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.