One of my favorite culture blogs, The Art of Manliness, featured a wonderful series some time ago titled 30 Days to a Better Man. Within this series they touch upon one activity that I have always wanted to keep up with, and as indicated by this blog, have yet to do so. Keeping a journal is another item I have placed on my always-expanding “I’ll get to that soon” list. To assist myself in pushing through to making this a more naturally occurring activity in my life, I am going to start a new weekly series here in which I will detail the lessons learned, or ideas taken away from the week related to design, development, the web, and other professional topics.
Writing is an area I have not taken seriously since the days of my long gone high school senior year. Thinking it would be just-get-back-on-the-bike easy this time around was a giant mistake. The list of revisions for my last post will show just how recklessly I rode that type-setting bike straight into on-coming traffic. Slowing down and learning these old lessons again is a required activity for anyone who wishes to become a clear, more understood, and more respected communicator.
Right out of the gate is where I realized there are issues with my writing abilities. Just as in any design, development, or other project planning is the key to a successful undertaking. My strategy for writing up to this point has been one of brute force. Taking an idea and gathering my thoughts within the text-editor seemed as if it would work just fine. With this process I was very wrong. What occurs here is a buck-shot of words, thoughts, and idea-clippings that begin to lose focus and purpose. Taking a few moments to gather my thoughts into a form which shows a clear path of thought will be my new first step. A simple outline is all I think will be necessary here:
- Main paragraph thought
- Supporting thoughts and examples
- How to utilize and execute these thoughts
Approaching my future writing in such a way will hopefully help me to control my communication, and avoid the rambling that seems to creep into my current process.
I have too many side-projects. Recently I’ve had a case of best-idea-ever-itis, and it has been bad. It has caused me to be frozen in a state of trying to do, learn, and create in far too many directions. My plan for action begins with applying my work ethic to these projects as if they were for actual clients. Blocking out time in my schedule dedicated to just one project, controlling my work hours as to avoid burn out, and a strict specification list to stick to. The only remote downside to this is that my initial timeline to launch these projects will be pushed back to realistically fit into my paid-hours. I only label it as a remote downside because my hopeful schedule is being pushed back. However, this is better than allowing these ideas to sit frozen on the ice-block for an unpredictable amount of time.
Don’t Lose It
That old saying “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” has been ringing far too true lately. For a while now I have been living inside frameworks for my development needs. This has caused me to lose basic knowledge of coding practices and concepts that should solidly stick with any developer forever. Especially in my position as an educator, I need to restore this knowledge to the front of my mind. My solution for this will be to think more about my applications of frameworks. While I am developing, I will actively consider “can I do this myself?” or in a better way “I am going to do this myself instead”.
This approach is one I believe the developer community should fully embrace. In this time of easy Google solutions and the sea of tutorials for “How to do X effect in Y language”, making sure your abilities are grounded in a solid foundation of best practices, concepts, and a strong vocabulary of your language’s syntax will ensure you’re always on the leading edge.
It’s Mind & Body
There is no way to separate the abilities of your mind from the state of your body. Sleep, physical activity, and proper nutrition are all important to your professional career as they are your physical health. For the past few months, I have been living on a west coast schedule while working on an east coast schedule. My sleep has been limited to about five hours per night during the weekday, which shows now in my work and drive. This lack of sleep has also been affecting my time spent in the gym. Other than keeping my body strong and healthy, the gym offers time where I fully focus my mind away from the daily pressures of work & life.
In the creative industry, it is extremely difficult to shut the observe and learn part of your brain down. The constant awareness of your surroundings, the looming deadlines for clients, and the “Just five more minutes” that turn out to be an hour make this no easy task to accomplish. At the gym the surroundings, the people, the sounds, the smells, and most importantly my routine all remain constant and nearly unchanging. All these remaining so constant combine to bring me into an extremely focused, near meditative state. It’s hard to think about much else when you’re in the middle of a heavy squat, and it’s that strict mental capacity that adds to why I love to lift weights as a stress reliever. My goal to better this area will be to keep a more controlled work schedule at home. My ever changing hours at my full-time job make this difficult, but that’s only because I haven’t put enough effort into planning my hours up to now.
Taking a look back at what I’ve learned during the week past is already making a full impact. Just taking this step towards understanding why I made the decisions I did, and what I can do to make better on my actions later is a great tool towards bettering myself. I hope this series will help a few of you to start doing the same, and also to share your thoughts, ideas, and solutions to some of the topics mentioned here.