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Stephan Sagmeister is one of the luminaries of the design world. Whenever he talks I always try and see what he has to say. He gave a talk during the TED conference in July and it is now available on the site. He gave a talk about his experience with Sabbaticals. He showed this chart of a regular person and his life is broken up in 3 stages; learning 25 yrs, working 40 yrs, and retirement the last 15+ years if your lucky. His idea was to mix up this chart. He said what if I took 5 years of my retirement and added it into my work years. The idea of the retirement is now more of an idea about refilling the creative well and not about saving up to spoil your grandchildren.

It’s been a year now that I have been up in San Francisco. Although this isn’t a sabbatical in the full sense, a lot of the things Sagmeister said applies to what I am doing here. My personal plan this year was really to flip my professional work to personal work schedule upside down. I used to spend about 10-15% of the time on developing my own work. The other times I would be working my butt off for production studies or design shops. I decided to refill my creative well by flipping it this year. I have basically taking about 25% of the time to do my professional work and the other 75% of the time to do my personal work. This way I am really refilling my creative well, and also I wanted to evolve my thinking and design process as well.

Two things I took away from the talk was that in order to have success in a sabbatical you need to plan. Lots of planning to ensure that you achieve your goals or else its just a vacation filled with guilt about not working and in the end you have half finished projects in your hand. Also when you don’t have a plan you end up in “reaction mode” you have no real priorities and you react to whoever calls or asks you to do anything. As Sagmeister says “you end up being your own intern again”.

Secondly, what I also learned is I need to record my insights that I learn during my creative process. Sagmeister mentioned that during the next 7 years all the ideas and thinking came from that first year of development he did during his sabbatical.

Lastly, I realize that this year I will make work that will influence everything I make after this. Work followed by a time of learning + an refueling. Rinse and Repeat,  I like the sound of that.

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