Often what we want and what we need are in conflict.
My favorite example is vacation and work--I want to be on vacation, but I need to be at work.
So if you can work on vacation and feel like you are on vacation while working, you are creating uncommon value. In design this is called dichotomy resolution. It's the ability to have your cake and eat it too, by thinking creatively.
"But in our daily lives, we often face problems that appear to admit of two equally unsatisfactory solutions. Using our opposable minds to move past unappetizing alternatives, we can find solutions that once appeared beyond the reach of our imaginations." - Roger Martin, The Opposable Mind
Here are ideas for feeling like you are on vacation at work and doing interesting work on vacation:
- Take a short business course in a different city or country. You'll learn something new and network with other students, while discovering a new city or culture.
- Teach a class. I tell my graduate students at Products of Design at SVA that teaching them is my vacation. I enjoy my time getting to know them and talking about things that interest me. I learn all sorts of cool stuff from them too, but hey do the work.
- Do breakfast meetings. Find a hotel near your work, a place you'd stay if you were visiting, that has a good breakfast vibe. For me this is The Breslin, at the Ace Hotel, NYC. Meet people there. Then go to work.
- You've probably heard of the Pomodoro technique? You focus on a task for 25 minutes, then you take a 5 minute break. Treat these breaks as mini vacations--a 5 minute meditation, jumping rope, dancing, singing, reading (= 3-4 pages of fiction). After 4 focus periods, you will have taken a full 25 minutes off--where you can nap, bake, read a thriller, draw. Great for time management and having a healthy attitude at work.
- Practice skills you love but often run out of time for, on your vacation. My friend Theresa Fitzgerald, VP Creative Director at Sesame Workshop, does quilting on weekends to practice her making skills. Ken Carbone, founder of Carbone Smolan Agency (they do brand strategy and experience design) does a live drawing session once a month at the office after work and invites his friends.
- Make lunch at work. Peter Miller who owns my favorite bookstore in Seattle cooks a communal lunch with his team. For recipes and inspiration for this ritual, read his book Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal. I've had delicious lunch meetings at 10XBeta and HMA2, design and architectural studios respectively, who have the similar lunch ritual.
- Wake up early and then go back to sleep. Get up very early, like 4am, do great work for an hour, but then go back to sleep for an hour or two. Knowing you can go back to sleep feels luxurious.
- Have a cocktail with friends after work. This is the English pub idea, or the American happy hour, that adds an element of vacation between your workday and home life.
- Have a real coffee break. Instead of making coffee and taking it back to your desk, have a cappuccino and a cookie at a local cafe. Talk to the barista, read your book, sketch, do some people watching. 20 minutes of vacation in a day of work.
- Reserve one hour a day while on vacation to work on your own project. Decide on the project before you leave, bring your materials (sketchbook, research material, books, camera), and spend one hour on it each day. In one week, you can accumulate 7 hours that can fuel your thinking for months to come. This is how I started and finished my book, Design the Life You Love.
- Is there someone you'd like to meet while on vacation? Do a little research about local people and reach out to them to have a coffee (you will find that people are often flattered and will make time for visitors). You will make a new connection and network without it feeling like work.
- Be a tourist for an hour or two during your work day. Schedule one morning to go to a museum, visit new stores, have lunch at a hotel, go to a bookstore to look at the new books in your subject of interest or do a little hike. Bring a teammate or invite your mentor. Back at work, imagine connections between what you're working on and what inspired you most.
- Teach a summer (or winter) class. Many schools offer week-long retreats or special classes you can volunteer to teach, in return for travel + boarding. My favorite work vacation was teaching a Design the Life You Love course for 5 days at Boisbuchet, a summer design school in France, in the middle of a secluded forest with very little internet coverage, in the company of some wonderful people and marked with communal meals.
If you liked these ideas, here is how you can do your own hacks for work and vacation--
Make a list of things that you like doing on vacation and think of how you can insert them, intentionally and in small doses, into your work week. Then make a list of things you love doing at work but often don't have time for, and insert them into your vacation time.
Creativity happens at the intersection of what we want and what we need.
I would love to hear about your work and life hacks!
Design the life you love!