January 25, 2011
Have you ever stopped to think about all of the things you rely on every day that you plug in – your computer, cell phone, printer, lights, TV, etc.? If they aren’t plugged in or recharged, then they just don’t have the energy to work.
Now think about all of the things that you are metaphorically plugged into in your work-life. Think of all the mental energy you devote to your work. Think of the various physical activities you engage in during the day. Step back even further, and think about your beliefs about yourself, the world, and the people in your life.
Are you plugged into the activities and thoughts that get you what you want, or are you wasting energy on things that lead to frustration and exhaustion? We all have a finite amount of plugs and energy.
Here are three ways to help you stop wasting your energy this month.
1. Unplug. Literally unplug your computer, cell phone, TV, lights and anything else electric that you use for 12-24 hours. Unplug metaphorically as much as you can from all the other things that get your energy and attention. Live simply. Use this time to explore what is most important to you. See what you miss. Create some quiet, introspective down time for yourself. Don’t forget to take some deep delicious breaths. If 12-24 hours seems too long then try it for just an hour or two.
2. Plug Back In. You are probably not going to choose to stay unplugged forever. So, when it’s time to plug back in, do it consciously. Think about what you want to plug back into or what you really missed. Use a rating scale if that helps you to think about each item, activity, thought or belief in your work-life. How important/helpful is it to you to plug back into ________? 0= least important, 10= most important. Plug back in to only the most important and energizing things first – the things you rated with a 9 or 10 and then see how many plugs and how much energy is left over/. Experiment and let some plugs hang loose.
3. Choose. Even when things seem daunting and impossible, remember that you have a choice. In any and every moment you can choose where you are going to put your attention and focus. Are you going to put it on thoughts or activities that deplete you or are you going to put it into the places that energize and enliven you? At any time you can unplug cords that are frayed or no longer serve you and you can plug in new ones or untangle old ones.
Here is an example from one of my clients:
For months Jeffrey was plagued by his messy home office. At times he felt like a failure for not making the time to clean it up. This month, he unplugged for a day and realized that he had a choice to plug into:
1. Beating himself up about his messy office.
2. Whole-heartedly choosing to keep his office messy, for now.
He decided to plug in to the mess – letting it be messy, instead of plugging into beating himself up about it the mess. What a refreshing shift! This freed up energy so he could focus on other tasks that were much more important to him.
What are you going to consciously unplug from and plug into this month? When you use your energy to plug into what is most important to you, you’ll stop wasting energy and may even have some extra left over to plug into you.
Illustrations by Jordan Awan
December 3, 2010
This is the last of our contributor’s gift guides. Jordan Awan, who is an art director at The New Yorker, and a valued member of the Lifework team, reveals his wish list.
During the holidays, this sturdy Stanley Flask ($20) should never leave your inside coat pocket. Rust and leak proof, it’s as aesthetically pleasing as it is practical; use it to make holiday travel bearable, or simply to enjoy an extra dose of winter cheer. Order one from DWR or head to the wonderful Brook Farm General Store in Brooklyn.
Playful and beautiful, the Eames Hang-It-All ($179) has become an essential part of both my apartment decor and my daily routine: it’s always my last stop on my way out the door and my first when I return. The Hang-It-All really does hang it all; pile on bags, coats, scarves, sweaters, hats, and anything else (if you can bear to cover it up, that is!) Designed in 1953 by Charles and Ray Eames, it’s available from the Herman Miller Store.
M&Co.’s Bodoni watch ($105) is, to me, the Platonic ideal of a watch. Designed by Tibor Kalman in 1984, it’s lightweight, comfortable, and has a perfectly proportioned face which elegantly shows off the understated Bodoni numbers. It’s as timeless as a timepiece can get. Buy it from MoMA and show your good taste.
Designed in 1951, Isamu Noguchi’s Akari table lamps ($145) are functional sculptures that look at home in any setting. The soft glow they emit is an easy way to warm up a room on a cold winter night. Buy them from MoMA or the Noguchi Museum in New York; otherwise check out all the beautiful lamps for sale in the Akari Store.
Hillside makes heirloom-quality scarves ($80); no matter how light my jacket is, on a cold day my scarf keeps me toasty. If you live in New York, head to In God We Trust for the best selection; if not, check out Hickorees, but do it quickly, before they sell out.
November 16, 2010
With more people looking for environmentally friendly products, bamboo has become a popular material for making all kinds of things. There are definitely some legitimate concerns regarding the processing and possible over use of bamboo, however I stand by the belief that we are better off with as many alternative sources for materials as possible – it’s a good way to ensure we avoid the depletion of any one source. Let’s take a look at some really cool bamboo office supplies.
Three by Three Seattle makes some incredibly well designed and beautiful supplies. Their Large Bamboo Dry-Erase Channel Panel (31.5” x 15.75”) is one of my favorites. This great looking dry erase board is made from real bamboo that is specially treated so it acts as a dry erase board, and it has plenty of extras like a bamboo pen cup, magnetic strips, hooks, and a mail slot to help organize yourself. It is available in two sizes, and also in a plain and accessorized version. $40 – $100 via Three by Three Seattle
Retro 51 makes a line of very popular pens called the Tornado that come in tons of different colors. They recently introduced a bamboo version that I’ve had the privilege to try out, and not only does it look fantastic, but it also writes flawlessly with a super smooth feel as it glides across the paper. For each of these pens that are sold, Retro 51 makes a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation to rescue 250 square feet of rainforest, and the habitat it protects. $40 via Goldspot
You may not be able to tell that these notebooks are made from bamboo just by looking at their colorful covers, but they have a little secret. The pages inside of these notebooks are all made with 100% sustainable bamboo pulp. Unlike some environmentally friendly paper, the paper in these notebooks has a strong sturdy feel, and holds up well to many different inks. They come in multiple sizes ranging from pocket sized to full letter sized. $5 – $10 via Amazon
Chair mats might be one of the ugliest, and one of the most environmentally unfriendly items I can think of, but thankfully the folks at Anji Mountain turned the once ugly item into something that looks so nice that you almost feel bad putting it on the floor. These bamboo chair mats come in a dark and light shade and in multiple sizes and shapes, so you have plenty of options once you ditch that ugly old, yellowing, and probably cracked, plastic chair mat. $120 to $350 via Amazon
Everyone has a USB flash drive, but not everyone has one that is environmentally friendly like this 4 GB Bamboo USB Flash Drive from Staples. With a comfy 4GB of storage, and a magnetized bamboo cap to keep the USB plug securely covered, you cant go wrong with this great looking little storage solution. $25 via Staples
Illustrations by Jordan Awan.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
August 11, 2010
A lot of you loved last week’s post by Brian Greene about pencils (incidentally, so did Boing Boing). And some of that is due in part to the post’s whimsical-cool illustrations by artist Jordan Awan. In addition to being a contributor here at Lifework, Jordan’s also the Art Director at The New Yorker and the founder (along with wife Morgan Elliott) of Springtime Studio Illustration. Here’s the music that makes up the Brooklynite’s (probably very long) workday.
What do you listen to while you work? I usually listen to rock and roll or just enjoy silence, which is sometimes easier for me to work to. The mix below is decently representative of what I like to listen and work to. Otherwise, I listen to opera; I also like to work to Philip Glass Ensemble.
How do you listen? My old record player finally gave up the ghost, so these days I listen to iTunes on the computer, or I use an iPod.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? I haven’t really explored those too much yet. Last FM seems quite good; the little time I have spent on it, I’ve been impressed with what they recommend based on the channel you create. Pandora is fine, too.
Does music influence your work? I’m more overtly influenced by literature or visual art, so it’s interesting to think about music influencing me. Actually, for a long time I was stealing titles for paintings from Simon and Garfunkel song lyrics. So, that’s something.
I think John Cage’s funny and beautiful “Suite for Toy Piano” is really inspiring, and is maybe a close relative of what I aspire to do. I admire how Mozart could write something that is simultaneously silly and elegant, for instance his exuberant Overture to The Marriage of Figaro. Artists like Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, or Lou Reed, each of whom invented a new version of a musical vernacular, are very creatively motivating.
Where do you find music recommendations? My wife has had an influence on my musical taste, which probably happened naturally as our records and libraries got mixed together and her music would be on when I’m in the apartment. She got me interested in Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Buddy Holly, Gillian Welch…blues and all its offspring, I guess. Music that is very American. Other than that, sometimes a friend will give me a good recommendation.
What song or artist best represents the work you create? Maybe Elvis? Might as well as be the king. A friend once told me that a Beat Happening song called “Indian Summer” sounded the way my drawings looked.
Child’s Christmas in Wales, John Cale
Redondo Beach, Patti Smith
Spanish Harlem Incident, Bob Dylan
Cannibal Resource, Dirty Projectors
Waterfall, The Stone Roses
My Girls, Animal Collective
This Must Be the Place, Talking Heads
Sweet Jane, The Velvet Underground
Elvis Presley Blues, Gillian Welch
In the New Year, The Walkmen
From Stardust to Sentience, High Places
Images: Jordan Awan
Design, Products, Technology
June 20, 2010
For all the time and effort that people put into finding that perfect pen, it’s amazing that they will write on just any old paper. Maybe this was OK when you were in 1st grade learning how to spell your name without backwards letters, but if you are looking to upgrade your overall writing experience, take a look at some of the outstanding notebooks below.
Some of my favorite notebooks for everyday use are from the Black n’ Red brand. Nothing fancy here, however you can’t beat the combination of their simple visual appeal, impeccable quality, and great value. Sturdy covers, with good quality binding, and most importantly high quality paper that won’t have your writing bleed through. There are many options to choose from, but I like the coil bound version with polypropylene cover. $7 via Amazon
If making the decision between traditional ruled paper, and graph paper is just too hard for you, the notebooks from Doane Paper will make your day. The unique design of their notebooks give you graph paper and ruled paper all on one page by using a heavier horizontal line to make up the squares of the graph paper. Doane Paper notebooks are available as standard legal pads, pocket size journals, and hard-cover coil-bound versions. $4.50 to $11 via DoanePaper
Whitelines notebooks come in multiple formats including coil bound and book style binding, with your choice of ruled or graph paper style. The paper itself is a very light gray, while the lines are actually white. The logic behind this design is that the white lines will not distract or interfere with your writing or drawing. Also, when you scan or photocopy the paper, the lines become invisible. My personal favorite is the lined A5 with hard black cover and coil binding. $12 via Amazon
If you are a fountain pen user, or someone who hates when your writing shows through to the other side of the page, the Rhodia Web Notebook is the perfect option for you. These notebooks use a heavy 90 gauge paper that deals well with just about any ink and is also the smoothest paper you will ever write on. $20 via Amazon
For the most professional looking notebooks, you can’t go wrong with the Levenger’s Circa system. These notebooks are not cheap; however their unique disc binding system and high quality cloth or leather covers will make you stand out from the crowd in a meeting. The disc binding system allows you great flexibility in moving and organizing your notes. $49-$129 via Levenger
Illustrations by Jordan Awan
Balance, Design, Products
May 27, 2010
Here is a slightly different take on our home office interview. Illustrator Jordan Awan drew his work space for us. I think it’s a nice change of pace. I’m a big fan of his work. Let me know what you think. Maybe more illos are called for! Check out his work at Springtime Studio and his blog here.
1. How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I started doing freelance illustration upon graduating from Pratt Institute in 2007. I have an apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, that I share with my wife, Morgan Elliott, who is also an illustrator. I typically do editorial and print illustration for clients like The New Yorker, The New York Times, or McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, though I have also done work as different as designing billboards for Puma or drawing patterns for dishware.
2. Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? That’s tough! I probably need a few drinks to answer this accurately. I’m typically attracted to an essentialized aesthetic, which is what I aim for in my illustration as well. I try to make every line count; no decoration or superfluous marks are allowed. The same goes for my living and workspace, I suppose!
3. As an illustrator with multiple clients how do you keep your office organized? I’m thinking here of the physical space but also your computer. Are there any particular programs you find really useful? Living in New York, I (along with everyone else in the city) am forced to make every square foot of my apartment count. My poor office shelving is working overtime to help me keep supplies, sketchbooks, papers, and everything else in order. A system that works for me is: whatever I’m not using at any given moment immediately goes back into storage. This helps me keep everything organized while at the same time opening up my workspace. As for my computer, I have developed a system where work is categorized first by client, then by year, then by assignment. Each assignment folder has all the reference, sketches, versions and finals.
4. Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet? I’ve always wanted an Eames Storage Unit. It would make organizing papers and supplies so much easier. I also need to bite the bullet and get a laptop at some point soon!
5. What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? I have a vintage Dazor drafting lamp that I’ve come to depend on. It’s a classic, the same kind that illustrators have used since the 1940s. It gives off the crispest light that is perfect for keeping my eyes focused on the detail of what I’m drawing; it’s also articulated in such a brilliant way that I can get light from any direction.
The other office item that I can’t do without is this turn of the century drafting table, which was manufactured at an engineering school in Worcester, Massachusetts. The angle of the top is adjustable, as is the height, making it perfect for every medium. Mine was a gift from Morgan’s father, who remembers his father (an illustrator) working on one exactly like it. Back in the 40s and 50s, there was a resurgence of interest in this kind of classic drafting table; apparently, all the young illustrators in New York and Westport, Connecticut would use them and refer to it as “working on the board.”
6. What would you change about your own workspace? I’m actually pretty satisfied with my workspace; I think that in New York, once you spend a few years doing paintings while sitting on your bed or hunched over the kitchen sink, you’re thankful for even an empty corner! But if I could change anything, more space would be nice. And yes, I did once spend a year in a studio apartment doing paintings over the kitchen sink.
7. What do you most love about your space? I get great sunlight and fresh air through two big windows. That makes such a huge difference when I’m working! It also allows me to have plants in my work area, which makes the space more inviting.
8. What inspires you? Oh, anything, everything… mostly drawing in my sketchbook or reading fiction and philosophy. Going out for long walks in the city never fails to inspire me, too.