Side interests. You know, those things you like to do besides you work and side projects? Yea, those things. Those things that make you a well-rounded human being. Well those things can make you a better designer, sometimes but they will always make you a better person. Still not sure what I am talking about? A side interests (or if you prefer other interests) are just that; something outside of your job/profession that you like to do. A side project is something you do that keeps you creative and utilizes your professional skills, but aimed at a project you enjoy that is self-initiated. That’s the distinction. The reasons why side interests are important are many.
1) You don’t let your work become who you are.
2) You have something purely for fun and enjoyment you do.
3) You create a balanced life between passions and fun with work and family.
4) They can afford you those “Aha” moments of clarity and inspiration.
It’s pretty easy for someone with drive and ambition to let themselves become identified with their work. What they see as a passionate, knowledgeable expert user can see as one dimensional. The thing about side interests is that they should be for fun and having little if nothing to do with your professional life. Golf is a good example of this. Golf is an arguably enjoyable sport that a colleague can introduce you to and that you may enjoy (obvious that I am not a golfer yet?) Another classic side interest is fishing. That pastoral visage of a person in waders, thigh deep in a stream casting a fly rod is pretty serene, but even just sitting under a bridge and casting into the unknown murky waters that shade the fish can be relaxing as well.
With side interests, the goal should be fun and unrelated to work. You need to make time for these activities because they promote well-being. With the rigors of everyday life, between family, education, work, etc. you need to find time just for yourself or become quickly drained. Lastly, side interests allow you to decompress and free your mind, which can allow inspiration to strike. It’s funny how many times I have heard from people that their best ideas come when they were doing thing even remotely related to the task at hand. Inspiration can strike anywhere, but it likes to strike when the playing field is empty…hence the reason why you have heard of so many people saying they had a bright idea in the shower, on the toilet, driving, food shopping, etc. When your mind is in a good state, good ideas tend to follow.
Now, there are literally any number of side interests out…from crocheting cat sweaters to woodworking, but here is a list of things I do that I find helps me relax.
Drumming – I used to be a pretty good drummer, but that was 8 years ago. I picked it back up again upon moving the studio as I now have the space for it. Drumming may not sound relaxing, but getting behind a kit and pounding away for a bit is definitely therapeutic. As I get better, I will find more enjoyment as I play the tunes I like. It’s still a creative process, but my mind is completely focused on beats and tempo, not user interactions and color choices.
Cooking – Simple enough, I like to eat. Cooking is chemistry and I like to experiment. Cooking flexes your problem solving muscles and allows instant gratification; if the dish is better then great, if not it’s a chance to learn from your mistakes. Because my mind is so focused on the many processes in the kitchen, it’s fun to juggle them all.
Brewing – A relatively new hobby of mine, but certainly an expert with its outcome. I fell into Homebrewing with some friends of mine who made our custom brews for AIGA events. The process is similar to cooking, except much longer and more formulaic. The limitless possibilities for brewing, keep me inspired and when a good brew is finally bottled, like cooking, it’s worth sharing.
Role playing Games – I am a huge RPG nut and love everything about the genre of games. RPG’s, the table top versions, are great because it involves many people participate and weave the story together. It’s probably more creative than anything I do for work because there is no boundaries. I have stated many times that I have come up with solutions to professional work by playing Dungeons & Dragons and it suddenly came to me.
At the end of the day, you need other stuff to keep you happy, fun and a well-rounded individual. As a designer, there is this unspoken creedo that we must always been on and always creative; that vacations and weekends free can be view as you might be “losing the game” or being selfish. I say fuck that and go something fun. You’ll be better for it, you’ll stave off burnout and you will be a more inspired individual.
So tell me on Twitter what you like to do outside of work.