Design your Time, Luck and Enjoyment

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Have you every said or thought “I’m too busy”? Or perhaps, “I don’t have the time”? Have you had a great idea only to get put off for fear you’ll never complete it, or it’ll be too difficult?

I say: find the time.

Think about a time that you said “no” to a request based on gratitude – why did you say “no”? Consider if the incentives were different. Some kind of reward was offered, like money. The value continues to rise until you say “yes”, jumping at the opportunity. Suddenly you have the time.

Think about a busy day at work, only—but lets hope not—an accident happens and you need medical help. Now you have time. Now you have only the time to visit the hospital.

Scott Berkun makes this point in his article The cult of busy. I’d like to expand on that thinking and its relation to design as a profession.

Designer’s Time

The point Scott raises is that “time” is relative. Not only in the Einstein sense, but on a personal level and perspective. Something has to be sufficiently important enough to earn time. By saying “I’m too busy”, you’re really saying “it’s not important enough”. The problem is, by day-to-day analysis we’re judging importance on shortsighted factors. We’re hardwired that way. It’s a survival instinct from a time where the future was tomorrow. But as many designers can contest, design is not exactly a life threatening existence.

If we take long term reward into consideration the level of importance shifts beyond immediate intuition. If we understand the impact a task (that on first thought is sidelined) can have, we might think more seriously about doing it. This all makes logical sense, but how can we apply this to everyday life as a designer? It’s the sort of thinking that in theory makes sense but in practice it doesn’t seem to apply to us in our moment.

The question is, how can we apply this on a level that makes sense to ourselves when it matters?

We must look towards our ideal destiny. Place yourself five years from now. Imagine your perfect job. Ask yourself what the priorities should have been. I’d bet the answer will be different than your present thought. Often the short term makes your life easier for the foreseeable future. In reality, can you sacrifice short term pain for much more gain?

Work for, and look after yourself. If you’re working 12 hour days doing what you love, make sure 1/3 of those hours are yours and yours alone. It’s about personal development. Invest time when you’re young and irresponsible. Just make sure that it’s your time and not solely to somebody else’s gain. Borrow hours from the weekend and sleep them off. Have confidence and a grounded believe in yourself and you’ll take calculated risks that are beneficial to you.

Focus on the personal reward and you’ll feel compelled to manage time better. That is, until you feel unsure and slightly afraid. This risk averseness holds us back. Instead of focusing on a true ability a different concept too often comes to mind; “luck”.

Controlling Luck

Luck is nothing more than a statistical anomaly perceived to have value. For something to be “lucky” there must be more alternative and less desirable paths which could be taken.

Luck is a variance in an otherwise boring mean. The sad thing is people apply this concept to situations where it has no relevance. Designers and other practitioners often consider landing a dream job as “lucky”. That thought is a dream killer.

We’re labelled (often enviously) as “lucky” when we fall into a smaller, more sought after percentage. In the case of a lottery we cannot do anything to move into that tiny group of lucky winners, it’s left to fate. In our design career we can control almost everything. In respect to our career path, being called lucky is an insult (or a feeling of despair if our mind seeks it).

If we desire more and feel the need to work for it we can create our own luck. To do that we must enjoy what we do. When you’re enjoying it the hurdles of time, fear and luck are easily cleared.

Enjoy it

If you don’t enjoy what you do then making sacrifices is meaningless. It’s literally a waste of your life. But if you enjoy it, even if it tires you out—burdons your financially for the time being, requires you to continuously look forward for long stretches—it’ll be worth it. If you don’t enjoy it, then you’re working towards a false prophecy. You’ll never get that time back, whether minute for minute, or minute for other rewards.

Professional design inevitably includes a lot of demands and stresses which chip away at enjoyment. Brush those feelings aside and focus on what matters; good design.

Understand that a project should never be rushed or incomplete because of deadlines; no one is seeking that. Inspire your peers and clients towards this universal goal.