It’s no secret that we do our best work when we’re prepared and comfortable. Yet, we designers often do things that aren’t conducive to bringing out our best. Whether it’s working in the wrong sort of environment or even being in the wrong frame of mind, we’re stifling our creativity. And sometimes we aren’t fully aware of it.
Design (and, for that matter, development) work requires something more. Because we’re often using our brains to create something, we should make the effort to put ourselves in the best situation possible. Let’s look at some ways to get the most out of our design mojo:
Your Work Environment Matters
We’ve all seen and heard the cliché of the freelancer working in a coffee shop. And yes, it’s pretty cool that technology enables us to work remotely. But is that necessarily the best place to do design work? Well, that depends.
A work environment is a deeply personal thing. And for creative professionals, it might just be one of the most important factors in producing quality work. Some might be inspired by the smell of fresh-roasted beans and warm scones. Personally, I couldn’t see myself getting much done in a crowded (even if somewhat quiet) place like a café. I’d be as comfortable there as I would be wearing a suit in a cubicle farm.
The point is, wherever you choose (or are forced) to work, make sure you’ve made the best of the locale. If you’re working from home, that means cutting out the distractions and having a space to think and create. Surround yourself with your favorite things. For me, it’s playing music at a (somewhat) reasonable volume.
So, don’t feel compelled to work at the coffee shop just because you can. Work where you feel the most productive, if you have a choice.
Multitasking is Bad Mojo
Have you ever tried to create something beautiful while simultaneously talking on your cell phone and answering an email? It doesn’t work so well.
While part of your gig may require you to multitask, there are times when you simply need to carve out some space to just work on design. Mentally, it’s just too difficult for many people to be creative when they are consistently being bothered with other tasks. This doesn’t mean you should completely ignore your inbox. But even a half hour away from it can help your brain get into a good design mode.
In my own experience, I’ve found that it can be hard to concentrate on design if I know something else is out there asking for my attention. Just knowing that someone or something is waiting for me throws things out of whack. But if I close out of my email and silence my phone, I can get on with it.
Another potential solution for those who are always busy is saving design work for off-hours. I wouldn’t normally recommend this because it’s easy to get burned out if you’re consistently putting in extra time. But there is something to be said about being creative on a quiet evening with no distractions. If you can do it every so often, then go for it.
The Right Tools for Your Trade
We all love a bargain. And since the internet has so much free stuff, it’s almost a crime not to take advantage of it. But think about the tools you’re using – both hardware and software. If one of those components isn’t up to snuff, you might actually be affecting the quality of your work.
Take, for example, your computer. Is it fast enough? Can it easily handle your favorite apps? Or maybe you’ve been struggling with a buggy piece of software that crashes every so often.
Frankly, this kind of thing is just another set of distractions you don’t need. If it’s at all possible, I highly recommend investing in professional-grade tools. The computer doesn’t have to be the fastest – just stable. And your software doesn’t have to be the same thing used in Hollywood – just up to the task of helping you become more efficient.
Sometimes, internet freebies really are great solutions. But if you’re spending more time working around them rather than with them, it may be time for a change.
Have an Agenda
This is one I still have to force myself into. It can be easier to fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to what you do each day – especially when it comes to creative work. By its very nature, creativity can often be a bit random and fleeting.
So, while I don’t necessarily recommend keeping a super-rigid schedule of each task and when it will be done (unless that’s your thing), it is worthwhile to at least keep a list and set some reasonable goals. Sometimes you’ll hit (or exceed) the mark, other days may go in another direction. The idea is to keep yourself accountable and force yourself to make time for what you have to do.
I know, it doesn’t sound like a technique that gets creativity flowing. But, for me, I’ve found that it actually works. I keep a simple list of tasks on Trello and prioritize them. It just keeps me aware of what’s going on and helps get my focus where it needs to be.
Getting the Most Out of Yourself
Being a designer takes a creative spirit and lots of self motivation. It’s the opposite of so many of the seemingly boring and repetitive tasks we see around us. Funny enough, we often try to bring some of that automated efficiency into our careers through things like frameworks and templates.
But that automation only gets us so far. It’s still up to us to create things, after all. And, in order to do that, we need to be in a situation that suits us. It’s important that we work in a place where we’re comfortable and that we have the right tools to help us achieve our goals.
Take some time and think about where and how you work. You might find that there are some things you can tweak to help you further unlock your creativity.