Managing Your Health As A Designer

I am about three weeks into my latest move towards helping myself become a better designer. I suppose you can say it’s been about four years in the making, but who’s counting? It definitely has been a journey, but I know that becoming a better designer doesn’t mean that I always have to focus on getting better at Sketch, Photoshop, hand lettering or keeping educated. Sure, these are all important skills and maybe you need to improve on those skills but often times as we race to stay relevant and compete we neglect our health and get burnt out in the process.

I probably don’t have to elaborate too much more on why you need to be aware of your health because if you are one of those designers who isn’t, you’re probably feeling the effects in some way everyday. However, as always I want to share my very own experiences of balancing out my health and career with you as well as what I’ve done to help me get pointed in the right direction. I hope after reading this you too get the jumpstart that you need.

My Story:

Where do I begin? I suppose the best place is when I was at my worst. I was fresh out of school working for an agency just trying to keep up. That meant late nights, drinks, coffees, fast food for lunch and at least one cigarette for every hour of the day. Things were so bad many restaurants that I frequented for lunch knew my order by heart. The only exercise came with walks around the office or to my car to and from work. Exercise and healthy eating was none-existent. I was consumed by my work. Looking back on those early days of my career those bad habits remind me of a few episodes of Mad Men.

As my career progressed, so did these habits. When I started Greenline Creative things didn’t change too much. I thought they would, but the added stress and lack of sleep started compounding with the other bad habits. It was then, when I began smoking two packs a day easily. I was also at my heaviest. Yes, I tried to eat slightly better from time to time but more often than not I fueled my body with garbage and toxins. I tried diets, but as you’d expect I yo-yoed a good bit. Again, I was too focussed on building and running my own business so how could I really think about my health in the first place? The thought of being a designer that was active and health conscious totally inspired me, but I convinced myself I didn't have the time or made up excuses as to why this was just not something I could do. Sound familiar to anyone?

The Effects:

I don’t have an exact timeline when I started to gain control over each of these horrible health habits but I can tell you the moment when I realized I needed to change things. It was late 2012 after five years of grinding it out in this industry and realizing that I was not reaching my goals or even coming close to reaching my full potential as a designer that I started to look at a deeper cause. Sure, I was progressing along but everything appeared harder for me than the others. How was it that those around me appeared to be crushing it, but I wasn’t? I lacked energy and was really getting worn out. I was not working smarter I was always working harder. For less. The smoking was not just poisoning my body it was taking up valuable hours in my day. I felt insecure and it made it hard to fully retain information. The food was hurting me physically. My stomach was a total wreck. All of this combined made me dread getting going in the morning. I’d look in the mirror in the morning and I’d lack real clarity. I was getting depressed. I just couldn’t understand what was holding me back. I was putting in the time and motions but I was not feeling that sense of momentum and enthusiasm that I was making any real progress. I know I loved design, so that was not it, I felt confident in my abilities to design. I was still winning work, but as a complete whole, things were really dreary. I knew I had to change if I was going to be able to reach my goals and pull myself together for the next stage of my career. Oh and I needed to do it soon. Time was running out. I was simply burning the candle at both ends.

The Changes:

It was then that I decided to make some changes. I decided that I was going to take each of my bad habits one at a time starting with the worst and letting the momentum of success carry me into the next. Again, keep in mind that this was an on going process for me. I’ve not completely achieved all of my goals, but I’m totally thrilled with the progress I’ve made. Below is my plan and how I’ve either achieved/conquered the bad habit or how I’m actively working on beating it today.

  • Quit Smoking: The first thing that I decided to tackle was my smoking addiction. I figured if I can beat this the rest will be easy. Heck, life would be easy. My deadline was January 1st, 2012. The first thing I did was do some research and I stumbled on a book called “The Easy Way to Stop Smoking” by Allen Carr. I spent one week reading it and on December 31, 2011 I smoked my very last cigarette. I remember the moment like yesterday. Before that, I tried a ton of other remedies and I can honestly say that after reading that book, it really was easy. My mind was made up and nothing was stopping me. Not even the horrendous cravings that ensued for the next couple weeks. Along with the book, I downloaded an app called “My Last Cigarette”. It allowed me to track my progress. To this day I still have this app and I’ll have it forever on my phone. It’s a great way to keep me in check when I have that random urge to bum a smoke. It’s encouraging to see how much money I’ve saved and more importantly how many days I’ve added onto my life. Quitting smoking also gave me confidence when interacting with others. I no longer worry about if I smell or even worse, get lost in my thoughts of when the meetings or events will be over so I can catch my next smoke. Do I miss it? Sometimes, but the benefits of being a non-smoker are sooo much better. Life’s more enjoyable when you’re not so irritable.
  • Exercise More: The next step of my plan was to exercise more. I figured that if I was going to stop smoking, I’d need to replace that time with something. I also thought it was important that I give my lungs a solid workout and since I was coming off the momentum of being a non-smoker I could easily measure my progress. I started pretty heavily hitting the gym hard. That wasn’t so successful. Early on it was nice, because it jump started my body some, but I slowly started to come up with excuses. So rather than accept defeat I decided to make small decisions around being active. Decisions like simply walking a bit every day or maybe taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Those began to add up and next thing you know, I was running weekly. Just that simple change of being more aware of how little I’m walking or running in a given period of time has helped me stay on track. For me it wasn’t and hasn’t been about getting bulked or anything of the sort. It been simply about moving more than I used to. And I’m happy to say I’ve accomplished that. I now walk daily at 3:30 PM (most days) and have purchased a stand up desk as a part of my workspace. If you’re looking for one MultiTable’s are pretty solid desks for sure. I think I’ll have it for a lifetime. Julie liked it so much we ended up buying her one too.
  • Create A Sleep Habit: Managing to get enough sleep as of late has been a bit tough with the arrival of my daughter, Savannah. However, I’m still trying to stick the the sleep schedule that I had prior. It takes discipline to stick to a sleep schedule. So many things can throw a wrench into the routine. A last minute decision to watch Netflix is a biggy for me. Because of that, you have to have a plan and a routine. My plan is to try to be in bed no later than 11 PM if I can. Since I get up around 6 AM To start the day that gives me about seven hours of rest. (Note: with the little one, that gets broken up into intervals), but it’s still much better than the 3 or 4 I used to get. Yes, I can still manage to go long stretches without sleep (if I choose to) but nowadays I really try to put some emphasis on getting rest. Sure, if I’m super motivated to work on something and energized, It’s important that I capitalize on that and use the momentum to knock a few things out. Just like the other goals, I started slow with sleep. I set some morning goals for myself that would excite me to get up in the morning. I made the mornings about me. By getting up earlier, I obviously became tired earlier. It was only when I was tired that I went to bed. If I forced myself to go to sleep at a certain time, even if I was not tired, I wound up staring at my phone for four hours which was the opposite of sleeping. I will be honest, having this sleep schedule does make me feel a bit “Old” so I allow myself some cheat days on the weekends where I’ll stay up later and maybe sleep in a few extra hours.
  • Eat Healthier: The last thing that I conquered on my list of bad habits was my diet. I chose it last because I knew it would be the hardest. Diet has always been the thing that kept me from reaching any weight loss goals. Food to me is an event and I love all the bad kinds of food. The food that makes you really tired. You know the kind. The heavy comfort food. However, I knew that this was not doing me any good in the short term and it would not do me any good long term. My experience with eating healthy is similar to my experience of quitting smoking. I simply had to be in the right mindset. I also needed to change my environment. I first started off by doing some research on what I was eating. Netflix is great for this. I watched a number of documentaries regarding this topic. The first one being about a year ago called “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead”, which was an eye opening experience around the power of fruits and vegetables and how to consume them in the form of juicing. Even though I didn’t begin juicing too much then, I decided to grocery shop and cook at home more (since I enjoy cooking anyways). I switched from shopping at Giant Eagle & Walmart to shopping at Whole Foods where I wouldn’t be as tempted to shop for the bad stuff. This change was big for me. Sure, it was a bit more expensive, but I figured it was money well spent. It also allowed me to open up and be aware of what I was putting into my body and what I was leaving out. The most recent thing that I’ve done is really step up the juicing. This came after watching “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead 2″ and hearing about all the others who have turned their eating habits around by introducing juice into their diets and eating more natural. Again, it’s not the cheapest way to go, but I’ve been juicing more regularly for the last month and the effects are noticeable. Not just on how my clothes fit, but how I feel as a whole about myself. I simply feel better eating more of a plant-based diet sprinkling in the proteins. Since this is an ongoing lifestyle change, time will tell how long I stick to it, but the feeling and determination that I have inside for this is pretty strong. About as strong as the feeling I had to quit smoking so I think my odds are pretty high.

The Results:

This is probably one of the longest posts that I’ve had in a long time, some of you may think it’s too long, but I thought it was really important to share it all with you. Not only because when I share my milestones with you all, it keeps me motivated, but because the results of this effort has truly paid off in so many ways.

Since I’ve put this plan into action, I’ve been able to really achieve the goals that I’ve set out for myself. I’ve got a ton more confidence. I’m more aware of who I am as a person and a designer and I’ve been able to make clear decisions on projects and in life. The energy and momentum has propelled me forward. Heck, this blog would not have existed if I didn’t start down this path. I’ve learned through these experiences that I can achieve what I never thought I could if I simply set up a plan and takes the steps necessary.

Here’s the big takeaways here. I didn’t have a target date in mind when I told myself I was going to achieve all this. I just had start date. I realized that in the past If I placed a weight loss goal and timeline on these types of lifestyle changes, I failed. The reason is that these changes really take time. They are life changing. Once I realized deeply that what I was setting out to do was change my lifestyle, I became at piece knowing that this is a journey of taking one walk at a time, eating one healthy meal at a time and continuing to say no each time one of  those smoking cravings peak every so often.

When you look at this and compare it to my career and others. It’s the same. You don’t know where you’ll be in three years from now and you should not worry too much about it. Yes, you should have a plan as to what you want to achieve and where you want to be, but don’t put too much pressure on when you achieve these goals, it won’t be tomorrow. You simply need to make the small changes and be aware that each conversation, project or job that you participate in will either get you closer to that goal or move you further away from it. It’s that simple.

What’s Next:

If possible, every day at 3:30 PM ET I try and take my daily walk. I’d like for you to join me. Tweet me and let me know if you’ll be joining me. If you can’t join me, it’s okay. Do it on your time, but make it a point to get up and move a bit every day. You’ll feel the difference in energy immediately and it’s a great time to think through some creative challenges. Heck, feel free to send me some pictures of what you find inspiring on your walk. I’d love to see it!

Read Next

I have stories, lessons, and opinions of my own too. Read my blog.

Follow my journey and read my perspectives on design, branding, employee, and customer experience.
To ensure that I keep my email list tidy and that you do in fact want to receive emails from me, I just sent you an email with a link to confirm your subscription.  The confirmation email should arrive in your inbox shortly. Please click on the button to confirm. Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
© 2022 Dennis Field. All rights reserved.