Knowing that no matter how much you consume, no matter how much time and energy you put into your career, there is always a new technique, a new book, a new typeface, a new plugin that you’re currently not using and everyone else seems to be.
The pressure intensifies. The gap swells. You’re constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve by pushing things farther, harder, faster… Trying to make the next project, the next assignment, the next deadline effortless, incisive, elegant. Days pass, the unread count grows and the bar is raised higher. There is the ever present goal to read every article, keep up with every new topic, chime in on every controversy, participate in every thread and critique every new design. The pressure builds and builds and builds as you constantly struggle with it all, yet time never allows for it all to be done.
It’s morning and your eyesight is still blurry. During your commute, there are status updates to write and podcasts to listen to. Lunch, coffee breaks, afternoon lulls, all needed just to catch up. The commute home, the time before dinner, it’s only 9:00pm, yet you wonder what you’ve missed. The pile grows.
How did this happen? How did we get here?
I attended a great discussion over a year ago in which a room of like-minded individuals had gathered to answer the question, “My title is web designer, now what?” (Val Head & Chris Cashdollar) Very soon into the discussion, I noticed there was an underlying feeling of anxiety and fear amongst the participants. Everyone worried that the industry was moving at such a fast pace that it would be impossible to keep up. No one wanted to take a step back and reflect. Instead, they kept pushing forward and forward, networking and handshaking. I’ll praise your design, if you approve of mine.
What would taking a step back mean? Turning it off? Closing the laptop? Put the phone down? Think about something? Think about nothing? What would happen if you let your mind wander and just breathed?
If we really want to find inspiration and offer new perspectives to ourselves and others, we need to look outside the pixels and look into the experiences and elements that surround us. Next time you’re on the bus or walking, keep the phone in your pocket and headphones out of your ears. When you’re in line waiting, simply wait. Let those 15 minutes of your day be the time you allow yourself to experience something new.
Let it go. Turn it off. Shut it down.
Breathe. Release. Think.