How 10 minutes a day can change your entire design practice
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During my recent three-month speaking tour that spanned 22 U.S. cities, there was one question I was asked with surprising frequency: “As a designer, how did you write and publish your first book? And then how did you put together a speaking tour?”
The answer is actually very simple. I applied the same principles of design to all areas of my life, including my side projects—the main principle being daily practice.
We already know that establishing a daily design practice is the quickest way to master our tools, hone our skills, and generate ideas, but when it comes to following through, many people fall short. It’s the issue of frequency. Doing something daily can often be perceived as a huge commitment. That’s why I minimize to the extreme.
The number one way I’ve been able to progress at a rapid rate in all facets of design is to shrink my daily commitment for a set task to a time frame that’s ridiculously small. I’m talking 10 minutes a day. No matter how busy, tired, or stressed we may be, we've all got 10 minutes to spare. If you’re wondering how much impact 10 minutes can actually have, here are some of my personal experiments over the past few years (fair warning, this is a truly mixed bag):
1. I’ve always loved magic but never knew any tricks, so I decided to learn how to make a tuna tin disappear by practicing 10 minutes a day for three days. My (adult) audience was convinced.
2. I learned basic html by reading lines of code over my afternoon tea. Ten minutes a day was plenty (and as much as I could probably handle). After doing this daily without fail for a month, I was able to code most of the customization for my blog.
3. Prior to my recent tour, I had never done any professional public speaking. To prepare, I approached one stranger a day for two months and had a 5-10 minute conversation with them. It didn’t matter where I was or who it was with, whether I was in line for a coffee, waiting at a crosswalk, or on the train home from work.
My opener was simple: “Hi there, I'm on a mission to kick my fear of speaking to people to the curb by meeting one new person a day. Tell me something exciting.” Over the course of the two months I practiced my body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and eye contact. It worked, and I successfully engaged with over 10,000 people on tour without the nerves and without forgetting any key points.
4. As for my first book How to Get a Job as a Designer, Guaranteed, I committed to writing ten minutes a day, and nine months later my manuscript was ready. Some days I had barely anything to write and would only put down one sentence. Other days, my ten minutes would turn into two hours. However it pans out, you're still making progress. I used the same approach to organize my speaking tour. I dedicated just ten minutes of emailing and logistics each day for about three months. Slowly but surely, by the end, everything was set in stone and all I had to do was focus on preparing my content.
Often times, we dismiss the pursuit of learning something new or going deeper on a project because the gap of where you are now to where that goal is seems too far away. The key is to progress consistently in very small increments. If I can quote Will Smith here, “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”
I’d love to hear about your success stories in implementing a short daily practice. Add a comment here or tweet me @thegiantthinker. You can also ask me any design job-related question on Twitter, and I’ll answer it in an upcoming post here on AIGA.org.