing because it makes turn­ing up to post on a blog every­day doable and some­thing that is entirely achiev­able. Hum­bling because I haven’t man­aged to com­plete a whole months worth of posts every­day for a long time, let alone a whole year.
There’s one thing that we can learn from any­one who is able to repeatedly turn up like Seth has been for the last 19 years. It’s a skill we can all learn. Post­ing to a blog every­day for 19 years isn’t only for people who have a large fol­low­ing, we’re all cap­able of doing it, it just takes a bit of dis­cip­line. So here’s to the next 19 years Seth, and every­one who blogs with any regularity.

Deep Prayer > Deep Work ›

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. 

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.

Permission

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.

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. 

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.

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.