If there’s one thing that business ownership has done to me, it’s allowed me to slip back into old (bad) habits not part of my life since college. Over the past year I’ve found myself slowly slipping into irregular schedules, eating poorly and randomly, not going outdoors enough and frankly allowing the schedules of our clients dictate my own life schedule. And while there are sacrifices that always arise due to a project, I looked back and realized I had completely lost control of myself and as a result was ensconced in a very unhealthy lifestyle.
How’d I come to this conclusion? I simply looked at the work I put out. For months I was unhappy with almost everything I created. I knew it could be better, I just couldn’t wrap my head around how. I don’t want to say that I gave up, because that implies that I knew the path, I just didn’t want to travel it. The situation was more subtle than that. I knew that there was a better solution, I just didn’t have the free mental bandwidth to discover that path. It was quite disheartening, and just added to the slow, but steady, downward spiral.
Additionally, my interactions with colleagues and friends alike had become strained. I was arguing more and discussing less. Problems became barriers rather than opportunity. Small inconveniences became grounds for major confrontations. Neither the quality of my work, nor of my interactions, were proper reflections of who I had been just a short year ago.
Frustrated with myself, I put together a rather strict schedule for myself, with just enough flexibility to accommodate the unforeseen circumstances that running a design studio brings with it. I began setting my alarm for 7am each morning (weekends inclusive). Getting an early start on my day allowed me the time to ease myself into each workday and, as in the past, has lead to much more energy throughout the day. With more time in my day I’ve made a conscious effort to start eating much better than I had been, with a small breakfast every morning, a modest lunch daily (I’ve got an iCal reminder so I don’t let it slip), and I’ve returned to cooking dinner almost nightly, adding several recipe blogs to my RSS reader to find new recipes and ensuring I’m adding many more fruits and vegetables to my diet than before.
With my workday starting earlier, most nights have become remarkably free for me to devote my energy back to patching up my strained friendships. I’m lucky enough to have some quite intelligent and inquisitive people in my life, and the newfound emphasis on those friendships has exercised my mind the same way that my new, nightly, sit-up and pushup routine are exercising my body.
After a month I’ve seen a remarkable improvement in the quality of my work and my life. I’ve got more ideas, can execute them much better (and quicker). By the end of the day I’m not exhausted, allowing me to stay active rather than plopping myself in front of the television/xBox. The time I’m spending in the kitchen is remarkably mind-clearing and I’ve found myself eating less and enjoying that food exponentially more. Body image be damned, this is about happiness. This is about knowing that I’m being the best that I can be in every part of my life. This is about knowing that choices that I’m making are not holding me back.
Throughout my design career it’s been to easy to slip into bad habits. Late nights at the studio, the pressures of business ownership, stress over client pitches, a need to push harder for your best work; It overwhelms you. What starts as a one night compromise with yourself quickly becomes routine, and routine slowly turns into bad habit.
Bad habits are hard to kick, but once I broke free I discovered infinite lost potential. Take a moment today and find for yourself some small habits that have crept into your daily life and take actions to reverse them. One small step can have a huge impact on your quality of work and life.