Driven to distraction…

I work for a large university. My workload is split about 48% support, 48% production and 4% design. Needless to say, my Graphic Design skills are rusty. It’s the sort of thing you really have to do regularly or it just slips.

Anyway, recently, I had two new site designs to work on. Nothing ground breaking or particularly difficult, but the requirement was a bit more than the same old university template driven site. I tried. I tried again… and again! Those ‘rusty’ skills seemed to have seized up altogether, I had designer’s block!!

You can laugh, but I even had nightmares about not being able to get the computer to do what I wanted it to. I sort of knew the problem – my workplace is an IT production environment, not a design studio. It’s full of noise and clutter, devoid of character and cadence, it’s boring and grey, not colourful and inspirational. On top of that, the flow of work never stops! Emails, tweets, IMs, newsfeeds – there were too many distractions. Anyway, after the bad dreams the other night, I decided on an action plan.

  1. Clear my desk of clutter
  2. Tune out from the background noise
  3. Avoid electronic distractions

As it happened, it was surprisingly easy. Clearing the desk – well, that’s straightforward. Tuning out – a pair of headphones and the iPod. Electronic distractions – a little trickier, after all, I use the computer to do the work, I can’t very well turn that off!

What I did was create a new user account. I called it ‘Designer’, and I turned off everything – no email, no IM, no bookmarks – not even a desktop pic! Just Photoshop and Illustrator in my dock and a shared folder to move files to and from my main account. Using this account is like stepping into a private office, I get incredible amounts of work done without the distractions. When I need to, I just switch back. The change has been so dramatic that yesterday, having made huge progress on my design tasks, I was looking forward to coming to work for the first time in days.

So, there you have it. My #1 tip for getting things done. Create a purpose built account and use it to escape! It got me past my designer’s block 🙂