But Why Can’t I Design Everything?

A percussionist doesn’t only play one instrument, they play all of them. Growing up a percussionist, I was always being pushed to learn more instruments with the goal of mastering them all. Percussion shaped my mindset to learn every aspect of my craft.

When transitioning into design school, I felt the pressure early on to instead find a focus. “What do you want to design?” professors and peers would ask, and I would say “I’m not sure, everything, I guess.” I wanted all the skills and the freedom to hop around throughout my career. This is initially why I chose to study design because everything needs to be designed and I wanted to design everything.

A little further into my design education, I realized how different product design was from service design, and how different service design was from experience design. The goal was similar but the process and research methods were completely different. Even though I was interested in it all, I worried I would fall behind trying to become a master of everything.

Drawings by Abby Chechele.

I would watch hours of tutorials on youtube regarding 3D modeling, sketching, adobe suite, app prototyping, and animating. After a year, I felt just slightly knowledgeable of it all but didn’t feel too confident about any of it. I didn’t feel good enough to say any of it was a skill, they each just felt like something I was familiar with.

My addiction to learning has also played a role in my life outside of my academics and career, especially during quarantine. I picked up so many hobbies because I would continuously find something new that I wanted to master. It started with cooking, and that led to food photography, and that led to nutrition and weightlifting, and then somehow I decided to start rollerblading and skateboarding, and then I got into music production. A full year later, I again felt as though I had just a beginner’s level knowledge of every one of these topics.

Feeling anxious about not being able to do a kickflip yet and still struggling with digital audio workspaces to produce a song, I realized I was trying to master too many things at once. Maybe, I would be able to deadlift 200 right now, if I had only just focused on weightlifting. But instead, I was so distracted by my multitude of interests that they all took time away from each other. I immediately realized this was my issue within my design education as well.

I have no regrets for having so many interests and picking up so many hobbies and trying to learn many skills within design at once. I would rather have a beginner’s level knowledge of a lot of topics than to only know about one thing.

So, is it okay to be a jack of all trades? I believe yes and no.

Yes, because there are plenty of hours in the day to put time into both your focus study and your side hobbies if you are dedicated enough. You will be gaining knowledge in your focus quicker than your hobbies, but after some time you will master the hobbies as well.

No, if you are unable to prioritize and manage your time between your focus and side hobbies. But how does one with both a passion for their study and an extreme hobby addiction manage their time?

Here are a couple of tips I use to manage my need for many hobbies and to reduce the anxiety and pressure that come from trying to master them all as soon as possible.

Define your Focus.

Figure out what you want to master in the shortest amount of time. This is most likely what you’re studying in school or planning to make a career. This should always be your priority as it is what you plan to do long-term. I make sure that most of my day is dedicated to my design projects and strengthening my design skills.

Set Goals for Side Interests.

I try to set small goals for my side interests and hobbies. Right now, that looks like going to the gym once a day and working on putting together a song each weekend. With the pandemic and quarantine, it’s been easier for all of us to make time for our side interests. With our schedules filling up again as life starts to seem “normal”, it’s important to make goals that are attainable, or the interest will become a source of stress and you will not feel passionate about learning it anymore.

Be Patient.

Remind yourself your focus is the priority over the side hobbies. This is what you should be most strict with yourself for gaining new knowledge and strengthening your skills. Any progress within your side hobbies is sufficient. Don’t be too hard on yourself for not mastering them quick enough, as the knowledge will come with time and experience.

I chose to define my focus within design to User Experience Design because everything that is designed invokes an experience for the user and that is the closest I could get to designing everything. I want to be behind the creation of those awe moments, and put all my focus into how products make the user feel and how to invoke emotions from my designs.

Choose a focus but never let the fear of falling behind or not being able to learn something fast enough pull you away from learning that thing. Let it be your motivation to set goals and work learning your interests into your life alongside your career. I’m grateful for learning this mindset early on with percussion and being able to translate it into my life to manage my time and efforts between both my career choices and my hobby addiction.

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