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Be A Better Designer By Eating An Elephant

I can’t imagine any other industry in which so much change happens so quickly. If you stop paying attention for a week, it can feel like you’ve not been listening for a year. There’s so much to learn.

Falling behind is easy, too. We might be in the middle of a major project, so we put off learning about this newfangled thing called Sass or Node.js or even quickly experimenting with the new Bootstrap or Foundation that everyone is raving about. Before we know it, we have these elephants of missing knowledge wandering around our minds, reminding us of what we should know and do but haven’t found the time for.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

Even just looking at beautiful work and seeing what new technique we could use ourselves can seem like too big a task when we’re swamped with projects. So, we tell ourselves we’ll come back to it later. But later never shows up. The guilt definitely does, but not that elusive deadline of later.

We feel guilty because we know something out there could help us become a better designer or developer and we’re not paying attention to it. Luckily, we can change this and start to catch up on what we’ve been missing out on.

Eating Elephants To Get Things Done Link

I always liked the productivity quip about how to start and finish a huge project: You do it the same way you eat an elephant, one bite at a time.

I’m not suggesting we go out and eat endangered animals, but what if we did just one small thing a day to expand our knowledge and skill set — and not just for a week or only on weekends, but every day, for 30 days straight? Would we catch up on that knowledge and experience we’re missing?

This challenge of stacking knowledge daily will enable you not only to learn 30 things, but to learn 30 things that will increase in complexity and fit together as a whole new branch of working knowledge for you.

I’m sure you remember this kind of graph from finance class in high school when you would discuss compound interest. Knowledge is no different: A little bit every day adds up quickly. Actively stacking up your knowledge daily will help you stay on the red path.5
I’m sure you remember this kind of graph from finance class in high school when you would discuss compound interest. Knowledge is no different: A little bit every day adds up quickly. Actively stacking up your knowledge daily will help you stay on the red path. (View large version6)

How does that sound? Want to give it a go? It’s only 30 days, and it could alter the path of your career, even if slightly.

Pick A Challenge Link

Pick the right challenge, something that will keep you curious and excited for 30 days, something you’d be happy to chew on slowly. But the challenge should be able to be comfortably broken down into easy pieces, small bites.

Suppose you’re a web designer who wants to learn the CSS processor Sass. No shame in that; I’ll bet, like me, you’ve been very busy. But the prospect of learning Sass is kind of huge, isn’t it? What if we did it in the same way that we’d metaphorically eat an elephant?

Your day-one task might be to learn how to install Ruby and Sass locally. You can’t just be reading, though. That’s not learning — that’s memorizing. You have to do it as you go, downloading the installation files or loading the terminal.

Day two might be learning about and actually writing variables. Day three might be nesting. Days four through six might be setting up your files as partials. And then importing. And then mixins. Then, day seven could be inheritance. You might find that, once you’ve planned these days out, you have enough work for only 15 days, so maybe you’ll jump into learning Bourbon, Foundation or Bootstrap?

That all sounds like a lot to take on, especially if the names all sound intimidating. Biting them off one at a time would make things a lot easier. Downloading and installing a file might not seem like much, but tack that on to learning the basics over the next few days and you’ve started to develop a new skill.

But this isn’t about being perfect. You don’t need to build a beautiful website, or even a functional one. You just have to learn a collection of techniques and stay on track. To do so, to maintain focus, you need a plan.

Plan Your Bites And Prepare As Best You Can Link

You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. So, avoid setting specific daily goals. Stumbling on day one would put you a day behind from the very start. A lacklustre performance for the following 29 days would then be almost certain. Rather than planning based on days, I’d suggest mapping your progress, which is really just a fancy way of saying “write a checklist” or even “keep a bucket.”

A Sass-loving designer would benefit from having an ordered list of, say, 45 to 60 things to learn and do. Some days, they’ll wake up and not get as much done as they’d like. Other days, they’ll work hard and everything will flow, and they’ll get two days’ worth of work done.

The other option is what I call a bucket. The bucket for my latest challenge was one of those nasty yellow “internal mail” envelopes, filled with topics I could write about. No need to be fancy about it: A list cut up into strips and then put into an envelope is all you need.

Having a map to work to in these situations, an ordered list, will make the process easier. You will simply have no concern about slipping ahead or falling behind.7
Having a map to work to in these situations, an ordered list, will make the process easier. You will simply have no concern about slipping ahead or falling behind. (Image source8)

But why 45 to 60 topics and tasks if it’s a 30-day challenge? The bucket method makes things truly random, right up to the last day. Well, depending on the challenge, randomness might be exactly what you need. It worked well for me when doing my writing challenge.

Or, if you’re working with the map, it means you’ll focus more on the journey than on the destination. You’ll know well that you’re not going to finish everything in the 30 days, so you’re more likely to focus on what needs to get done day to day. You’ll also have leftovers, which will be perfect to keep you busy learning once the 30 days are up.

But where to find these small tasks? That depends entirely on the challenge you’re undertaking. Don’t overthink at this stage. You could spend far too much time worrying about learning the right thing that you’ll end up not learning anything at all.

For our Sass student, it could be as easy as going through introductory articles, both official ones and on blogs, or a series of classes on YouTube, or something structured like Lynda9 or curated like Gibbon10, Oozled11 or HackDesign.

Set Time Goals, Limitations And Accountability Link

In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp talks about her morning gym routine. Her goal each morning isn’t to make it to the gym, but simply to get into a taxi. Once she’s done that, all she has to do to reach her morning goal is tell the driver to head towards the gym. Once there, she’ll exercise. What else is there to do? But her winning moment is getting into the taxi.

It seems to run counter to what was mentioned above about not setting goals for tasks, however, goals for start and finish times set us up for success. The real “work” is often simply showing up.

During my last challenge, dragging my foggy head from a warm and loving bed to my cold, sunless office proved to be a bigger challenge than I had anticipated. While the writing eventually became a natural part of my morning, getting to the desk did not.

Focusing on the seemingly insignificant goal of waking up and stumbling a few feet so that I could start typing meant that I had approached my task that day with a fresh accomplishment resting comfortably in memory.

Pressure is relieved before an initial effort is made, and with that first win comes the momentum to keep going. In these kinds of time goals you’ll find limitations and accountability. If you’re goal is to do two hours of work between 5:00 and 7:00 am, then your limit is 7:00.

Having a frequent finish time means that you’ll know how to ration out your effort, and your mind will appreciate the daily rest point that finishing provides. Once this kind of routine is established, you’ll be surprised by how easily you find the energy to keep working, often longer than you thought you would be able to, right up to the last minute.

Friends and followers will come to expect an outcome at the same time daily. Tweeting is simple, but throwing out a tweet at the same time every day sets up expectations for others. Getting a response, even if barely an occasional one, can keep you motivated for days.

In his quick talk at TED, Google’s Matt Cutts gives his take on how to learn or do something you’ve always wanted to in 30 days.

Go! Link

You’re excited. You have your plan of attack; you have your small goals; and you’re ready to get to work and start chewing. Day one arrives and perhaps you wake before dawn, or you’re up when only the owls are about. Either way, you’re ready to work. On that first day and the few that follow, excitement isn’t hard to find. But with it comes a coating of struggle.

A part of you will ask why you’re bothering. You’ll wonder what benefit could possibly be derived from this silly little game you’re playing. Ignore such miserable thoughts. They’ll probably arrive whether you like it or not. And for the first few days you’ll find yourself frequently battling your internal resistance. This scares many, but it’s natural.

Chances are you’re doing something challenging, something you’ve never done before, in parts so small that they won’t seem to matter. The lizard in your brain will tell you that surfing TV or the Internet would be easier. But that will go away. For me, it always goes around day 10. I hope it’s sooner for you, but by day 10 I find that things have become incredibly automatic and the resistance has almost completely disappeared.

However, not long after this, things get too easy. You might even end up setting your own little time traps. For my latest writing challenge, I gave myself up to two hours to do the work, but near day 20 I realized that I could write a piece in less than a quarter of that, and so I would leave it until that was all the time I had left. I’d still wake up on time at be at my desk, but I would mindlessly surf and read. What a wonderful signifier of development leftover time is, but one that I embraced poorly.

Time would be much better spent being reinvested in skill development. You could get dramatic returns by pouring this time into increasingly difficult tasks, and your framework of knowledge would be the richer for it. I’d suggest aiming for discomfort instead of finishing quickly.

In a 30-day challenge, defining your daily problems is up to you, so make sure to revise your plan every day. Look at the task you did that day and adjust for the following days. Was it too hard? Then maybe simplify tomorrow’s expectations. Was it too easy? Spice it up somehow. Write more words, write more code, further develop a design.

You don’t develop when you practice what you’re already good at. Aim to finish with excitement, but not exhaustion.

It’s 30 Days Of Achievement, Not Just Knowledge Link

You’ve spent 30 days working on a challenge, but not so that the skills you develop become automatic, but to show yourself what you can achieve in a tiny window. You’ve found an hour or two a day and have probably lost nothing because of it. Just keep going.

From day 31, don’t think of what you’re doing as a challenge. It’s simply how you work. It’s how you plan your time, and it’s how you grow your knowledge. Don’t make the mistake I’ve made too many times and expect that once the 30 days are out the door, perfect autonomy will walk into the room.

Before you hit day 31, plan out what you’ll do next. Continue following the map or emptying the bucket, but top it up with another 30 or 50 items, and just keep working. Review frequently, as you would during the 30 days, keep your schedule, and ensure that you’re enjoying the right kind of challenge.

Perhaps this is the biggest gift of the 30 days: not the skills you acquire or any habit you set out to establish, but rather the realization that you can find the time, that you can learn something every day, and that planning your education is important.

A few years ago, Karen X. Cheng posted a time-lapse video of herself learning to dance, a wonderful reminder of how far you can go with daily effort. She went on to cofound Giveit10012, a website that lets you follow others as they go through their own daily development, as well as keep track of your own challenge.

Conclusion Link

Learning something daily is not hard. Some amazing websites will help you do it; they’ll give you some random, small, independent piece of knowledge that’s great to talk about over coffee but that won’t stack. And that is what’s valuable: stackable knowledge. You can start stacking with such a small number of days — just 30 of them.

30 days. That’s all it takes to learn a skill that could change your career.

You might be able to develop your skills to keep up with, and then break ahead of, the pack. You might be able to charge more because you can offer more or offer better. You could learn to better tell the stories of your clients, to produce work that is more sustainable or even delightful. With time, you could become an authority to whom others in your field, both students and professionals, call on for help in becoming more skilled and knowledgeable themselves. Instead of simply meeting standards and expectations, you could be setting them.

In all of these are opportunities for happiness, both professional and personal.13
In all of these are opportunities for happiness, both professional and personal. (Image source14)

You could challenge yourself in ways you can’t imagine, pushing the edge of your knowledge and experience, finding new avenues previously hidden. Your work could becoming increasingly meaningful because of it, as every month or year finds you working at increasingly complex and sophisticated problems. You could, in ways both small and large, shape an industry that I’m willing to bet you love. All that, just because you worked on it an hour or two a day, one bite at a time.

The process is so simple. This is all you’re doing:

  1. Pick a topic.
  2. Break it down into parts.
  3. Map out or randomize those parts.
  4. Show up daily, at the same time, and get to work.
  5. Review progress, and make sure you’re being challenged just enough, adjusting as you go.
  6. Do it for 30 days.

Easy, isn’t it?

That’s how you take your daily bite. Soon, you’ll realize you’ve consumed an elephant-sized body of knowledge. You just have to show up and take action. Most of the people who read this article and like what they’ve learned will forget it all within a couple of hours or days. Or even minutes.

But not you. You’re going to work, and when you do, when you do this silly little challenge thing for 30 days, you’ll find yourself ahead of most of the people you know. Do it for 60 or 90 days or every single day for the rest of your career and you’ll be in a league of your own.

Pick your topic. Take action.

What’s Your Challenge? Link

What’s that thing you’ve been wanting to achieve? What’s that thing you’ve been wanting to learn?

  • Always wanted to learn how to design your own font? Try a letter a day. Start small by copying a font you love.
  • Need more experience with branding? Design one logo per day, or one brand per month. The first day could be research, the second could be brainstorming, the third sketching, all the way through to a polished style guide.
  • Want to learn photography? What if you started by learning what a single setting on the camera does? Then, work your way through to composition, style and post-production?
  • Want to learn to write? Grab any number of amazing books on writing, and read one rule or lesson per day. Then, write as many examples using that lesson as you can in an hour.
  • Want to learn a programming language? Learn and practice one command per day, with the aim of building a small working prototype.

Let us know what you’ve chosen in the comments. It might keep you on point and, even cooler, might inspire others to join you on the path.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t put it off. Start next Monday. Don’t wait a month or three or start first thing next year. Start next week, maybe the week after if you have to work on your list of tasks. Just start. As soon as you can.

Resources Link

  • Get one of those compound interest and investment charts that shows how just a small bit every day adds up.
  • Five Years of 100 Days15,” Michael Beirut
    Design legend Michael Beirut gives his students at Yale a 100-day design challenge. The results range from brilliant to hilarious. One of my favorites is Ely Kim’s “Boombox”16 dance challenge.
  • 100/100/10017, Zak Klauck
    Klauck undertook this challenge as part of Michael Beirut’s course at Yale. He designed a poster a day based on a short phrase or word, in only one minute.
  • Design Something Every Day!18,” Jad Limcaco, Smashing Magazine
    In 2009, Limcaco interviewed a few designers and illustrators who were doing year-long challenges to make something every day.

A lot of learning and inspiration can be found in what’s been written about design and development sprints in the last couple of years:

(al, il)

Footnotes Link

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Previously Smashing Magazine's Typography editor, and currently on the Experts Panel, Alex Charchar has had his writing published and referenced in some pretty cool places around the web and in print. He's fanatical about design, letterpress, espresso, and podcasting. Most of all, he likes helping designers and creatives hone their craft. You can visit Retinart to find more of his writing..

  1. 1

    Hi Alexander! Where do I start? This is a phenomenal piece, book mark worthy as you have saturated it with must reads, must views, and a challenge that I can’t resist. Thank you for the charge to be better and do better! I can do this!

    • 2

      Alexander Charchar

      October 17, 2014 8:59 pm

      Hi Kathy,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the article! Whatever your 30 day challenge is, go for it! Just one small step everyday can help you move forward and adds up so quickly. Speaking about the stuff to read and view – check back in on them from time to time, maybe fortnightly or monthly.

      Build your own collection of inspiring little pieces – I’ve been slowly putting together a very personal collection of images, videos, and music that always reminds me why I’m working towards my goals. It’s great to refresh myself on it frequently as that motivation that gets us going in the first place sometimes needs a top-up.

      Take care!

  2. 3

    In keeping with your eating an animal for productivity analogy going. One of my favorites is from Mark Twain, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.” In other words, get that bad project or action off your plate so you can be productive the rest of the day and not keep thinking about that frog. That has been a great productivity tip for me.

    • 4

      Alexander Charchar

      October 17, 2014 9:02 pm

      Heh, that’s a great way to put it.

      I think as well as getting the bad or project or action out of the way, it’s also the bad feeling – waking up early, going for a run when you don’t want to, organising your day even if you find it boring. What do you think?

      I get up crazy early every morning, often without enough sleep, just so I can get some writing done. It’s exhausting to do so, and I always question myself while I’m trying to get out of bed, but the feeling of accomplishment I have when I’m doing each morning is such an awesome way to start the day.

  3. 5

    Awesome and inpiring article!

    This reminds me of another inspiring proyect where a girl commited to building 180 websites in 180 days (

    I think this is a great idea and the best part is that it can be applyed to everything. The trick though is to find a way to commit to yourself and not give up.

    I recomend HabitRPG to boost your enthusiasm while doing the 30 day challenge

    • 6

      Alexander Charchar

      October 17, 2014 9:24 pm

      HabitRPG looks amazing! Thanks for sharing Nadia!

      You’re right, you need to figure yourself out well enough to know what will help you commit to your task. I think that’s why it’s important it to view it in the context of your year or even career. It might seem small, but learning SASS over a period of 30 days really could change your career. In a small way, but it’s the start – do it with jQuery and PHP (both probably need a lot longer than 30 days, of course) and you could become a really solid developer within a year or two.

      Same goes with any kind of design, or really, as you said, pretty much anything that involves building up a skill – a site a day is an amazing example. I had a read through her blog and really enjoyed seeing her reflections on the time she spent doing the challenge – she said it was life changing. How awesome is that!

  4. 7

    This article worth to read… this is the problem I had for almost 2 years.. focus on working n keep learning. I think every developers face this problem. I’ll start this trick next Monday.

    • 8

      Alexander Charchar

      October 18, 2014 7:36 am

      Great to hear Puspa :)

      It can sometimes take people decades, if they’re lucky, to realise that they have things they need to catch up on and learn to stay relevant in their field. Two years? You’ll catch up in no time!

      Good luck for monday! I hope it all goes well

  5. 9

    Charles Grealy

    October 18, 2014 5:12 am

    Very great article. I recently realized instead of using my spare time watching TV or playing a video game, I can use that time to my advantage and learn skills that can better my career. Only problem was that I lacked the motivation, a plan, or even an idea on where to begin. The negative thoughts arrived, telling me learning a new skill set would be a pointless investment for my career. No one was there to tell me to ignore the thoughts until I read your article and I thank you with gratitude! I’ve wanted to become a programmer for more than a year now so I will kick off my adventure by learning Java. After I graduate with a Graphic Design degree, I would like to go back to school to learn programming (My goal!).

    • 10

      Alexander Charchar

      October 18, 2014 7:39 am

      Tv is a real killer, isn’t it? Same with playing games – I had to pretty much lock up my xbox so I wouldn’t be tempted to go near it while I work on some big personal projects.

      It isn’t for everyone, but you might find some value in The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He talks a great deal about that voice and how to ignore it. It’s also a great idea to figure out what your personal reason “why” is – figure this out and remind yourself of it frequently and you’ll be surprised by how focused you can be!

      Good luck learning programming! I hope it goes well :)

  6. 11

    Awesome tips you given for learning about web designing.. not only for web designing it also useful to learn any thing.. i recommend this for any one..

    • 12

      Alexander Charchar

      October 19, 2014 5:51 am

      While I was writing the article, I had it in mind that this was for both writing and learning web design as that’s what I’ve done it for – it’s been fun and seems to work very well for those mediums. But I’m sure it’ll work for anything that requires skill development. I first did this kind of thing when studying design and had a teacher want me to learn how to draw using Indian Ink – worked so very well.

      Thanks for reading :)

  7. 13

    Thanks for the nice article

  8. 14

    Great article, thanks for the inspiration! I’m going to get started tomorrow, so many new things to learn.

    • 15

      Alexander Charchar

      October 19, 2014 5:52 am

      Wonderful! Glad to hear it Lara, maybe come back and let us know how it goes? Either back here or on Twitter?

      Good luck and have fun!

  9. 16

    Perfect timing for me to read this!! I have a strong desire to learn more about graphic design, fonts, blogging, writing, and photography, but instead of learning (in little chunks of free time) I spend that time scrolling Instagram and Facebook. I constantly think “this time could be better well spent” but I continue to do the same thing day after day…after day. It’s easy to come up with an excuse — once the kids are in school, once the baby gets a little older, once I get projects xyz off my to-do list, etc. Your article was the kick I needed to JUST start! And though my initial thought was to wait and start on the 1st of November (procrastinator!!!), I fought the voices and will be starting immediately – TODAY! My two goals are to 1) Download a book that I can read during moments
    of free time (feeding the baby, waiting at the dr., before bed,) and 2) learn a new skill in Illustrator/Photoshop/Indesign every day by doing online tutorials.

    Thank you!!!!!

    • 17

      Alexander Charchar

      October 19, 2014 5:56 am

      Oh yeah, as a parent to a two year old, I know what it’s like to struggle to find time to pursue your passions. It can be exhausting, but don’t be too hard on yourself!

      I remember my son had huge sleep issues until he was about 16 months, so I’d be up at all sorts of hours. I thought I’d be able to read or write but was so sleep deprived that I couldn’t do either, so instead I found I started to watch conference videos. Not a lot, maybe one or two a day, but it really primed my mind for when I was able to find more time.

      Now I’m lucky to find a couple of hours a day, but it’s a great reward, and I love knowing that I’m building something that he’ll one day ask me about. He probably won’t believe me that it was all done while he was asleep ;)

      Keep going! Use your time as best as you can, make sure to enjoy some relaxing moments too (burn out is a scary thing), and have fun!!

  10. 18

    What a great, inspiring and well written article.

    The other day I was thinking, I’m using the computer all day. I know that if I maximize and organize my efforts I would get things done within a better time table and have my evenings free to let my mind relax.

    I love this, it’s written perfectly and can’t wait to get started!

    P.S isn’t it funny to think of finishing something, that sort of sad feeling that takes over? I guess it’s just best to remember nothings ever done! I guess sort of the point of this post haha. Thanks again, great read

    • 19

      Alexander Charchar

      October 19, 2014 6:03 am

      Thanks Eric :)

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it and thanks for such kind words!

      I’ve always found it hard to switch work modes on my computer. When you’re so use to being lazy with it, suddenly deciding to change is really hard. I think it comes down to, as discussed in the article, having clear goals. But also, if you can, changing your environment.

      I recently switched to a standing desk and found my productivity went through the roof. It might be because I feel more energetic (I would slouch badly when sitting), but I think it’s also because my environment changed, so it gave my mind a new opportunity to reconsider what my work space is for.

      I guess what I’m getting at is if you’re wanting to maximise how you spend time at your computer, perhaps change the environment somehow? Just to trick your brain a little that this new space is a working space, a productive and learning space?

  11. 20

    inspirational post, I like it most, keep it up!

  12. 22

    Hi Alexander!, First of all great article.
    I also setup for a goal as a 30 days challenge to learn HTML5 in proper way, as i am a web front-end developer, Currently i have partial knowledge about HTML5.

    • 23

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:19 am

      Good luck :) I enjoyed catching up on what was happening with HTML5 using the A Book Apart intro to it – highly recommended!

  13. 24

    I’m learning Ruby and want to make a simple custom web application. Got it installed and learning git & command line. I am a fine artist and designer so this is definitely a challenge :) Thanks for the nudge!

    • 25

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:20 am

      No problem Megan, I’m so glad to hear you’re taking the first steps into something new and exciting for you! That’s excellent :) Giving yourself a small lesson everyday will result in some amazing outcomes, I’m sure.

  14. 26

    Hey Alex great piece.

    Two things

    1) Learn one command per day: I don’t think this really fits. Programming languages are all about logical flows. I think commands are irrelevant if you understand algorithms and program flow.

    2) What books can you recommend for writing?

    • 27

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:27 am

      Hi Alex,

      Oh very cool, thanks for the clarification – I was mostly thinking about my one small instance of getting my head around SASS, but I think you’re right – if you know how to think about how a language works, then you know what it’s capable of and have an idea of what the solution might look like, which is more valuable than knowing a few random details of that solution, but not knowing how they fit together. Am I right?

      As for books on writing, my current batch of go to books are:
      – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (not technical, but about what it’s like to be a writer and how to work through the process that’s required – a great starting place).
      – On Writing by Stephen King (similar to the above, very very enjoyable).

      More technical books, super enjoyable and often fun:
      – It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences by June Casagrande
      – Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale
      – Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
      – The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark
      – Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark
      – The Book on Writing by Paula LaRocque
      – On Writing Well by William Zinsser
      – How To Write a Sentence and How to Read One by Stanley Fish

      I went a little crazy recently as I felt I needed to catch up on books on writing, so I did a massive order and got most of the above in one go. I’ve mostly dipped in and out of the second batch, but have lost hours in doing so and enjoyed doing so. I’d suggest looking up reviews on each and seeing what might fit you well :)

  15. 28

    Excellent article Alex and great advice! I’m up for the challenge – one code-bite a day.

  16. 30

    Great article! Thanks for sharing! :-)

  17. 32

    30 days insist on doing one thing,Then can it become a habit!!

    • 33

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:29 am

      Yup! That’s it Monica! 30 Days is a great start when making a habit. I’ve often found that depending on the person and the habit, sometimes 60, 90, or even 120 days is needed for it to become apart of who you are. Of course it depends on why you’re doing it and what kind of benefit you expect, but 30 days helps you figure out how you work and how to build your own habits :)

  18. 34

    Hi Alexander,

    I must confress that it was the title of the Blog post that intrigued me. I’ve always heard that one has to choose a great Blog title to attract and hold the attention of site visitors. While your title is far out. . . my curiosity was definitely piqued. You definitely
    arrested my attention on a Blog site that has a lot of great Blog posts. Kudos to you.

    Oh! I so agree with you about the elephants of missing knowledge thundering around in my head. Been there often enough to have that sentence strike a chord with me.

    Your solution was elegant in its simplicity. Keep aside just 60minutes in every day, 7 days a week and this will change. How true and Oh! tough to implement. Everything seems to take precedence above learning a new (and necessary skill(s).

    The spare 60minutes (is there really an animal like this?) is jealously guarded to enjoyed with a cold one in front of the TV watching the latest episode of Castle or whatever has caught your fancy (maybe there’s just something wrong with me).

    Loved the idea of – Plan Your Bites And Prepare As Best You Can – with the twist of mapping to success rather than days. awesome.

    Enjoyed reading about Twyla Tharp approach. So laid back, going with the flow, while actually using the flow to achieve a healthy body.

    Ah great Blog post Alexander, enjoyed reading it. Just do not want my comments to be as long as the Blog post.


    Ivan Bayross

    • 35

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:34 am

      Hi Ivan,

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad the headline caught your attention – I’ve been working on writing better headlines lately and spent a bit of time on this one, trying to get the balance between something fun, but not too over the top and pure link bait.

      I did a time management class a while ago and one of the suggestions was to simply keep track of how you’re spending your time – from the moment you wake up, until when you make it back to bed. I just noted down what I was doing every time I moved from one action to another. I was utterly shocked how much of my time was going to things that could either be automated, didn’t need to be done, or were along the lines of watching TV or mindless browsing Quora and Wikipedia.

      The time can almost always be found! Sometimes it’s about sacrifice, but if you want something bad enough, if it means enough to you, then it feels like a gift to cut out what isn’t important to you in order to allow yourself to do what is.

      I found that planning up front made things so much easier. I’ve always loved the idea of leaving a sentence half finished the night before, so the next morning, you know exactly where you are going. It allows you to hit the ground running, and I feel planning ahead habits and tasks is exactly the same – you want to make the path to starting as slippery as possible, so that you don’t get stuck along the way.

      And I’d suggest checking out Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit – it’s an absolute masterpiece.

      Thanks again!

  19. 36

    I always wanted to start learning photo manipulation/post production/photo composition but I didn’t found any great materials about that. Most of the search results were about some free tutorials in web magazines with low quality end results…

    • 37

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:36 am

      Ah yes, I know this frustration well. I’m going through that a little at the moment (on a few topics – namely eCommerce). I think the best thing is to simply ask. Ask those who are already doing what you want to do. Small questions at first, very specific if you can. Perhaps about how to achieve a certain result, or even better, what resources they might suggest.

      Good luck!

  20. 38

    Hi Alexander,

    Exactly what I needed.. In fact, I am motivated to starting something NEW tomorrow .. I am quite fond of lists but it hasn’t worked for me lately. So I really find the “bucket” method interesting… doing something differently daily is definitely an awesome idea!

    • 39

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:36 am

      I hope all is going well for you and your challenge is providing a lot of fun! Good luck!

  21. 40

    Very motivating. I will do this. I wish to progress in photoshop. I believe this will help me achieve my goal. thank you so much.

    • 41

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:38 am

      Happy to help Corry :)

      I like hearing that you have a goal bigger than learning photoshop – I’ve been thinking about goals lately and realised that focusing on the steps along the way can be messy. It’s one thing to say “my goal is to get great at photoshop” but it’s another to say “I have a goal, and learning this one program is just a step along the way” – I think the second, the one you went with, is a lot more motivating and helps you stay on track :)

  22. 42

    Julian Adorney

    October 30, 2014 9:11 am

    As a marketer, I enrolled in Codecademy to learn the basics of HTML, CSS, Javascript, and jQuery. I decided I’m tired of outsourcing the actual creation/upkeep of sites.

    I started about a month before I read this, but I’m decent now at HTML/CSS and learning Javascript. I intend to keep going until I learn the basics of all 4 languages. New vistas await.

    • 43

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:39 am

      Wonderful to hear it Julian!

      I once asked a few front end developers and designers I respect what they thought the next big step would be for a graphic designer and they said that it’ worth learning the front end languages so, exactly as you said, you don’t need to outsource the writing of them. That way you’re both more valuable, and in control of your products.

      Good for you! I hope you continue to enjoy and learn as you go :)

  23. 44

    Great article, Alexander! And very well written! I feel like as a designer I need to learn to communicate my ideas better in writing, and not just through visuals. Could you please recommend some books/resources for better writing?

    • 45

      Alexander Charchar

      November 1, 2014 3:43 am

      Hi Michael :)

      I’ve found that writing has helped me become a better designer – having to specifically explain an idea helps you learn the language you need to better explain your work to your clients, and even cooler, to yourself.

      I’d suggest starting a blog – don’t worry about visitors, just worry about writing. It’s for you to learn, and you’ll be amazed at how much you do know and how well you can express it.

      I always suggest to people in your position to pretend that they are just writing an email to a friend. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that, and it helps you relax and use your own voice.

      I’d also try to write every day, or at least a few times a week – it’s a habit like any other, and the longer you go without doing it, the harder it’ll be to get into the flow when the time comes. Even five minutes a day helps – journalling could be enough! I was amazed at how much easier writing became when I started to journal everyday.

      I’d check out the site Copyblogger for writing advice, but I also listed a number of books, if you want to get that serious about it above (currently comment #27).

      Good luck and have fun!

  24. 46

    Sharath kumar

    November 3, 2014 1:43 pm

    Awesome! Liked the process for learning something new, Thanks Alexander

    For me to start on, well i had gone through the article on “Design Something Every Day!
    By Jad Limcaco”. The drawing/sketching is the most important part for any designer, even though knowing any software to get your design done,….but to get that design ideas on paper is one thing to have, which helps a lot for any design……so am out to get on the sketching part, may be going through an article or get ideas jotted down, sketching i mean.

    And I have a lonnng list of things to learn, but the above is anytime important. Later on it will be on building RWD websites, social media marketing, learning a music instrument.

    Now, Go!


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