“If you spend your life doing what you love, the speed at which the world goes on and changes around you is irrelevant.”
“A lot of what we do as graphic designers is fleeting. A magazine might hang around for a week or two but it will eventually end up on the seat of the airplane for the flight attendants to clean up or in the bottom of the bird cage. A poster arrives in the mail and if its lucky it will get filed away with the other rolled up orphans in the closet waiting to be framed someday. I like to design books because they are a more lasting and memorable form of our craft.”
Rebekah Cox on the nature of identity:
To start it’s important to understand what identity isn’t: Identity is not a password, it’s not root access, it’s not your calendar, it’s not your email, it’s not a technical achievement, it’s not your location, it’s not a user account in a system, it’s not your contacts and it’s not a feature.
So, what is identity? I think in its most basic form, your identity is the product of how you manage your attention and others’ access to that attention. Those areas where your attention is focused assemble to form a set of experiences that shape and influence where you’ll direct future attention. But that attention is interrupted all the time by people, events, things, desires, boredom, weather, etc. and that process of interruption is, largely, contained to physical space because that is a natural gate on access.
Her whole post is worth reading and reminded me of Rob Giampietro’s rumination on identity from The Mavenist, that I find myself thinking about often:
Where does the identifiable part of an identity reside? Maybe it’s related to the nesting dolls you’ve mentioned and this “sheathing effect.” Returning to Stuart Brand, he describes the identity of a building along similar lines with his notion of “shearing layers.” Brand notes that just as people grow and change, buildings grow and change—they are not static or fixed.
“Time is less a rigid vase and more an unfired lump of clay, malleable at the hands of experience, better measured by the richness of our memories than any clock or calendar.”
—Jack Cheng, on an idea his dad has about time and memory and meaning and experience.
I don’t want him to ever stop asking me about it, because every time he asks, it’s a reminder. To make next week longer and more memorable than this one. To make each subsequent year slower than the one before, by going off the rails, opening myself to richer memories. Every time Dad tells me his idea, it’s a reminder to step away from the machine and pay attention to the world.
Oh man, this is good.
Seth Godin on the simple fact that just working more hours puts you ahead:
Just in time, the economy is now rewarding art and innovation and guts. It’s rewarding brilliant ideas executed with singular direction by aligned teams on behalf of truly motivated customers. None of which is measured on the clock.
John Cage doesn’t work more hours than you. Neither does Carole Greider. Work/life balance is a silly question, just as work/food balance or work/breathing balance is. It’s not really up to you after a point. Instead of sneaking around the edges, it might pay to cut your hours in half but take the intellectual risks and do the emotional labor you’re capable of.
Time has a limit.
“The greatest things you make and do are the ones that get your full attention. It’s helpful to take an inventory of what you’re doing and then ask yourself where you’re spending your best attention. You can fill your time, but you have to spend your attention. How you spend it is probably a better measure of priority than anything else.”
Summer is starting to wind down and big changes are afoot. It’s been a while since I made a new mix so now seemed like a fitting time.
It’s called Time, Love and it’s about change. It’s about celebrating your histories and meeting your future. It’s about love and hope and fear and letting go and jumping in with both feet.
You can listen to it here.
Here’s the track listing:
- Ready to Start - Arcade Fire
- It’s About Time - Barcelona
- Swim Until You Can’t See Land - Frightened Rabbit
- Welcome Home, Son - Radical Face
- Change of Time - Josh Ritter
- Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise - The Avett Brothers
- Cologne - Ben Folds
- I Don’t Want Love - The Antlers
- Civilian - Wye Oak
- That Home - Cinematic Orchestra
- Driveway - Great Northern
- Poor in Love - Destoyer
- Sooner Than Later - Sixpence None the Richer
- Can’t Go Back Now - The Weepies
- Say Yes - Elliott Smith
- Younglife - Anberlin
- Birdhouse - Riley Armstrong
- Rubik’s Cube - Athlete
I couldn’t tell you anything particular about that day. It was late May and the weather outside was similar to the weather today—sunny and warm. A spring day that makes you long for the summer. It was my junior year of high school and I was in Mrs. Zelinski’s English class. I sat second to the back in the second row from the wall next to the large window that looked out over the courtyard where the seniors ate their lunch. I’d get to eat out there next year. Mrs. Zelinski had an array of plants sitting in the window sill on little plant stands and hanging from the drop ceiling. All high schools seem to have those drop ceilings.
The window was opened and there was a breeze blowing in from the courtyard with the sounds of the seniors eating their lunch making Mrs. Zelinski’s plant arrangements rustle and sway. I sat there in the second to the back seat in the second to last row and a feeling of nostalgia came over me, blowing in from the courtyard. I don’t know what it was. It wasn’t a particular memory but it reminded me of what it was like being a kid. Mrs. Zelinski was talking about Ernest Hemingway but I was thinking about something else.
Where had my childhood gone? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was playing in sandboxes and drawing cities on my driveway?
“The minute you think that the past was better, your present is second hand, yourself becomes vintage. It’s okay for clothes but not for people.”
A think tank and environmental organization in Finland published a manifesto on happiness (Finnish), but really it’s on managing time, public space, and doing meaningful work:
Time is a unique resource: it cannot be stored. We all have it, but most of us have too little of it. We say that it’s important to be able to make one’s own decisions concerning how to use our free time. The significance of free time has grown in the past two decades. At the same time, the issue of free time is paradoxical. For a busy person, free time may be the key to happiness, but happiness can equally easily be lost in not having anything to do.
But it’s not easy:
The politics of happiness is not only a matter of balancing work and free time, and initiatives such as the four-day work week or civic salary do not automatically resolve the problems we have regarding our use of time. People are often performance-oriented even in their free time. Our free time is also diminished by growing distances between home, the workplace and services, not to mention the ecological effects of increasing distances. Free time easily becomes subordinated to work and is spent on recharging one’s battery.
Scheduling “nothing” is an acute a warning perhaps as scheduling “something.” Time is an unique resource, a pause, a silence; we store it, measure it, accumulate it, but it’s not being saved for tomorrow. All you have is what you choose today.
In a lot of the reading I’ve done, I’ve noticed a strange correlation between time and happiness, but it make sense. I’m happiest when I’m spending my time doing something that is meaningful to me, whether that means spending it with people I love, working on projects that are important to me, and even those times where I’m just laying on my bed, face up, doing nothing. We can all be happier if we simply reorganize our time.
Less, but Better (Or, how to make time for meaningful work)
So I read this article this morning from Unclutterer on living the life you want and it really resonated with a lot of the things I’ve been thinking about lately.
You should go read it.
This paragraph really struck a chord with me:
When was the last time you sat down and asked yourself what you really want from life? What makes you happy? What matters — really matters — to you? Maybe it is home ownership and 2.1 children that you want? Or, maybe instead of the suburban life, you would rather travel the world on your own and work only when you need a little cash?
What do you actually enjoy doing? What inspires you?
As I’ve mentioned multiple times the past few months, this has easily been the busiest season of my life (This is the last week of busiest semester of college I’ve even been though) and this got me thinking about all sort of topics like the importance of keeping busy versus the importance of rest, and how to focus your time and attention to get things done.
There was something about that busyness that drove me towards simplification. As I found myself getting to bed later and later, finding it harder and harder to get up each morning, and drinking more and more cups of coffee, I realized I need to make some changes because it was physically impossible to keep up at this pace and I was dangerously close to burning out.
So I asked myself those very questions over and over. What kind of life do I want? What matters to me? What do I want to do? And I concluded that in the end, I really just want to make meaningful creative work. I want to work on things that I’m immensely passionate about. When I can clearly define what’s most important to me, nothing else matters and I can start making changes to make sure the things I say are important get the time and attention they deserve.
Because you can easily say that family is most important. Or friends. Or some cause. But would your calendar reflect that? If we tracked how you spent your time, how much time are you spending doing things with and for your family or friends or that cause? I bet if we looked at how your time was spent to gauge what was most important to you, we’d think Facebook was the most important part of your life.
I know it sounds like I’m getting all self-help with this “be-a-better-you” crap, but really, I think this is all part of the creative process. I’d argue things like this will help you make the really cool stuff you’ve always wanted to create more than a blog of design tips and tricks.
My favorite design maxim; the one I refer to more than any other, is from the industrial designer Deiter Rams who says “less, but better.” To me, that’s the key to good design. And, ironically, it’s probably also the key to good living. Just like in the design process, you remove all the unnecessary elements, in life you need to remove everything that doesn’t matter so you can focus on the few things that do so you can start living that life you envision and producing the work you want to.
So spend time with friends and family. Work on things that are meaningful and important to you. Go take a walk. Read a good book. You’ll work will be better. You’ll feel better. It worked for me.
Time, Attention, and Simplification
I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. As I quickly approach finals week for this semester, the workload is piling up and I find myself wondering how I’ll get it all done; how I’ll have the time to put in the care and detail and attention I think each project deserves. How often do we find ourselves saying we are too busy? That we just don’t have enough time. If only there were more hours in a day.
But the funny thing is, we all have the same amount of time. My day is the same length as your day. I’m sure you spend your day differently than I spend mine. We are working on different things, we have different responsibilities and commitments and engagements. You might have more to do than I have to do. But we both have the same amount of time.
So maybe time isn’t the problem. What if the bigger problem lies in our attention?
When we make a conscious decision to do something—to work on one task or check something off the to-do list—we are making an unconscious decision not to do the 10,000 other things we also could be doing. When we put out attention on one task, we are saying that particular task is most important to us.
I always find it interesting when I see tweets and Facebook statuses about not having enough time or how you are going to pull an all-nighter because of all the work you have. You see the irony in this, don’t you? Don’t spend your time complaining in a public forum (or to yourself for that matter) about not having enough time to get your work done or whittle down the to-do list because that’s when it becomes apparent that time isn’t your problem. You’re simply directing your attention somewhere else. You are saying that Facebook and Twitter is what’s most important to you at that time. Think of the time you’d save if you just signed out of Twitter and Facebook for an hour and actually sat and worked. It’s all about simplification. It seems so simple, so obvious, but all too often we overlook it. Mind blowing, I know.
Where are you putting your attention? I’ve found that the less distractions I have in my life, the less options fighting for my attention, the more I can get done. For me, that means less time in the RSS reader, less time on FFFFound, less time on Twitter and Facebook. And guess what? Because I’ve reduced those distractions, my attention is more focused and I can actually do better work, quicker, giving me more time at the end of day to either take on more projects or check the feeds or Twitter or Facebook. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Reduce the distractions fighting for your attention. Remove tasks that are not most important and make conscious decisions to direct your attention to things that matter. Until you do, just know you’ll be pulling all-nighters while I’m sleeping soundly in my bed getting ready to take it all on again tomorrow.
“I don’t think of my life as a career. I do stuff. I respond to stuff. That’s not a career — it’s a life!”
Scott Berkun on the problem with being too busy:
This means people who are always busy are time poor. They have a time shortage. They have time debt. They are either trying to do too much, or they aren’t doing what they’re doing very well. They are failing to either a) be effective with their time b) don’t know what they’re trying to effect, so they scramble away at trying to optimize for everything, which leads to optimizing nothing.
Some of the best thinkers throughout history had some of their best thoughts while going for walks, playing cards with friends, little things things that generally would not be considered the hallmarks of busy people. It’s the ability to pause, to reflect, and relax, to let the mind wander, that’s perhaps the true sign of time mastery, for when the mind returns it’s often sharper and more efficient, but most important perhaps, happier than it was before.
I couldn’t say this any better. This is the exact thing I’ve been writing about the past few weeks.