I’ve just ended a long month of basically not doing anything, and not being committed to anything, but myself. It’s no wonder that I didn’t achieve much in this period of time and didn’t feel I was making any progress, although I wanted to. To be precise, I was mostly focused on immediate goals like having fun, meet friends, rest, but not on long-term goals like learning new things or writing about things I wanted to write about (there’s well-written coding crash-course for designers, just waiting to be written by me). Magically, as soon as I finished my long vacation and started working, my mind switched to FOCUS mode, and I started learning new things, as I was getting payed for this time. Oh wait, I am! So, is that why I was so focused? Because I had a boss and needed to prove myself?
As I’m trying to give more value to things I write, I got stuck when I stopped working and spent most of my time binge watching “Parks and Recreation” and reading “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely, and not actively doing anything. I feel that I need to continue writing and stay in the loop of writing, so although they’re not all design related or professional in any way, I did had some interesting thoughts in this period of unemployment.
When I finished my Fine Arts studies in high school and told my teacher I’m going to be a programmer, I couldn’t miss the slight disappointment on her face. She thought working in front of a computer for 9 hours a day for six years will kill the artist inside of me.
Well, 6 years later, I can say this artist is pretty injured, but learned and changed a lot.
The past couple of months were a rollercoaster of feelings for me. I’ve had my awesome weeks of full control and self satisfaction — I designed awesome things, learned a lot of stuff and went to the gym a lot. But, there were also periods of disappointment and low self confidence — I didn’t enjoy my job, I felt stuck, and the only thing I wanted to do was get in my bed and play video games for ever and ever. This feeling is connected to many things in my life — work, money, fitness, etc.
It appeared to me that the key for being satisfied, for me, is Control.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
I switched to iOS lately and played with Health app — an app that learns almost every aspect of your health and habits — activities, eating habits and much more, depending on what permission you give it, of course. I know this is not a new and revolutionary idea, but an app that collects your data of a routine or a progress you’re going through is still satisfying and fun.
After playing a little bit with the app I was a bit frustrated with the structural way it works — You can measure and document your runs, but documenting gym workouts is a bit crooked. I mean, it’s possible, but it’s not as easy. Gym workouts aren’t as measurable as runs, so there aren’t so many apps that do it, although generally all it takes is a little tick that you’ve completed a workout.
The improvement diary
My father cycled and swam for most of his life, and in order to document his progress, back in the past millennium, he wrote down his activities in a little diary, with a little illustration that describes the activity.
I really liked looking at these illustrations and records, both in a visual way and in a ideological way. So, a couple of months ago, I bought a cheap diary and at the end of every day wrote what I did in order to get better — Worked out, played the guitar, learned how to code in ReactJS, etc. This was pretty awesome, but still not so satisfying.
The all-tracking app
I don’t need to do a lot of persuasion work in order to sell the concept of an app that helps you become better, but I had an idea for an app that will help me get better and feel in control. The concept is really simple — It trackseverything. No complicated algorithms and no privacy-invading permissions. The concept is letting you say what you did, that was worth documenting, on each day. The missing ingredient that makes this app better than a physical diary, in my opinion is the option to review your progress summary. A weekly report of your process would be so satisfying to watch. The app doesn’t have to know what you did, the whole thing can be super-generic. Just seeing you worked out 4 times this week, learned piano for 7 hours, read a whole book… That’s so satisfying!
It’s as generic as a piece of paper
I can’t predict what type of activities will be tracked on this app; Some people like to go to the gym, while others like to practice on harmonica and others like to practice self-hypnosis. These are all things that require time and investment, for the long run — and that’s the common ground of these activities, not the way they’re recorded. An instance of an activity should have no more than these parameters: Category — The activities should have categories in order to be summed up. “Gym” / “Tambourine” / “Drawing”. Description (optional) — “A workout with my brother” / “Late night tambourine jam” / “First try of drawing with my eyes folded”.
Being in control makes me feel safe and comfortable, so for me, an app that keeps me in control of everything I want (again, I have the control), is the ideal way of being calm and satisfied. It would be a nice project for me to develop it myself and see how it feels. What do you think about this idea? Would you use it? Do you feel it needs any other upgrades? Tell me about it in the comments.
As I mentioned in the weekly newsletter (sign up!), lately I’ve been trying photographing with an old Nikon 35mm camera. I wanted to learn about the whole photography and development process and make the best out of it. So, after I shot about five films, ruined a whole film by not inserting it right, had high hopes and some disappointments, I learned some things about life.
I gotta say, I’ve been a horrible doer the past week. I realized I was sitting in front of my computer, using my smartphone to chat with my friends, then get motivated to work on the computer, wasting time on Facebook, answering some calls, and finally finding out it’s lunch time. I can’t describe how frustrated I was when I looked back and measured my productivity that day. A few days ago I stumbled upon this article, that made me think again about being productive and left me with some important insights.
If you’re like me, I guess you’ve found yourself in an unproductive phase once or twice. I hope you would find my conclusions and tips helpful.
Music motivates me. It’s a really important compound of my every-day fuel. So, I decided to have a kind of a mix-tape, to share with you guys, that is divided to scenarios through the day, based on my experience. Feel free to share your opinion about it and suggest some music that makes you feel good.
I’m a designer and I know I have lots of flaws and weaknesses, putting me far from being able to design the perfect product. I know I can’t trust myself, but that motivates me to idiot-proof my whole workflow. I help myself with any app and service there is, I test myself a hundred times and I make sure I’m doing the right job, before I publish it. This is my personal way of managing workflow, and if you’re having some (or all) of the self-management problems I’m having, I hope you’ll use these tools for your benefit (Also, at the end of the post you can sign up for the newsletter and get a checklist of this workflow for your personal use).
A few months ago I had an issue of stress and high blood pressure, probably because I was in a pretty bad phase in my life. I went to a doctor to check if there’s anything medical that’s causing this, and he said I should lower the amount of coffee I drink. I had to go from about four cups a day to a maximum of two. I can’t say this method had a good impact on me – I had a lot of headaches and felt pretty dizzy all the time, but it did teach me a lesson about my priorities.