Learn how to mine your subconscious for creative solutions and ideas to help you get unstuck.

Woman sleeping with morning sunlight coming through the window.
Woman sleeping with morning sunlight coming through the window.

My best ideas kept happening when I was half-awake. On a typical morning, I’d lie in bed, barely awake. My cloudy mind would start to wander, and all kinds of strange ideas and disconnected thoughts would appear. Then suddenly, a concept for a design problem I was working on would pop into my head. If I stayed in that sleepy state, sometimes a clever headline would barge its way into my internal monologue.

The solutions I found most valuable always seemed to originate in the fleeting moments between waking and getting up.

Over time, I realized something fascinating was happening…


THINK LIKE A DESIGNER

Craft a compelling story about your work, and if that fails, you better know how to wing it.

Colorful blocks of letters arranged to spell out the phrase little lies.
Colorful blocks of letters arranged to spell out the phrase little lies.

Learning to speak about your work with eloquence while engaging the audience is one of the essential skills designers can learn. They should be able to craft a compelling story that incorporates your rationale and meets the criteria of the project brief.

Wax poetically

To succeed in selling your design work during pitches, you need to learn how to positively and optimistically speak about your ideas. There’s still a bit of mystery to what designers actually do. Come prepared with a compelling story about your vision and use emotion to speak about your work, and they’ll be eating out of your hands.


Your battle scars were hard-earned, and your experiences go a long way towards fitting in.

Chocolate birthday cake with the saying you’re as old as dirt written on it with icing.
Chocolate birthday cake with the saying you’re as old as dirt written on it with icing.

I had been building this day up for a while. Finally, I would be honest with my coworkers. I had been considering telling them for the past few years, and I decided to finally let everyone know the truth. I was going to let all the 20 and 30-year-olds at the startup where I worked how old I actually was. I was as old as dirt.

We made a pretty big deal about birthdays in my department. Someone would sneak out and buy a cake, then another person would schedule everyone for a vague sounding meeting at 3:00 PM in…


Searching for meaning in the forest leads to a divine discovery

British Columbia forest showing young red cedar trees with large cedar stumps.
British Columbia forest showing young red cedar trees with large cedar stumps.

I moved to Vancouver, BC, seven years ago. I’ve been a hiker and rock climber for a long time. I love being outdoors, and I’m particularly drawn to big trees.

We live in Burnaby now, a suburb of Vancouver. We’re lucky to live where we do because the Trans-Canada trail runs near our house. There are lovely hiking trails right outside our door. During the COVID-19 shutdown, we’ve been out hiking almost every day.

Our family hikes are the best part of our new daily routine. My favorite time during the walks is when every so often we come across…


We’re living in unusual times; here are some ideas to help you stop drifting and keep moving forward

Image for post
Image for post

Like everyone else, I’m stuck at home, feeling anxious and feeling like I’m in a perpetual state of limbo. I have zero plans scheduled. For someone who is trying to maximize daily output, this is a weird state to be in, just drifting along. I want to refocus away from the distraction on news cycles and Netflix and begin to reclaim my days. I went through everything in my life that I could improve upon, now that I have this unexpected time.

Start With a Daily Schedule

We started by planning out each day. In the evening, our family sits down and creates a schedule…


Do these four simple things to start your day with intent.

Sunrise over mountains.
Sunrise over mountains.

Morning routine articles always pull me in with catchy titles like 17 Things You Didn’t Know Successful People Do Before Breakfast or 32 Actions You Must Complete Before 7:00 a.m.

I want to be a successful person, I gave that new list a try. One morning, I tried to do every item on the list — I finished 6 hours later. If I wake up at 1:00 a.m., then I’ll start 10xing my days!? I’m kind of a night owl, maybe it makes more sense to never sleep?


Neon sign that reads you are what you listen to.
Neon sign that reads you are what you listen to.

About 10 years ago, I started listening to songs on repeat while doing creative work. I’ll listen to the same song for days at a time and often for the entire length of a project (weeks). Or sometimes I’ll listen to a slower song in the morning and maybe a faster song later in the day. I’ve discovered that this approach makes a significant impact on the quality and the volume of work I produce. This practice will work for designers, writers, programmers, or anyone who’s involved in intensely focused work.

Why is song repetition such a powerful tool?

Studies suggest that when you listen to music you…


The lesson I learned from abruptly ending a promising hockey career and channeling all my energy into rock climbing.

Image for post
Image for post

I will always remember the day, walking into Steele Hall. I had a sinking feeling. My teammates wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I guessed why but had to check for myself. On the list posted outside the new coach’s office, I couldn’t find my name. They cut me from the hockey team.

It was the second rejection in fourteen months. The first cut had come shortly after high school graduation. I had moved from New York to Ontario, Canada, to play junior hockey with the St. Catherine Falcons. I intended to attract interest from university recruiters by showing my…

Jeffrey Bates

Highly experienced creative director writing on topics of design thinking, sports, and life. Founder: createanddestroy.com | Design work: jbates.co

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store