Why slowing down will increase the quality of your creative output
About a year ago I attended a conference and sat back listening to a handful of speakers with very impressive resumes from very impressive companies talk about their side projects. I saw amazing work, met some interesting people, and learned a lot. But the one thing that I could not get away from was asking myself how these very talented and busy people made time to invest in side projects.
I’m currently the Art Director here at Idea Booth and Founder of a boutique user-experience design agency in Chicago. My job is to motivate my team to create stunning and user-friendly designs, a job I take very seriously–often too seriously.
The way that I work is very close to breathing–inhale and exhale. Drawing inspiration, attending workshops, reading books, writing, playing music, and taking my motorcycle out on a beautiful Autumn day–these are acts of inhaling.
Exhaling takes form in designing, providing creative guidance, speaking engagements, and side projects. Here’s the problem, I’ve often found myself short of breath, or unable to breath–it’s simple, to exhale, you need to inhale–you can’t exhale forever.
I’ve noticed that for extended periods of time, I barely inhale. Friends and colleagues have pointed this out to me as well, and it’s something I’ve thought a lot about and started to analyze. My craft teaches me to identify problems and design solutions–my mind operates in a very logical machine like manner. If I find an error, I try to reproduce it, debug it, and then build mechanics to prevent similar errors from happening.
What become apparent was that I had ceased to do the activities that allow me to breath–I had forgotten how to do something that is one of the most natural things we can do. I hadn’t created anything for myself in months; had not finished a book, or discovered a new band. At times, I’ve neglected my health–I use to spare at a boxing gym a few days every week–I can’t remember the last time I put on my gloves.
So the last few weeks I’ve devoted myself to being more conscious–learning to stop and take a breath. I’ve revised old side projects and began posting to Dribble again. I’ve gotten back into writing; I designed a friend’s book cover, and a cool tool for the presidential debate
My point is that I’ve focused my attention on the things that are most important to me and in doing so, I’ve become a more useful and productive person. Look for the places where you can solve a problem, even if it’s something small, and start breathing a bit easier.