Fast Company recently collected productivity tips from several dozen top designers, and one of the recurring themes was the power of the reading break to re-energize and reflect:
Joe Stewart, partner, Work & Co.: My trick is reading. The first thing I do when I get to the office is start reading. I have a stack of books on my desk, all design related, and I’ll read for a little bit. Not long, maybe 15 to 20 minutes. I switch back from different books on different days. It calms me down, gets me focused, and lets me think about the bigger picture… When I am running out of steam and I’m getting distracted, I grab a book and do the same thing. Read for 15 to 20 minutes. I find myself re-focused and fresh, it’s like taking a nap. I don’t know enough about these things, but it seems like I’m using a different part of my brain—so my design brain gets to rest and my reading brain stimulates me. I come back ready to go and feeling content.
Jared Ficklin, Argo Design: I voraciously consume science fiction and peruse several design blogs a day. It keeps the lateral thought pathways open.
Hector Ouilhet Olmos, product designer, Google: Whenever I need an extra hit of inspiration, I browse books from James Turrell, Tadao Ando, or Santiago Calatrava while enjoying a glass of scotch.
Taking a moment to read at the beginning of the day or on a break during your workflow can really recharge your brain, juicing your mental pathways with fresh inspiration. You never know what unexpected insights you’ll be able to pull from the history of Rome or Warren Buffet’s approach to investing. Bonus points if it’s a physical book; reading print is a respite for your screen-saturated eyes, and leads to greater comprehension of the material thanks to the lack of distraction. Fitting in reading breaks throughout your day also contributes to your general knowledge bank, which serves you well for future creative thinking. The more you know about a wide variety of subjects, the more nuanced thought you can apply to a slew of situations.
Keep a stack of interesting books on or near your desk and you’ll always have material on hand to nurture your mind when you need it most.