India won the Cricket World Cup a couple of days back, a trophy we haven’t won in over 20 years. Before we won that cup, the feeling in the bar we were watching the match at, was that of dejection or lets say ambivalence. We have been known to give up when good wickets like that of Sachin Tendulkar fall. No one really knows what happened this time. The youngsters, a lot of whose names I didn’t know played a consistent and thorough game. Players like Gautum Gambhir kept the game going slowly and surely eventually winning us the World Cup. It was spectacular. It was …ahem.. very unlike us, the team seemed disciplined, there was strategic thinking behind who came out to bat and bowl, no tempers were flaring and everyone including the fiery Harbhajan Singh was behaving themselves, that too *drumroll* under pressure and stress. What happened here, did we just get sick of bad leadership, was there some introspection?
This brings me back to some personal introspection. The past three months has seen me join a new job at a company called frog design, host a panel discussion for designwala, moderate another one for ARTfarm and push forward a bunch of personal projects. The past few months of madness amongst other things has led to a broader understanding of personal work methods and emotional & physical thresholds. The primary introspection being, if people push themselves a bit harder than their expectations, they can surprise themselves. There were a lot of ‘I cant’ in my vocabulary in the last few years. It happens when you go past the romantic stage in your career, when you start understanding your shortcomings as an employee, co-worker, collaborator and more. The only thing that can be said here is to keep a low profile and to clean up your skill by working hard on it. The only substitute to working hard is perhaps working smarter which brings me to working under stress & pressure, where the example of the Indian Cricket Team comes in handy.
Working under stress means that your adrenalin is pumping but you come across as if you have been relaxing on a beach. The quality is rare, some have it naturally and for wound up people like me, it has to be cultivated with utter discipline. I am the kind of a person who works when the pressure is on. Being able to work smart under stress and pressure has been challenging. It has taken, time and experience to cultivate a consistent work method but has been worth it because I know I won’t screw up the task when the time arrives to deliver the goods. It also means that I have been able to expand my scope and incorporate more work and move up the food chain.
10 healthy work methods that I have learnt by falling in a ditch are as follows :
1. Distribute work, if you have a team, don’t try to be a martyr and do it all
2. Take small breaks to relax your eyes and muscles
3. Don’t blame people when they don’t deliver, just don’t work with them again.
4. Take some time off when a big project finishes
5. If you think the world is coming to an end, zoom out and look at the larger picture
6. If you don’t get everything done on your to-do list, there is always a tomorrow
7. Forgive yourself, shit happens
8. Start early, last minute is not always good and can create unnecessary stress.
9. Push yourself harder, try and be better, be more critical of yourself, design better, read more.
10. Last but not the least, take sick days when you are sick.
The list up top is very forgiving except for number 9. Pushing yourself harder however has a lot of weight. Everything else revolves around it. Doing something that is challenging or makes you uncomfortable also makes you aware of your boundaries and your abilities. It is important to take those risks just to understand what one is capable of. If it works out, awesome, if not, then forgive yourself and move on.
Just elaborating on couple of things listed above, starting early is something which is very new to me but has been helpful in cutting down unnecessary stress, it has also helped me develop better ideas and have time to get feedback. Another interesting aspect of working on creative projects is working with people. It is good to get a good understanding of a person’s skill set and limitations and limit ones expectations to that. There is no point depending on someone to do something they are not capable of delivering. This is not in the above list but stay away from people who do not care about your vision and work. If there is light at the end of the tunnel like work experience, cash in the bank, then go for it, if there is nothing, simply stay away and save yourself the self doubt negative people can instill in you.
I am not trying to write an ‘eat, pray, love’ here. These are simply the ways in which I have been able to create a conducive environment to work in while working a full time gig and numerous side projects. Having a hobby helps as well but I don’t have any and don’t plan on having any. I do want to travel more and get an understanding of the services and design across the globe.
One more thing that has struck me is actually doing the work and designing the product if you want to make it. There is no point in waiting for the right time to make something happen. If you have an idea, atleast sketch it out, send a few emails out, sense its feasibility and your attachment to it. More often than not, you will abandon it, however if you don’t, then it could be a live product. Something that you thought of, designed and created. Even if the product fails, atleast you tried vs being one of those people who are always saying ‘I thought of facebook before Zuckerberg did’. Those people are the worst and you don’t want to be one of those because then you would be a wannabe and no one wants to be wannabe. Amen.