Productivity is about mind management, not time management. To really be effective in what you do, you need to be ruthless about not wasting mental energy on things that don’t produce the results you want.
The tricky thing about this is, your brain is dumb. Your brain has a hard time distinguishing between what’s really important, and what’s not. If you’re concentrating on something mundane – like filling out a bunch of little radio buttons on a web form that keeps malfunctioning – your brain probably isn’t aware of what else it could be doing with all of that energy.
Instead, it just gets frustrated and tired and cranky, and decides it needs to check Facebook.
I struggled with my own creative energy
Nearly 10 years ago, I used a week’s vacation (of my measly two weeks) for a “staycation,” and sat on my couch from 10am to 2am every single day of that vacation.
But, I wasn’t watching TV. I was working on this very blog right here.
I designed, I coded, and I did it all over again, nit-picking on little details for 16 hours a day, in the most un-ergonomic position imaginable, all without feeling mentally fatigued.
As I got older, and as my creative projects became more successful, I started to lose this creative energy. I needed to take more breaks, I felt more fatigued at the end of the day, and the thought of doing any kind of work late into the night became even more unappealing.
I still loved my “work,” more than ever, and still felt a constant drive to do things with it, but I would just run out of creative energy.
Until lately, I thought it was just that I had gotten older. That I had better just relegate myself to viewing work as “work” for the rest of my life.
But I was wrong. It wasn’t just that I had gotten older.
My embarrassing struggle with delegation
I’ve long been an avid “Lifehacker,” always looking for ways to get more out of less, but until recently I still struggled with delegation. It had started to become embarrassing.
I had watched many of my peers grow to be smashing successes, and widen their impact exponentially through delegating and growing their teams. Meanwhile, while I felt good about the impact I’d had, I knew if I never learned to delegate, I’d never realize my potential.
There were just too many cognitive and emotional blocks for me: I didn’t know where to begin, I didn’t think I could trust others to do a good job, or I didn’t think I could afford it.
My unconscious mind was screaming at me that I needed to delegate, but my conscious mind was always coming up with reasons not to.
How I broke through my mental barriers to start delegating
Fortunately, I have a trick I’ve built into my business that lets my unconscious mind win from time to time.
In the tradition of my week-long couch potato sprint, every once in awhile, I declare a week my “Week of Want.” All that means, really, is that I’ll work on whatever the heck I want to work on, instead of things I feel like I “should” work on. It’s great: I write blog posts, broadcast a Google Hangout, or decide I’m going to start playing with Instagram, all explicitly without worrying about whether it’s a productive activity or not.
It’s a bit like Google’s famous “20%,” but there’s something powerful about taking a full week, instead of just a day, or a few hours of a particular day.
I’ve held two “Week(s) of Want,” and great things always come from them. The first one I held yielded my thoughts on Mind Management that have now lead to me doing some very cool as-of-yet-top-secret stuff with some amazing people, and the other one – which I held more recently – may prove to be just as powerful.
Just as I was beginning my “Week of Want,” a friend introduced me to a Udemy course called “The Art of Less Doing,” which is all about automating, simplifying, and delegating unimportant details in your life and work.
I could feel my brain getting “spongy.” It was thirsty to learn what this course had to teach.
How “The Art of Less Doing” freed my creative energy
I took “The Art of Less Doing,” and it broke down so many cognitive barriers that I had to delegating. Ari Meisel (more on him later) introduced his “principles of Less Doing,” and explained step-by-step how he builds systems that make it so you have to do less “busy work” and can start doing more “real work.”
With the help of the Less Doing Course, I made the primary focus of my “Week of Want” learning to delegate. Instead of trying to actually get things done right then and there, I applied what I learned in the course to build systems for things that didn’t really need to be delegated, and then I actually delegated the things that needed a human touch.
Then I realized something amazing.
It happened late one night, while I was sipping some tea that came with my Instacart delivery. It was at some point amidst drafting my third blog post of the evening, asking FancyHands to call my credit card company, and preparing to delegate some administrative work to an oDesk contractor.
I was sitting on my couch, it was 4 am, and I didn’t want to go to bed because I was too excited. I had too much creative energy.
My creative energy was back!
My “Week of Want” turned into more of a “Month of Want.” I ended up making systematizing, simplifying, and delegating my primary focus for an entire month. The burst in my creative energy was just too powerful to ignore.
Thanks to taking “The Art of Less Doing,” the foundations of my business are reorganized, and more efficient than ever. It will take time for the gains of this investment to be fully realized, but it’s already paid off.
The surprising reason I lost my creative energy
The most shocking realization was that I hadn’t simply lost my creative energy simply because I got older.
In this area, I was a victim of my own success: being successful in my creative endeavors simply created a lot of “gunk” in my creative machine.
Learning how to clean the “gunk” out of my creative machine by offloading unimportant details has freed my mind up to be creative again.
The scary thing is, I hadn’t even realized this was the problem. My brain is dumb.
“Freeing Your Creative Mind.” An exclusive webcast (okay, it’s a “webinar”) to free up your creative energy
Through teaching about design – whether in my courses, or my one-on-one coaching sessions, I’ve realized that the barriers to being effective usually have much less to do with knowledge than they do having the mental energy to do something with that knowledge.
We can Google about how to do just about anything, but can we actually do that thing?
I want to give you an inside look of how I stopped making excuses, and started taking action.
About Ari Meisel: from near-death to Ironman
Ari Meisel learned how to get organized and automate the hard way: he did it to save his own life.
In 2006, Ari was diagnosed with a severe case of Chron’s Disease, an incurable inflammatory disease. Ari had to take as many as a dozen medications daily, and made several hospital visits.
After one near-death hospital visit, Ari decided to take matters into his own hands.
Through disciplined self-tracking and personal organization, he was able to change his diet and lifestyle to eliminate all traces of this “incurable” disease, and compete in Ironman France in 2011.
Ari has incorporated the habits that saved his life into everything he does: automating, outsourcing, and delegating everything possible in his life and business. Today, he teaches these skills to others through his blog, and his amazing Udemy course: The Art of Less Doing.
What you’ll learn in this webcast (okay, it’s a “webinar”)
- How to automate and organize your workflow so you can dedicate your brain to being creative.
- How to overcome cognitive and emotional barriers to stop second-guessing yourself and start delegating.
- How to manage the costs of delegating to get maximum return.
- Specific ways to use tools like Evernote, IFTTT, and Fancy Hands to make sure you never have to do the same thing more than once.
This event is exclusively for the loyal subscribers to Design for Hackers emails, and is only available live. Sign up below to reserve your spot.
The webcast (okay, it’s a “webinar”) will be held February 19th, at 8pm EST. Be early, because spots are extremely limited!
Tell me in the comments: is there something that holds you back from delegating the details of your business and life? If it’s not a problem for you, how do you do it?
It was a demoralizing feeling, staring down at my paycheck.
It was a lot of money.
I thought about when I was a kid, the first time learning what my father’s yearly salary was. At this pace, I’d make that in less than three months.
I thought about my job just two years prior. It would have taken me three months to make what I had just made in two weeks.
I was making lots of money. I was designing things. Why did I feel so shitty?
I thought about what I had been working on in the previous two weeks. What was this paycheck made of?
I had designed some buttons, written some code, designed some other stuff – I had sat in on some meetings. I had definitely been “working” the whole time. Quite hard, in fact.
But where did that work go? The objectives of the company were unclear. The metrics were inconsistent. What were we really producing?
I thought about where the money in my paycheck came from: The CEO going around, talking to people with money. Then they’d write some check – kiss the money goodbye – but hope that they’d make some more money.
My job was a dream job on the surface: making lots of money doing work I loved, a kitchen stocked with all sorts of organic goodies, massages for employees, lavish parties, and fun times. The product manager once spent an entire afternoon potting plants.
But still I felt like a shell. I tried to crunch the numbers in the little calculator in my brain: “Well, that button will do this, and that’s $X, and also this intangible thingie,” and “no, well, that code actually won’t be used.” It just didn’t add up.
Nothing could fill in enough earth underneath this shell to make it seem like it sat where it belonged.
Sure, the money was speculative money. The investors had to reasonably assume that it would disappear into thin air. But in that process, my time and talents and efforts – and those of dozens of others – had to disappear into thin air as well.
We were operating on false mechanics. Allowing our actions to be guided by the whims of others; and by the dangerous false sense of importance that can result from getting paid lots of money.
As I walked to work the next day, I passed the place where people line up to ride the cable car. Some of them were elderly tourists. I imagined that they had worked their whole lives to come visit this city – to come stand in this line and ride this famous cable car.
Yet I got to walk by this every day. Two years prior, this was a place of fantasy – like it only existed on TV and in movies. Why did I get to live this life? Why did I get this big paycheck and to live in this city?
I looked around at all of the people going to work, and thought about their paychecks. I imagined many of them also got paid lots of money to ultimately produce nothing. They didn’t have any earth underneath their shells either.
When I finally got laid off, I didn’t feel a sense of despair. The fog of fear floated above a feeling of rightness, freedom, inevitability, and certainty. Like it feels to be strapped into a roller coaster, listening to the chain pull it up that first incline. I didn’t want to be a shell anymore.
I wanted to earn it.
The months and years since that day have been filled with trying to gather earth.
From the beginning, it was gratifying to dig into the dirt – to constantly have to be resourceful, to constantly evaluate what I had. How could I collect all of this into one solid pile and keep building on it? I dug into nooks and crannies trying to find whatever I may have missed the last time around.
I had more big paychecks waved in front of my face. One CEO literally begged me to come work for his company. It all sounded like it should have been enticing, but I surprised even myself at how uninterested I was. I just didn’t see enough earth there.
The process of gathering earth has not been easy. It has not been massages and organic fruit baskets and lavish parties. Much of it has been fear and paranoia and anxiety and loneliness and doubt.
The satisfaction that I’ve gotten along the way hasn’t come from big paychecks, or getting to tell people at parties that I worked for a cool company, or really having any sort of straight story about what I had been doing at all.
The satisfaction came from the comfort of dark walks home, after 16 cafe laptop hours of tinkering with nothing in particular, thinking to myself about how I hadn’t made a dime that day, but still feeling like the earth was swelling beneath my feet.
It came from the very thought of an idea making my blood pump harder – as if that force were what powered my fingers.
It came from the repeated realization that the way I had imagined things would be, wasn’t how they were going to be. It came from the constant knowledge that I had a lot left to learn.
It manifested itself in the form of a smile that came from within and shaped my lips without their conscious will.
When the paychecks did return, tiny though they were, the satisfaction came from thinking about where they came from: the things I had learned in order to make things, the things I had made, the things that those things I made did, the things I had learned making those things, and the things I had yet to make.
This isn’t a story about how money is the root of all evil. I couldn’t be convinced of that. This isn’t to romanticize the path of the starving artist, as if money doesn’t matter at all. It does. It just does.
This also isn’t a story about how there is no better metric to guide one’s actions than the almighty dollar. As evinced by my own experiences, that doesn’t make sense.
And this isn’t a story about the virtue of lone wolves – as if anyone can operate without others; or of the justness of the world – as if we all always get what we deserve. The Universe is clearly too fickle for that to be true.
But there is some place in the middle of all of these things. When you strip away the artificial structures that harbor you; When you dig your fingers into the dirt, and salvage even the soil under your nails; When you do that every day; When that becomes your way of life – eventually you’ll have a mound, then a hill, then a mountain that no shell can contain.
And it will feel right, because maybe, you might be able to say…perhaps…
…you’ve earned it.
Earn it http://t.co/kgkGsXK3hX
— David Kadavy (@kadavy) October 15, 2013
Standing desks are everywhere these days. More and more office workers are switching over to standing desks, to prevent the health problems associated with sitting.
While it’s great that people are taking healthy computing seriously, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for standing to really catch on, when it seems obvious: if you have legs that work, what good does it do them to be sitting around all of the time?
A funny-looking keyboard may be the biggest ergonomics craze since the standing desk
I recently discovered a keyboard which is as good of a fit for the human body as the standing desk. It looks pretty strange, but I’m personally convinced this is going to be a very big deal as people get more informed about healthy computing.
Here’s how your standard keyboard is hurting you
Much more often than you hear people complaining about computing-work-related problems with their legs, people tend to have problems with their neck and upper back.
One study of office workers found that 56% of workers have neck problems, and 50% have upper back problems.
These problems are often a result of tension in the trapezius muscles. These muscles connect to your head, spine, and shoulder blade, and help support your arms.
A big source of this tension is the way we interact with keyboards. When you use a standard keyboard:
- You have to get your hands close together to type on the keyboard.
- To get your hands next to each other, they have to go “around” your body, so your arms have to reach out from your body to reach the keyboard.
- Because your arms are now stretched out, your trapezius muscles tense to support the weight of your arms.
- Your shoulders are now forward, so your pectoral muscles are shortened.
Having this stress on your upper back also makes it easy to slouch. With this disastrous chain reaction, it’s no wonder that neck and upper back problems are so common amongst people who do lots of computer work.
The muscle tension you don’t even know about is cutting off your circulation by 80%
You may think that this is all pretty trivial – that you don’t feel any tension at all when you’re sitting in front of a standard keyboard. But, the fact of the matter is that people aren’t even aware of the tension that is in their muscles.
Dr. Erik Peper – a healthy computing expert that has been featured on ABCNews.com and in GQ, Glamour, and Men’s Health – and his colleagues recorded the muscle activity of subjects while resting, holding their arm in the air, and then while resting again.
All of the subjects were surprised at just how much activity was going on in their muscles, even though they thought it felt like nothing at all to hold their arm up for a few seconds.
Your muscles tense without you even knowing it
Look at this chart below, which shows the muscle activity of a clinical patient. That big spike marked “1” is her muscle activity when she was simply listening to instructions on what to do.
Just by thinking about moving her muscles, there was already muscle activity going on. When she was actually performing the task, the actual muscle tension (marked “2”) was hardly as intense as when she was just thinking about performing the task.
As you can see where the chart is marked “3,” muscle tension persisted even after the task was performed.
By working on computers, not only are we creating tension in our muscles (that doesn’t quickly subside), we’re too oblivious to what’s going on with our bodies to even know it, because we’re so focused on the task at hand.
I called Dr. Peper (no relation to the soft drink) to learn more about what, exactly, is so bad about about having your muscles tensed 8 hours a day.
Muscles, by their very nature, are made to contract and release. But, when you tense a muscle, you cut off circulation by as much as 80%.
So, even if you think that reaching around your body to get to your keyboard isn’t placing tension on your trapezius muscles, it’s probably more tension than you think, and that tension is cutting off circulation wherever it occurs.
Your brain is attacking your trapezius muscles
Not only is the position of your arms with a traditional keyboard creating tension in your trapezius muscles, the way that you’re processing information as you’re concentrating on your work is creating added tension in your trapezius muscles.
Dr. Peper explains, “when you work, you are constantly vigilant. This state of ‘vigilance’ is heightened by the fact that information hits your amygdala (the ‘fight or flight’ part of your brain) 22ms faster than it hits your cortex (the more rational, reasonable part of your brain).
“You’ve experienced this imbalance in information processing if you’ve ever said something you regretted in an argument. This imbalance is in full effect when we’re on a computer, and hyper-focused on a task.”
This “cortex deficit” probably explains YouTube comments. Mystery solved.
Your trapezius muscles tend to tense when you have the fight/flight/stress response caused by this “cortex deficit.” So, not only are your poor shoulders and trapezius muscles in this unfortunate position all day because of your keyboard, they’re also getting attacked by your hyper-vigilant amygdala.
It’s no wonder that those chair massages are such a hot commodity at the Whole Foods. You know, the ones where the masseuse drives his knee into your upper back to try to undo all of the knots you’ve tied into it?
Split keyboards help reduce the tension in your shoulders
One of the best ways to reduce tension like this is to improve the ergonomics of your workstation, and Dr. Peper recommends a split keyboard for this.
For almost anybody who doesn’t need a number pad right away, get rid of your normal keyboard, and get a split keyboard.
One such keyboard is the Gold Touch, which is what Dr. Peper uses himself; but for some people – such as myself – it’s too narrow.
Try this experiment to see if the “truly split” keyboard is right for you
There are lots of “split” keyboards out there like the Gold Touch, but you may still have to wrap your arms around your torso a bit to get your hands on the keys. If you’re more comfortable having your arms by your sides, then a “truly split” keyboard – one that consists of two independent pieces – may be better for you.
Try this experiment:
- Put the fingers of your left hand on your right shoulder, where your shoulder meets your chest.
- Now, try putting your right hand on your keyboard, as if you were typing.
- Now, move your right hand to the right, outside your keyboard.
- Now that your right arm has cleared your body, you can have your hand closer to your body. Slide your right hand toward yourself a bit.
Did you feel how much your shoulder and chest moved? Did it feel more natural and comfortable to you? If so, you might like a “truly split” keyboard, like the Kinesis Freestyle 2.
The Freestyle actually consists of two pieces, which allows you to keep your hands farther apart. I’m a skinny guy, but since I have totally insanely ripped shoulders from doing the INSANITY® program, having my hands right in front of my body all of the time tightens my chest and trapezius muscles, thus building up tension and restricting my breathing.
I couldn’t lift my own head
I got up close and personal with sneaky neck and upper back problems several months ago. I was feeling fine, when all of the sudden, as I lifted my arms to dry my hair after a shower, a tangle of knots sprang up in my upper back and neck.
I was in so much pain, almost no position was comfortable. Sitting upright was too much stress on my neck, lying down hurt because my head was on my pillow, and I actually had to cradle the back of my head with my hand just to lift it out of bed.
I couldn’t work, and I had to get a couple high-dollar massages just to undo the damage. It took two weeks to recover.
At that point, I decided it’s much better for me to have my arms at my sides when I’m working. This can be true for many types of bodies, whether your arms need to get around a belly, or if you’re a woman who has large…impediments…on her chest.
Your laptop is “a disaster.” The “truly split” keyboard is perfect for the mobile worker.
One of the biggest challenges to having an ergonomic workstation is that many of us are mobile now. It’s great that we can set up with our laptop at a coworking station, a cafe, or just on our couch, but that’s the problem.
Unfortunately, as Dr. Peper puts it, “A laptop, by definition, is a disaster.”
Here’s just a few things that make a laptop an ergonomic nightmare:
- You put a laptop on…your lap (or a table).
- Then you have to decide: do you want to crane your neck down at your screen, or have the laptop so high that you feel like a Tyrannosaurus Rex?
- You have to put your hands together to type on the unergonomic keyboard, which forces you to find a way to get your arms around your torso and beyond the trackpad, thus putting stress on your trapezius muscles.
Here’s the setup that I like to use when I visit a coworking station with my laptop:
- Kinesis Freestyle 2 keyboard (PC version), which allows me to keep my arms at my sides. I went with the model that has the 20″ cord, because then I can put it on either side of my laptop.
- AViiQ Portable Quick Stand, which lifts the screen of my laptop up a few inches, so I don’t have to crane my neck down so much.
- The trackpad on my MacBook Air is still perfectly positioned. I can access it with a much more natural wrist and arm position than I could the keyboard.
It’s still not ergonomically perfect. Even if I could get my screen as high as eye-level, then my trackpad would be too high. The AViiQ helps find a happy medium as far as that is concerned.
Best of all, this entire setup is totally portable. The AViiQ collapses, and since the Freestyle 2 is made of two pieces, it folds up and everything fits even into my tiny Tumi Empire Zepplin backpack (this is discontinued, but it would probably all fit in a Marley as well).
The versatility of the “truly split” keyboard is also great for office setups
For companies who have to do bulk-buying of keyboards that fit a wide variety of needs, the Freestyle 2 is also great because it can be set up any way you like it. You can keep the two sides of the keyboard as close or as far apart as you want, and each hand can be angled as desired.
If you want to take things a step further, you can even get some of the accessories, such as the VIP 3, which adds wrist rests, and angles the keyboards a bit.
Arguably one of the best features for using the Freestyle 2 at your desk is that you can have yourself a snack while you work:
— Mike Cifani (@mikecifani) November 19, 2013
The drawbacks of the Freestyle 2
I did a lot of looking around to make sure the Freestyle 2 was the right “truly split” keyboard, and it turned out, it was really the only viable option. So, there are drawbacks that I have to live with.
- It’s (sort of) expensive. Some of you may have sticker shock at a $115 keyboard, but if you are a technology worker who earns his bread through his keyboard, you think this keyboard would suit you well, and you think that price is a deal breaker – stop being a dumbass. That’s fractions of a penny per billable hour for your comfort and longevity. But, if you don’t need a 20″ separation, you can always save a few bucks with the 8″ separation model.
- It’s not an Apple keyboard. By most objective measures, this keyboard sucks. It looks like it’s from 1995, it’s bulky, and it takes some really solid keystrokes to register. If a soft feel to your fingers is more important than the rest of your body, this keyboard isn’t for you.
- There is a learning curve (and you have to type “right”). Most people ask me how I can manage to type on this keyboard, and there was definitely a learning curve. I swear, I could feel my brain being rewired as I figured it out. Fortunately, I already typed the “right” way, so it just took a couple of days to ramp back up, however, I still hit the wrong key now and then, as the option keys are in slightly different places than my Air keyboard.
There are some compromises to be made with this keyboard, but I am a convert to “truly split” forever. I will be your first Kickstarter backer if you’re a hardware person who can design a slim, lightweight, bluetooth “truly split” keyboard,
Will this keyboard fix everything?
As great as this keyboard is, ergonomics are only one piece of the healthy computing puzzle. Even if you get this keyboard, you can’t expect to pound away at it for 12 hours a day for the rest of your life. Dr. Peper cautions that paying attention to personal stress, and the “silent” tension inside of your body can go a long way in keeping yourself productive and healthy.
The most important part is that you need to move as often as possible. Once we begin working we are stuck in place. This leads to chronic low level of unaware muscle tension. People should be taking breaks. That is the cheapest intervention.
More healthy computing resources
- How to Ergonomically Optimize Your Workspace (Lifehacker)
- Healthy Computing: Chest Stretch (article by Dr. Peper on how to stretch out chest muscles shortened from slouching over a keyboard)
- The Peper Perspective (Dr. Peper’s blog)
- Healthy Computing Tips
- Taking Breaks for Healthy Computing
Think your standing desk is great? Check out this weird keyboard: http://t.co/fRYVOrXlzG
— David Kadavy (@kadavy) February 11, 2014
“That was kind of scary, how you were able to do that.”
George only noticed because he was one of the fellow speakers – still coming down from the inevitable nerves of giving a talk – but if you’ve watched my TEDx Talk, you probably didn’t notice at all.
It’s over 17 minutes long, but there are no slides or teleprompter to help me remember a thing. I still have a long way to go before my skills catch up with my taste, but I managed to deliver the talk almost exactly as I had intended.
There are two main components to successful public speaking: the nerves component, and the art component. As frightened as many people are of standing up in front of a group of people and giving a speech, most of us will eventually find ourselves in a situation where we have to do it.
Still, there is a desire to do it. Giving an effective presentation is a powerful way to share your knowledge and ideas. Thankfully, we can learn to manage our nerves and develop our art.
The nerves component
For many people, the nerves component feels nearly insurmountable. It could be that they are shy, they lack the confidence, or they have impossibly high expectations.
Then there are the things that are out of our control: the faulty projector, the audience member’s Jay-Z ringtone, the lighting in the room, the acoustics, the mood of the audience, or the fact that you had to skip breakfast because you missed your alarm. All of these things are what come together to make speaking so horrifying for some people: it’s a lack of control, the lack of predictability, the lack of knowing how the hell to convey your thoughts through all of this madness and plant them into the brains of your audience members.
I certainly wasn’t born being able to do this. Just ask my mother, who recently sent me this note:
…when I read about you loving to speak, I am reminded of the little boy on the stage in grade school who looked so panic-stricken that I feared he may pass out. But, you didn’t, and just kept on doing those things that scare you, until they didn’t any more!
Thankfully, I don’t feel like passing out when I’m on stage anymore. In fact, I’ve spoken dozens of times on 3 continents, in places as far away from home as Chile and Singapore. I’ve talked to a room of 800 people at SXSW, and an audience of 50,000 people online, streaming from Mexico City. It’s still not a relaxing Sunday picnic in the park, but I overall find it enjoyable nonetheless.
Whenever I’m scared of something, I ask myself what it is I have to gain from facing that fear. I would probably be scared to jump out of a plane, but I don’t think I would gain much out of it. On the list of fears that you can grow from by facing, public speaking is way high on the list – right behind striking up a conversation with that cute someone in the coffee shop. It can literally change your life, but with almost no tangible consequences for failing.
Start so small you can’t fail
A key to gaining confidence, besides giving yourself permission to suck is to actually put yourself in a situation where it’s nearly impossible to fail. There are many opportunities to either do a talk that is so short that you can’t fail, or where you can be in a situation where failure is part of the fun.
Improv classes are an invaluable experience for anyone – no matter what you do. I took classes at Second City, the famous comedy theater in Chicago that has produced the likes of Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Not only do you start off “performing” in a small class in structured, tiny chunks, you also find that there isn’t really a wrong way – and that if something doesn’t go as planned, you aren’t going to disintegrate into a million tiny bits.
Besides classes like that, there are lots of opportunities to talk in front of people. I did a talk at BarCamp 5 years ago that was the very seed that eventually grew into my book. I did a more polished talk at an Ignite event as well – it’s only 5 minutes long, so getting used to memorizing and saying things was much easier to handle.
The most surprising thing that people neglect to do when preparing for a speech is rehearsing – actually standing up and saying. the. words. that you’re going to say. Without rehearsal, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’re guaranteed to experience strong feelings of anxiety because you know deep down that you’re not prepared.
Besides, words sound much different when spoken than when written. Some words and combinations of words are just hard to say, or hard to understand when spoken. For example, in my TEDx talk, I say “…if we go back 500 years…” instead of “…if we rewind 500 years….” “If we rewind” is just too much of a tongue twister.
To put it simply: If you haven’t rehearsed your speech, then you haven’t finished writing it.
Rehearse your talk. Say the words out loud. Program them into your basal ganglia. Until you get really good at remembering what you want to say, try saying certain passages of your talk extremely slowly. and. ex-ag-ger-at-ed. This will intensify the muscle memory and you won’t believe how much easier you can recite the words, especially after a nap or a good night’s sleep.
Let me be clear about this, because as simple as it sounds, it can be hard to get into your brain. Yes, I mean actually standing in a room by yourself and saying the words out loud. It sounds and feels weird at first, but it’s very important.
Your talk isn’t the only thing that needs practicing. Prepare for unexpected as well. What happens if the slides stop working or an audience member shouts something in the middle of your speech? You can’t predict everything, but planning even for a few things can give you a boost in confidence that you’ll be ready for anything.
Master your nerves
When you get up in front of people, you are going to get amped up. Your heart will race, your breath will get shallow, and you will start to sweat. Heck, I’m still screwed if I have to hold a microphone. Even if I don’t feel nervous, that microphone will probably be shaking visibly. The experiences of thousands of your ancestors are telling you that this is a scary situation.
If you’re someone who gets nervous when public speaking, those nerves may never completely go away; but you can learn to harness them into improving your performance. Mastery doesn’t mean abolition. It means control in the face of a challenge.
Think of it like doing push-ups. When you’re out of shape, your arms shake a little bit and you can’t do very many. But, if you keep doing them every day, you’ll find that you magically shake less and less and you can do more and more. You can feel those tiny muscle fibers that used to shake actually propelling your body up off of the floor more smoothly and confidently than ever before.
So many things in life are just like doing push-ups, and public speaking is definitely one of them. The best way to really get control over those tiny little nerves is by meditating. Meditation helps you bring awareness to every little thing going on in your body, to the point that you can have control over your own physiological reactions. The deep breathing associated with meditation lowers your heart rate, which in turn, lowers feelings of anxiety. With enough practice, you’ll be able to calm your nerves and lower your heart rate just by taking a few controlled breaths.
What you put into your body will make a big difference in being able to control your nerves, as well. Some people employ caffeine to give them a jolt, but that can make your already raised heart rate increase even more. Others take a shot of alcohol, but too much and your talk is going downhill in a hurry.
I don’t drink caffeine so that’s a big offender that’s easy for me to avoid, but If I have a big talk coming up, I’ll be sure to enjoy some calming Chamomile tea before bed for a few days before the talk. If you must do caffeine, you may want to consider supplementing with L-Theanine, which is an amino acid that synergizes with caffeine to make you alert without being jittery. Alternatively, try a lower dose caffeine drink such as tea or a “half-caf” coffee drink. (I’m not a doctor, so be sure to check with yours before using supplements.)
Regular exercise has also been proven to lower anxiety. Going for a quick walk or practicing yoga also does wonders for the creative process when preparing for a speech.
The art component
A few lucky people are born without the fear of public speaking. Others have already mastered their nerves. But being an effective speaker certainly doesn’t stop there. Speaking is its own art form that needs to be appreciated as such.
Speaking isn’t writing
Consider the audience’s point of view: There’s something distinctly different about listening to and watching a person speak than sitting and reading the written word. You can’t “scan” or “skim over” a speech like you can an article. You can’t re-read a speech like you can an article.
With a speech, what they get are your body and face and movements, the words you say, the way you say them, and whatever visuals you’re providing – all in real time. All of these things are interpreted as they happen, and the only reviewing the audience can really do is what you burn into their memory.
This sounds simple, but to understand this is to understand what is unique about the medium of speech. The thoughts that are conveyed in a speech go through many layers of abstraction:
To make things even more complicated, you can’t really experience your own speech the way you can experience your own writing. Sure you can (and you should) rehearse your speech out loud, but you can’t sit in the audience and watch yourself. When you write something, you can just read it and imagine being one of your audience members.
Speaking isn’t a slide deck
Whatever speaking gig you sign up for, they’re going to naturally assume that you have slides. People love to do talks with slides. It helps you remember what you’re supposed to be talking about, and it gives you something to do and look at while you’re talking.
The killer is that it gives you something to obsess over that’s far more tangible than the talk itself. It’s much easier to fiddle around with the typeface on your slides than it is to think about if your talk opens up in a compelling way, or if you have the right stories and metaphors to convey your points.
Sometimes slides are really useful. If you’re really illustrating something that must be seen to be understood, of course, they’re invaluable. But usually, slides aren’t really adding anything to a talk, but rather, taking things away. They dominate the consciousness of the audience and distract them from your body, your movements, your voice – from the words you’re saying. To make matters worse, they’re usually projected at several times your own size.
For my TEDx talk, for example, I considered using slides. The way it opens, I could easily get a few laughs by showing Comic Sans being used in strange places a couple of times. But I realized that I didn’t even need the images to get my point across. People already knew what Comic Sans was, and they know damn well that it’s not appropriate for funeral programs.
So, I took the slides out. This had the added benefit of proving my point that design topics are now deeply embedded in the contemporary brain.
Great artists steal
If you want to be a great painter, look at – and copy – the work of great painters. If you want to be a great public speaker, watch – and copy – the work of great speakers. Don’t be afraid to steal ideas (on an abstract level, not direct plagiarism, of course) from speakers whom you admire.
I’ll readily admit that a couple of speakers that I’ve “ripped off” are Malcom Gladwell and Seth Godin. More specifically, in preparation for my TEDx talk, I studied Mr. Gladwell’s talk on the Norden bombsight and Seth Godin’s talk on education. It was Mr. Godin’s talk that inspired me to use props – a large book and an iPhone – instead of slides.
Besides, imitation won’t turn you into a copycat. If I try to speak more like Gladwell or Godin, it will still come across as David Kadavy. After all, I’m not an impressionist. My tastes are part of who I am as a creative person. They inform my art.
Another great thing about watching great speakers really closely is that it can help you realize that they are imperfect, despite giving amazing talks – which makes emulating them less intimidating. For example, Mr. Gladwell loses his place and has to backtrack in his talk (which doesn’t detract from how good it is). You realize mistakes are okay.
Quick public speaking tips
Now that you’ve heard my more abstract explanations of speaking. Here’s a few quick-and-dirty tips:
- Memorize your first minute: If rehearsing your entire talk is a bit much for you, at least memorize and rehearse the first minute. You’ll feel less nervous, get off to a smooth start, and feel great for the rest of your talk. After the first minute, have the basic structure in your mind and improvise off of that.
- Record and listen to your talk: Talking isn’t writing, so you can’t really experience your own talk the way you can your own writing. Do the next best thing and record your talk (I like to use the voice memos app on the iPhone), and listen to it a few times. It will program the talk into your brain, and help you point out areas that don’t flow together well.
- Say in 20 minutes what you could say in 20 seconds: It sounds silly and annoying, but really, you should keep the overall message of your talk simple, and find different and interesting ways to illustrate that point through stories and examples. Your audience can’t “skim over” or review your talk, so your points need to be simple, clear, engaging, and memorable.
- Kill your slides: Try rehearsing your talk without slides. Are there specific parts that just won’t work without slides? Add slides back in there. You don’t want to be the person that is reading their slides. Make them count.
- Say the words out loud: I said this above, but I have to say it again because it’s so important. Actually rehearse the talk out loud. Practice saying the words. If you feel weird rehearsing a talk to yourself – well, stop feeling weird about it. Rehearsing your talk pays huge dividends.
- Make bullet points, then improvise: Being rehearsed but natural is tough. If you’ve written out and rehearsed your whole talk, try rehearsing again with just bullet points. Try to keep it loose and tell some bad jokes. Most won’t stick, but some will, and your talk will sound more natural.
- Rehearse in the space (if you can): If you’re speaking at an event that will give you an opportunity to go see the space and rehearse in it, do it. The feeling and acoustics of the room you’re in can completely change the ideal pacing and attitude. My Ignite talk on Comic Sans hate was completely different until I went and rehearsed it. The space felt like a comedy club, and echoed much more than my home office did, so it made a more comedic posture and delivery feel appropriate.
- Try voice exercises: Performers of all types use voice exercises to help their voice project loudly, clearly, and confidently. Especially if you’re just starting with public speaking, you should be no different. There are some voice exercises – originally intended for signing – that I’ve found helpful. Here’s links to the videos, but essentially they involve singing scales of “ya-ga-ya-ga” and “la-ga-la-ga” while keeping your mouth completely open. You’ll feel even more silly doing these than you will rehearsing your talk, but consider it a growing experience.
So, if you know deep down that you’d like to be better at speaking, I encourage you to find some low-pressure speaking opportunities on which to try out some of these tips.
Speaking: the Nerves & the Art: http://t.co/Vx8eDdcXd5
— David Kadavy (@kadavy) January 14, 2014
The thing that has always propelled humanity forward has been the sharing of ideas. Spoken, then written language intensified the pace of innovation.
The thing that makes written language so powerful, is that it serves as a shorthand through which we can exchange thoughts with one another asynchronously.
Language connects brains.
Shortly after Gutenberg perfected the printing press, the transfer of ideas exponentiated. For the first time, people were able to store their ideas in a book that could then put those ideas into the brains of thousands of other people.
Publishing connects brains.
But, the world moves much faster than it did in 15th-century Germany. Now, the shorthand that is written language isn’t short enough. The “bicycle for the mind,” the computer, has enabled ideas to transfer even more rapidly.
The invention of language, and the invention of the publishing of that language networked brains so ideas could spread faster. Computers, mobile devices, and the Internet have intensified that pace by many orders of magnitude.
Thanks to these technologies, ideas transfer instantaneously, and the limits of their reach are boundless.
Computers connect brains.
We don’t have to pour molten hot lead into copper matrices to make letters. We don’t have to typeset one page at a time, and we don’t have to make paper to print it all on. When an idea is ready to be published, we don’t even have to ship physical copies of that idea.
Once our brains put an idea into a computer, that idea can be on another computer in an instant. The bottleneck in this network of brains, then, is between the brain and the computer.
This is where design comes in. The clear presentation of the subtext of information (this is more important than that; that is related to this) through shapes, lines, colors, and spaces between pieces of information, strengthens the connection between brain and computer where language isn’t enough.
They say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but a design can be worth 30,000 words. The subtle curves of a typeface, the sizing and alignment of words, and the spaces between those words all make up their share along with colors, textures, and shapes.
Computers publish language that connects our brains to other brains. Design connects our brains to those computers.
Design connects brains.
(Until we find a more direct route.)
Design Connects Brains: http://t.co/mo94qfU49b
— David Kadavy (@kadavy) January 6, 2014
The trouble with resolutions is you can’t keep them.
Maybe you think you’ll exercise more this year. So, you join a gym, and you might even come up with a workout plan.
But it’s damn hard to keep yourself motivated, and eventually you stop going. Maybe you’ll skip a day because you’re tired. “I’ll do it tomorrow,” you say to yourself.
Then “tomorrow” comes, and you say “I’ll do it tomorrow,” and now you’ve cheated yourself so much, it doesn’t really matter. Everything else in life takes over.
Get your design abs ripped
Design is hotter than ever, and more people are trying to learn design than ever before. But just like getting your abs ripped, learning about typography, and alignment, and colors takes commitment.
If you’re someone who has been trying to learn design, you may have bought my book, Design for Hackers, but the trouble with a book is that it’s entirely up to you to actually pick it up and make some tea, and sit down and read it, even though you’re busy.
What you need is a “commitment device,” which is basically something that commits you to doing something you mean to do. Your “present you” uses it to keep your “future you” on task.
Your free design coach
I’ve created a 12-week email course to do just that for you. It’ll be a good kickstart to make 2014 your year of learning design.
Each week is based upon a chapter of my book, Design for Hackers. You’ll learn about choosing and pairing fonts, using the grid to create a clear hierarchy, or what colors convey what meanings. The emails are packed with interactive quizzes and polls.
So, when your “future you” is lost in a sea of YouTube compilations of Segway accidents, your “past you” (currently “present you”) will be like “HEY! Time to learn some design! (Also, that is a funny video)”
Then an email from me (that your “past you currently present you” wisely signed up for) will show up in your inbox. It’s like a free personal trainer to keep your design butt in gear.
I’ve offered a similar course in the past as “Summer of Design” and “DesignTrain” available to limited groups of people, but now, enrollment is completely open, and is still completely free.
Once the course is over, you’ll still get emails from me about design, all year long. I explain design like it’s my job, because it is. I quit my lucrative freelance career to dedicate myself to teaching you about design, and spend hundreds of dollars a month just to send you these free emails.
So, do “future you” a favor and sign up right down here.
To learn more about the curriculum, check it out here.
Once you’ve signed up, help create a world full of totally ripped design abs with a retweet.
Make 2014 your year to learn design. 12 weeks of design learning, right in your inbox. Start today: http://t.co/SOvbtoUBUa (oh, & it’s free)
— David Kadavy (@kadavy) January 1, 2014
The world is just stuff and things. They sound similar, but they’re very different. To be effective, you have to be really good at turning stuff into things.
To me, my business is just a bunch of stuff. There are a bunch of cells in my body that work together to turn stuff into things, sometimes for reasons I understand, sometimes for reasons I don’t. (“Reasons” are just stuff anyway)
But, to my accountant, my business is a bunch of things: dollars, time periods – months, quarters, years. All of the dollar things that I spend and make have to go into these things, and also into category things.
To the government, my business is its own thing. It’s even an “S-Corp” type of thing. There is stuff inside the thing, and stuff outside the thing. You don’t want to mix stuff outside the thing with stuff inside the thing. That’s bad.
The world moves forward when people turn stuff into things. It’s all just a nebulous collection of atoms, but they comprise “customers,” “markets,” and “technology.” You have to turn stuff – whether it’s raw materials, bits of code, or even thoughts – into things to create a “product.”
I really just want to do stuff all day, but no, I have to turn that stuff into things. That is, if I want to keep doing stuff.
My thoughts are just a bunch of stuff, and I have to turn them into word things. Then I package them up into something with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Stuff doesn’t have bounds like that, but things – like this blog post – always do.
One time, I even turned my thought stuff into a book thing. All of my thought stuff had to be put into word things, into paragraph things, into chapter things, and so on, like a bunch of Russian dolls inside one big Russian doll.
The cool part of turning stuff into things is that when you’re done people can put the thing in their brain with all of the other stuff in there and it gets mixed all together and sometimes even turns into other things. That’s how the thing you made came to be anyway: you mixed things in with your stuff and then it became things again.
It’s kind of brilliant, because people can then say they made that thing, and they can get things for that: “recognition,” “money,” “cred(it).” This is part of the fuel that gets people to turn stuff into things.
The challenging thing about this system is that some stuff is way easier to turn into things. Numbers, for example, they already are things. Since the number things represent the dollar things that represent all of the stuff, it only follows that people who control the number things representing dollar things get more dollar things.
Then there’s the other stuff that’s pretty easy to turn into things: like house things, car things, and ham sandwich things.
At some point in time, each of these was brilliantly transformed from stuff to thing. Now it’s just stuff that’s easy to make things out of. Some of it is important, but not that interesting.
Then there’s big piles of other things that are just made of stuff: degree things, marriage things, insurance plan things to protect your stuff things from unexpected appendicitis things. Then all of the law things that make things out of all of these stuff things; and the public office things of the people things that turn stuff things into law things.
Damn, there’s lots of things in the world. Things are easy to see. Things command your attention. You have to be looking hard to really see the stuff.
There’s the challenge: with all of these things in front of you, how can you ever see the stuff well enough to make things out of it?
You have to see the things for the stuff that they are. Call their bluff things! You have to see the stuff for the things it could become!
Most people, once they have things in front of them, it’s game over. They’ll smack their alarm thing, drink their coffee thing in their car thing, go to the job thing, then watch the TV thing or comment on the Facebook thing. It’s so easy.
But it’s also so hard. These things are robbing them of their stuff.
If you learn to see the things for stuff and the stuff for things, suddenly the things won’t overpower the stuff so much. The supposedly urgent email thing from the boss thing, and the oh-my-god-buy-this-stuff-thing-or-you’re-ugly-fat-and-stupid-thing on the TV thing will just look silly.
Suddenly the what’s-this-thought stuff will become the look-at-it-this-way thing, and the what’s-this-feeling stuff will become the here’s-what-I’ll-do thing. Suddenly the line between stuff and things starts to blur.
This is how really interesting things are made. When people start to see stuff: untapped desires, cultural trends, the very thoughts in their heads, human interactions, etc., and realize they can make things out of them: groundbreaking mobile devices, musical acts, books, social networks, and other stuff things that you can’t even dream of.
Don’t let all of the things make you lose sight of the stuff. The stuff, well, that’s the good stuff.
Go out there and make things out of stuff: http://t.co/AmAk3lfQ74
— David Kadavy (@kadavy) April 24, 2013
P.S. I’m teaming up with some all-stars to make something that will help you manage your mind. Stay tuned. You’ll learn about it in early 2014.
Productivity is less about time management than it is about mind management. Sometimes you can get a ton of stuff done in a 10-minute burst, while other times you may be totally distracted and unproductive all day long.
The key to really making good use of your time is to master your mental energy. If you can do the right kind of work for your current mental state, or get yourself into the right mental state to do the work you need to do, then you’ll be well on your way to a more effective existence.
This is a topic that has fascinated me since before writing my book, and (because mind management was so important to writing that book) has continued to fascinate me. Here are my top thoughts on mind management:
- Mind Management (Not Time Management): The introduction to the overarching concepts of mind management. By working according to your mental state, and learning how to manage your mental state, you can get more out of your time.
- Permission to Suck: To become good at something, you have to first be not good at it. Don’t let the fear of imperfection stand in the way of starting.
- Stuff & Things: The whole world is full of “stuff” (undefined matter, like thinking and human desires) and things (defined matter, like money and products). All of the “things” are distracting, but to really be effective, you have to know how to turn “stuff” into “things.”
- Thinking is a Thing: It can be difficult to block off time for thinking. Thinking gets crowded out by everything else in your life. Making time for thinking can keep you operating mindfully.
- Prefrontal Mondays: High-level decision-making and prioritization uses your energy-hungry Prefrontal Cortex. Set aside a special time when you have lots of mental energy (perhaps Monday morning) to do this important kind of thinking.
- The 10-Minute Hack: To get started on something, set a very conservative goal (like working on it for 10-minutes). This makes it easy to get started; and once you do, you’ll want to keep going.
- Be Cognizant. Make Your Perfect Salad: Our awareness of what exists limits the quality of our experiences. You have to actively build your cognizance to come up with the combination of things that work for you.
- LifeBeans: Jelly Beans for Keeping Your Resolutions: Write yourself “prescriptions” for how often to do certain things to pursue your resolutions. Keep track of them with jelly beans.
- Goals are Bananas! The Fallacy of Goals: Focusing too intently on one far-off goal can distract you from opportunities that are right in front of you. The world changes too quickly to not remain mindful.
Don’t let a hyper-awareness of the most tangible things in front of you get in the way of making the most out of your mind.
P.S. I’m teaming up with some all-stars to make something that will help you manage your mind. Stay tuned. You’ll learn about it in early 2014.
9 Great Ways to Manage Your Mind (Instead of Your Time) http://t.co/yT4OA6XGLC
— David Kadavy (@kadavy) November 8, 2013
I wrote Design for Hackers to teach hackers about design. But that wasn’t the hokey pokey of it.
That wasn’t what it was “all about.”
I wrote it for hackers because hackers have the most power to do great things with the things that they make.
But that’s changing.
Hackers have made makers
All of that collective work, all of the long hours of coding, sharing and contributing to open-source work – and of coding and making for profit – are distributing that power to people who don’t even know what a <br> tag is. (They should learn, but that’s another story)
Hackers have brought the power to make things to the mainstream. All sorts of people are making things, and more people have the ability to get their ideas seen by the masses.
Along the way, they’re learning about design. You can talk about the differences between Times New Roman and Helvetica at a party and people will know what you’re talking about.
Do you realize how huge that is?
Do you realize that wouldn’t have worked 20 years ago? Not even 10.
Regular people are learning about design
We already know that communicating with the visual language of shapes and lines and white space can be the difference between someone dismissing what we make, or embracing it.
Regular people are already learning about design without even being aware of it. They may as well be intentional about it and harness its power.
This is the subject of the talk I gave at TEDx DePaul University in Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. If you watch the video, you may think I’m just speaking to the “exit” sign, but I swear, there were lots of people there.
I’m very excited and proud to have had the opportunity to share this idea through TEDx!
(If you enjoy this talk, please let the TED people know simply by clicking on this link)
You’ve heard the famous quote: “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.”
Similarly, when I was a kid, naturally I would often decide I really wanted a certain toy. My mother would usually tell me that if I still wanted that toy in a few weeks, “maybe” I would get it.
This was clever, because I would usually forget about it. But sometimes, my desire would persist. Sometimes, I would maybe get the toy.
This advice is useful not only in love and toys, but also in ideas.
What’s fueling your idea?
Excitement for an idea can be very powerful. It gives you the momentum to pursue that idea. But sometimes – eventually – the pursuit of that idea is no longer fueled by your love for that idea. It’s fueled by all of the things that have been put in place in order to pursue that idea.
Investors, employees, leases for office space, and TechCrunch articles can have dangerously seductive qualities. They can make you feel powerful, give you the sense that your idea has merit, and that you’re spending your precious moments in a worthwhile pursuit.
But these things carve grooves that only get deeper. They can create false forces that guide your actions.
You thought you were your own boss, but now you’re a marionette.
This can go on for much longer than the life of that idea. Not only are you in deep, but now other people are as well. They’re spending their precious moments in pursuit of your idea. The marriage persists, but the love is gone.
If you love your idea, let it go
The next time you get really excited about an idea, whether it’s the healthcare portal that is going to revolutionize the industry, or that from now on you’re going to drink 8 glasses of water a day, do yourself a favor: pursue it just a little bit.
Try it on for awhile. Daydream about it with a Moleskine and a glass of wine.
Then let it go. If it comes back to you, you may be onto something.
Ideas take time to grow. You do, too.
About 5 years ago, I decided to do a little talk to teach developers about design. It was called “Design for the Coder’s Mind.”
So many things weren’t quite right about it: the name I chose didn’t have punch, I was just okay at expressing my ideas, and my presentation skills were also just okay. Most importantly, not many developers were interested in learning about design.
It should have been harder to let go of that idea. I had loved design as long as I could remember.
I might have decided to continue working on that idea. To plow through the things I wasn’t so good at, and to persevere through the lack of market interest.
But I was still thirsty to try other things. So I did the presentation, and let the idea go.
Two years passed before I gave that idea more thought. Lots of things happened not only to bring the idea back to me, but to improve my chances of pursuing that idea successfully. I wrote about other things on my blog and got better at writing and expressing my thoughts; and I messed around in improv and sketch writing classes at Second City, which improved my presentation skills. I freelanced just enough to support myself while I built passive revenue streams.
I was pursuing lots of other ideas: I had a roommate-meeting service, I built a food photo-sharing app with some friends, and I started making YouTube videos. I was learning how to better articulate myself, how to create things that were appealing, and how to navigate my own curiosity.
While I was doing these other things, though, my idea was maturing. More people started sharing my presentation, and more people were asking me about learning design.
When love is strong, it’s easy
One day, the idea came back to me in full force, and I was ready. The name didn’t have enough punch: “Design for Hackers” it would be. The concepts needed that special something: a compelling topic to open the mind to deeper ideas.
When I was asked to drop everything to write a book, there wasn’t much to drop. I was free to pursue it, and the idea had persisted enough that I felt as if I had no choice but to do so.
Most importantly, the idea was now ready. People wanted this and there was little question it would succeed. Everything fell into place.
I’ve always operated this way somehow, but I’ve learned to trust it. Heck, this blog post sat in draft form for months until I woke up this morning – the concepts suddenly clear in my head – and finished it.
But it will work for you, too. The mind can’t be open to making creative connections when it’s too focused on producing a result. Like Archimedes’s famous bath, you need to wait for your Eureka moment.
If you love your idea, let it go.
If you love your idea, let it go http://t.co/LzV8U22w3j
— David Kadavy (@kadavy) June 13, 2013
Learning new things is so much easier when you have someone coaching you along – and when you have classmates.
That’s why, on June 4th, Summer of Design will start. Be sure to sign up before then, because enrollment will close. (If you already get my emails, you’re already enrolled)
Introducing Summer of Design (it’s free)
It’s 12 weeks of emails that will teach you about design. Each email is based upon a chapter of “Design for Hackers.” If you have a book, you can work along with your copy. If you don’t have a copy of “Design for Hackers,” don’t worry, you’ll still learn plenty from the emails. (But, you can buy it on Amazon, or anywhere else books are sold.)
Each email will be accompanied by a group discussion on the D4H Facebook Page, a quiz, or a task. Not only will Summer of Design keep you on schedule, it will help you learn from others, and test your newfound knowledge.
Learn the “whys” behind design
The Summer of Design curriculum is designed to teach you the “whys” behind design. You won’t hear any “top 10 tips,” and I won’t claim to increase your conversion rate just by choosing some magical button color. Instead, I’ll show you how design really works.
There are various factors that make good design, and you see them in action over and over again. I’ll teach you how to see design in a new way, so you can keep learning about design even after the course is over.
Once you start to really understand design, you’ll really be able to speak with its visual language. Your projects will start to look better, and you’ll be able to talk to your team members about design using a common vocabulary – hey, get them to enroll in Summer of Design, too!
Here’s a run-down of the Summer of Design curriculum:
- June 4 Why Design Matters
- June 11 The Purpose of Design
- June 18 Understanding Typography
- June 25 Technology & Culture
- July 2 Proportion
- July 9 Composition & Design Principles
- July 16 Visual Hierarchy
- July 23 Color Science
- July 30 Color Theory
- August 6 Choosing & Pairing Fonts
- August 13 Typographic Etiquette
- August 20 Closing Remarks
Join thousands of other students. Enroll by June 3rd (or else)
Summer of Design is free (this time around), and if you don’t enroll by June 3rd, you’ll miss out completely. You’ll be in it with the thousands of people already enrolled. So, sign up now.
I’m starting a (free) email course to teach you design this summer. It’s called “Summer of Design” summerofdesign.com
— David Kadavy (@kadavy) May 23, 2013
(If you already get Design for Hackers emails, you’re already enrolled!)