Embrace the discomfort zone

Here’s something that I try to keep in mind on every project I’m working on: Always try to break out of the comfort zone.

I know — it’s one of those things that’s easy to say but extremely difficult to put into practice. But it’s worth it, because that’s where the most iconic and interesting work will come to life.

For me, breaking out of the comfort zone is essential to making sure I’m still developing as a designer. Where I move beyond what I already know, and into that horrifying void of what I don’t know; where I’m truly using my creativity to solve problems, not just copy-pasting solutions I’ve found or used before.

I’d like to share with you here two simple things that for me have made the process, if not easy, then at least a little more manageable.

1. Keep your personal life in balance

No, I don’t mean you should be doing yoga or the latest coconut-kale diet. Those are fine, but it’s so much more important to remove the clutter from your daily life. I do this by keeping my space organized, my finances simple, and fixing any personal problems as soon as they come up — anything from a conflict with a friend to tax forms floating around the kitchen table for too long.

Keeping your life simple will help you focus and sleep at night. It makes you less afraid to take the creative risks you need to get out of your comfort zone.

The same principle applies to projects: Once you get the obvious things out of the way, you’re able to move into the unknown with more self-assurance.

2. Stay away from your computer

My second piece of advice is easier said than done: Turn off your computer, and go for a walk.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel guilty when I’m not sitting at the computer, moving things around on the screen. That feels like real work, right? But in my experience, that’s not when the best ideas are born. My best ideas have usually been conceived while I’m away from the screen, doing something like walking by the Hudson River with colleagues.

The same rule applies for inspiration. Look outside the obvious and stay away from your usual inspiration feeds. Instead, try to seek out unusual sources of inspiration, and see what you return with. The results will probably be better and more unique.

That’s it: Try to be brave, take risks, and have the courage to trust yourself to figure out a way to solve whatever problems you’ll meet as you keep navigating outside your comfort zone.

Now leave the device you are reading on and go break some eggs.