I love washing dishes. Why? For a number of reasons. First, I love washing dishes because I can. Last year, my right arm was broken at the wrist in an ugly car crash. Now, a broken arm isn’t that big of a deal, right? Most folks heal up from those relatively quickly and completely. But I had never experienced anything like it. So the whole “unable to use one of my limbs” thing was scary for me. My right arm is my primary arm, my mousing arm, my drawing arm, my butchering leads arm… So not having it working freaked me out. I was fortunate to have good care, helpful friends and family, and the option for physical therapy that got me back up to full (almost) operating capacity. But it took months to get back to doing things in any fashion I was accustomed to. And for a while, I couldn’t do anything with my right hand.
Once the cast was off and I could immerse my hand in water, I started doing dishes again as part of my physical therapy. It was very slow going, and painful initially. But I was so happy that my hand was working again, albeit in a very limited fashion, that washing dishes became something I looked forward to every day. Soaking my hand in the hot water loosened it up, and the flexing and stretching required to scrub the dishes helped with flexibility and strength. In spite of the pain, my hand felt better afterward, so doing the dishes nightly helped me accept that I was going to be okay.
Second, washing dishes is a key part of keeping my house in order, which, in turn, is a key part of keeping my mind in order. That, in turn, is a key part of my successful daily workflow. Clutter is distracting to me, and buildup of said clutter eventually leads to such a fragmented mind state that eventually I can’t work at all until I stop and clean. (Okay, that sounds weird. Don’t worry, read enough of my posts and it’ll stop feeling strange after a while.) When I wash dishes, as the dishes go from being a disorganized countertop of dirty stuff to a neatly arranged layout of clean stuff, I can feel my mind opening up. It’s like a cool breeze sweeping through, refreshing and reviving my thinking. Maybe it’s like Dawn for mind grease…
Third, washing dishes gives me time to ponder. It can be difficult during the day to find moments to just think. I’m usually very busy all day long, juggling dozens of objectives. I welcome that mentally quiet time, and even look forward to it, knowing that I’ll have some time to reflect or plan, that by the end of it my mind will be a bit more clutter-free, and that the kitchen will be ready to go when it’s time to prepare the next meal. And on days where it seems I can’t get a single task finished, I can look at the kitchen and feel like I got something done, something that contributes to keeping my life going.
So, what does this have to do with design? Everything. There are plenty of tasks related to my work that one could label chores. Plenty. There are steps in my process that I don’t enjoy, that I dread because I know they’re going to be a slog. Thinking about those steps affects the steps directly ahead of them because I start concentrating on the impending arrivals well before their time. That distracts me from focusing completely on each task at hand. And that means that my work as a whole may suffer a bit.
To break this cycle, I embrace the steps I dislike. I actively look for benefits to working through those steps, and each time I start on those tasks, I remind myself of the good things that will come from completing those tasks. That keeps me happy and stops the grumbling and, in turn, makes my day less stressful and makes my work better.
What steps do you dread in your design work? What benefits can you find to turn those slogs into strengthening runs? Can you decide to embrace the tasks you don’t enjoy to experience a positive flow throughout the design cycle? Give it a shot. And let me know how it worked out for you.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. I wrote this blog while washing dishes this morning.