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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!