Just a couple small updates this week as I've been on vacation including a brand new song and a new design systems video
Design, code, and the pursuit of being better at each was all I lived and breathed in college. It’s all I ever thought about, to the point of me daydreaming in class about what I was working on the night before and how I would continue it later that day. I sacrificed time with friends, with my significant other, and even time for my health because of how much I wanted the goals I had in life.
This is incredibly important still, and should be for you as well, but it’s in a completely different way and balance than before.
Back then I would wish I had made time to work on music, or to go to the gym and focus on well-being, or to pick up a new hobby, but I wouldn’t act on those feelings. I’d brush them off and put my head back down and continue to grind away at design and code. They’d remain afterthoughts, pushed to the back of my mind while still being a subconscious yearning to pursue.
Almost a year has gone by since I felt the way I did above.
I’ve had some career changes that shifted my free time from wanting to work on design to needing decompression from a full-time design job. I started to get worried (and still do sometimes to be honest) that I wasn’t a “productive” person anymore. I didn’t come home anxious to work on my next side project and ship something on my own, living on the constant high of being that person that never sleeps.
I slowly but surely transferred my free time to finding other pursuits in life that didn’t revolve around the same topic as my full-time work. I was able to explore other mediums of creativity, expression, and decompression that weren’t design or code.
An appropriate quote I came across in the book Rest:
If your work is your self, when you cease to work, you cease to exist.Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
This quote made me take a step back and think about how much my life was reliant on the outcome of my work. I felt that if I didn’t have my work or what I do full-time, I didn’t really have much to offer and wanted to re-evaluate why and where this came from.
It turns out that I got my confidence from my work. I was confident in my ability to design, code, and illustrate for clients at a high level, was proud of the amount of income I had gotten to, what that income was able to buy me, and how proud I was of myself. While these are all very much valid and present feelings, I’ve been able to shift that mentality and confidence to a more widespread set of skills and personality traits.
With four albums under my belt I have a creative outlet I didn’t have before. I recognize I’m compassionate, understanding, and a great support system to others and have invested more time for my friends and coworkers to take that into account. I’ve been working out and eating better for 6 months straight and am much more comfortable with how I dress and how I feel about my body. I’m starting to learn about finances and on my way to being able to buy my first place within a year or two. I play video games almost every day and love the time I have to forget about everything else in the world. I just moved and have invested in making my apartment what I want to call home and express myself.
I’ve always thought I had a balance in life in the past, but am recently realizing the divide and bringing the ratio back to 50:50 between life and work. I’ve been able to find a deeper purpose and meaning for what I want out of life and better visualize and encompass the approach to my goals and strengths.
Think about the quote above and think about how you balance priorities in personal and professional life. They can even be working towards similar goals, but it’s worth thinking about how you currently spend and block off your free time vs your work time.
Ihave been struggling quite a bit lately coming to terms with the various interests and pursuits I have in life. Feels like a strange statement to say if I’m being honest—how can being passionate about different topics have a negative connotation?
Well, there are a few that I personally struggle with and have a hard time overcoming, but I think the main ones being incompletion, lack of focus, and the feeling of accomplishment.
Let me tell you my scenario and maybe you can relate.
An overview of topics I am passionate about in no particular order: design, development, music, music production, fashion, sneakers, startups, health and fitness, entrepreneurship, gaming, minimalism, interior design, collecting, and writing. Not a crazy amount of topics to be interested in all things considered, but with my personality and mentality it leads to some “less than ideal” situations for me.
I love making things. I feel like crap if I’m not working on something (a side project, a new album, etc.) and in turn weigh “journey” over completion subconsciously. This leads to unfinished projects, songs, books, articles, video games, etc. I get a rush over starting something new and learning about new things at a constant pace.
If something starts to feel mundane, I need to move onto something else or I get extremely unmotivated. Being unmotivated = no work being done = me feeling like crap and getting in my head about things and where I am in life. Dramatic, right? I agree, but it isn’t something I can control unfortunately. I’ve recently found this compounding as I’ve shifted more of my personal work outside of full-time design work towards non design and development topics.
For example, being focused on releasing mini-albums (or EPs), playing story focused games with time investment peaking, and recently getting into fashion and streetwear and the research and collecting that comes with it. While I don’t regret putting time or money into these (on the contrary, I highly enjoy them), my time spreads more and more thin for making time to pursue my original goals in my career of design and development.
I want to work for myself at some point in the future. I love where I work now and don’t plan on doing this anytime soon, but some day. I want to have my own web apps that I work on myself and just have that as my full-time job. While I consider myself a great designer and front-end developer, I don’t quite have the full skillset to pursue this or even put this into motion. While I’m more than willing to learn, it’s hard to find a balance with all the other things I’m working on and doing.
At some point there is a priority decision that needs to be made, whether consciously or not, and wherever my interests are focused at the time tends to be the winner. So instead of learning some new technologies of code or picking up and reading that business book, I’m putting that time into working on my new album or researching a company or project I came across.
One could argue that I need to “set my priorities straight”, and while I thought this was the case too, it’s a bit more complicated than that after much reflection. It’s not that working on my new album or playing a video game aren’t priorities to me, because they are. I care about making music and experiencing an interactive movie because these are creative outlets for me outside of design and development too.
These other topics I care about are important to me and it’s not just a toggle to switch of what I want to do that day. Throughout the week I touch on almost all of my passions to a degree, and I don’t want to have to sacrifice one or two of them for others. I have instead been pursuing each on a typically shallow level while deep diving on 1–2 at a time.
What I’m trying to say is that no matter what I do, I always feel guilty about another topic that I’m not working on. Even when I am working on one and being productive, in the back of my head I’m asking myself “when are you going to finish that code course?” or “how come you haven’t finished that book yet?” or “you only have one song left for that EP, why are you doing this instead?” as an endless loop.
While I’ve come to terms with struggle to an extent, every now and then it becomes overwhelming mentally. As someone who keeps to themselves and does well with handling problems on my own, it’s a tough thing to talk about with others because there really isn’t a straightforward answer. It’s more of a fluctuating choice management of focusing on 1–2 topics for a finite amount of time and then when my mind shifts, I let it and ignore other topics for a bit.
I’m getting better at feeling less guilty putting other interests on the back burner for a bit and learning how to handle it more and more each day, but it was something I wanted to write about this week as it’s very relevant to me today recently as couple things in life start to compound one another for a bit.
Did this make sense? And is it something you or someone you know can relate to? I’d love to know your thoughts and/or your approach to this if you have any input you would like to share as it’s always welcome.
If you’re someone who is lucky enough to work in the creative field, you probably know how difficult it is to work in the same vein of creative work outside of your full-time job.
I’ve struggled with this since I can remember and still struggle with this to this day. As a digital designer, I’ve always wanted to constantly get better at design and pursue things outside of my full-time gig. To not wear myself thin, I spent time learning other skills that I could blend design with such as design, code, and entrepreneurship. This has proved very useful time and time again and has since helped me accomplish career goals in my life that I am able to enjoy today.
However, now that I’m in a working environment that I love and constantly learn from, I’ve since shifted my focus to other creative outlets outside of work. The main example for me being my music. It’s been about 6 months of me working on music and I’ve noticed it actually have positive influence on my work and personal life so I wanted to share and hopefully encourage you to pursue the same.
When I used to do design all day only to come home to try and design all night, some nights I was miserable. I didn’t feel like hitting my head against the creative wall and getting something mediocre to do the job.
Not that working on other creative outlets doesn’t have its frustrating days, but they are far less often. I typically feel excited to exercise different creative muscles and mature my perspective on different aspects of the creative world. Now I look forward to learning and trying out new things with music and other outlets that impact my happiness and satisfaction creatively.
Because I have goals to work towards within my music work, every time I come back to work on those goals I’m more and more excited to get work done. I feel excited to keep working on that track that was coming along well and feel motivated to get better because it’s something relatively new to me. I constantly feel that rush of something new and exciting and look forward to working on music at the end of each work day.
The work I do in product design can be draining somedays on top of meetings and tasks I have to work on. Decision fatigue becomes a very real thing when you’re working on a difficult project I have found personally.
Luckily I’ve found that creative outlets can really make an impact on this feeling. In contrast to watching TV or playing videos games, creative outlets allow you to flex other creative muscles that influence subconscious thoughts you may have on full-time work.
I can genuinely say that I feel better refreshed and ready to tackle the day after a music session the night before. I feel in a better spot to pick back up on projects at work and can even have a better perspective than I did the day before.
I personally am someone that doesn’t like to put all their eggs in one basket. Not only do I feel bored and unchallenged, but I feel a plateau constantly creeping up on me as a person overall. For better or for worse, this puts me in a position where trying different things constantly makes me happier overall. On top of this it expands my understanding of other people and industries while finding different ways to inspire others.
Through music for example, I’ve met quite a few new friends and have had others find me online through my musical ventures. Even folks that I know through my design and development work have expressed interest in the work that I do and even shared wanting to try music themselves. Meeting new people and having conversations around creative outlets with others keeps me at ease with the worry I mentioned before.