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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.