When I first started my business, my main gig was graphic design and blogging. I designed logos, business cards, websites and packaging for small businesses, and started the blog to chronicle my creative inspirations and projects and connect with potential clients. My favorite thing about designing and blogging has always been that feeling I get from starting with an idea and then seeing that idea come to life -- turning nothing into something -- hopefully something beautiful, useful, thought-provoking or at least two out of those three things ;). My least favorite thing about design and blogging has always been the amount of time I spend in front of a screen each day. The truth is, I am in front of a screen most of the time that I am awake.
I don't think I realized how bad it was until I started getting screen-time notifications a year or so ago. Eight to ten hours a day on my phone. And that was just my phone. If I included time in front of my computer and the T.V. -- suffice to say, most of my life was taking place behind a screen. I knew I needed to make some changes.
I have always loved paper. That is part of what drew me to being a designer in the first place. I love holding paper, reading paper, drawing and painting on paper--that's also why I've always worked on books and magazines and designed packaging and paper goods products like journals and wallpaper: the tactile nature of it, the timelessness of it, the versatility-- I just love it. So when I realized I was spending too much of my time in front of screens, I decided to tap into that love of paper, and exercise digital mindfulness by prioritizing "paper-time" in my life.
This is not a change that took place overnight, and I'm still working on getting those screen-time hours down even more, but here are some changes I've implemented into my daily and weekly practices that have helped me to set boundaries around my screen-time and do some digital detoxing:
When I'm doing design work, instead of starting on the computer. I start with pen and paper. I have been doing this for years because I believe it helps me to tap into my creativity. I'm not influenced by other people's designs. Instead, I'm pulling together snippets of memories and collaging them together to create something totally new.
Another thing I've always done, but I'm doing even more now, is brainstorming and ideating on paper. Whether I'm doing a brain dump or mind map for a chapter in my new book or concepting for a new product line, I am doing it with a pen and paper instead of digitally because I am able to work uninterrupted. When I'm doing this work on a screen I find myself pausing to check an incoming email or looking up a word in the online thesaurus only to find myself clicking on some ad and then all of the sudden I'm shopping for a milk frother--instead of doing a mind map, now I feel like I'm losing my mind... so, yeah. Paper and pen. Me and my mind. No distractions. It's a good thing.
Before I go to bed at night and first thing in the morning when I wake up, I reach for a notebook to write in or a book to read instead of reaching for my phone--even just for fifteen minutes. In the morning I jot down on paper what I remember from my dream, goals for the day or I write a list of five things I am feeling grateful for. With this small change alone I've noticed that I'm sleeping better, and waking up feeling less stressed and overwhelmed.
On the weekends, I give myself a solid block of 3-4 hours to paint or draw without the phone nearby. This has been a HUGE thing for me. Recently on Instagram someone commented that they love how I prioritize creative projects in my life -- and it's true, I do. I need to paint, and I need to draw, and if I don't set aside time to do that it doesn't happen. It would be so, so easy to scroll that time away on Instagram, reading the latest news or checking emails, but when I'm holding that thick piece of watercolor paper in hand and it's been carefully covered in gouache on a Saturday afternoon, not only do I have a new design that will be turned into a quilt, rug or wallpaper in the coming months, I also feel accomplished, productive, and relaxed -- a feeling that I look forward to all week long. Also, my daughter will often paint with me. We spend hours together painting, giggling and getting "inspired by each other" and I know both of us really value that time together, uninterrupted by the phone.
Here's a short video about some of the ways I'm implementing digital mindfulness into my life and how I use paper for everything from packaging to designing my products by hand:
I am excited to continue on this journey of leaning into books and writing by hand and painting and drawing and designing on paper. While I'll always appreciate what technology and the internet have brought to my life, it feels increasingly important for my mental health and my creativity to balance that time with time off of the screen, being productive and exercising my imagination -- and getting my ideas out on paper. What are some ways you integrate or hope to integrate paper into your daily routine?