Getting in the Zone: Finding focus

by Jenna Bantjes

Here at FTS, we’ve been talking a lot internally about health, wellness, efficiency, and balance. We’ve been making strides to recognize and celebrate each other’s personal and professional accomplishments. More of us are working remotely, adjusting to life changes, and exploring our work and lifestyles. At the end of the day, we recognize that it’s not the quantity of work that matters, it’s the quality.

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Today, we hear from one of our Experience Designers, Jenna Bantjes, to hear about what inspired this blog series.

The connection between the body and creative mind has intrigued me since transitioning to full-time design work six years ago. For the first time, I found myself sitting at a desk in front of a computer for long lengths of time. Up until that point, I had been working in the service industry and freelancing. I was physically in the best shape of my life. Every day I rode my bike to and from work and then spent the whole day on my feet, often carrying heavy loads of dishes or drinks. Switching to a strict desk environment that required sitting for a full day was very difficult—I could feel my body and muscle tone deteriorating. It’s taken years to return to a healthy, strong, balanced point in life.

At the beginning of my career, working hard meant catering to the demands of others. Always saying yes to new projects, meetings, or requirements equalled a job well done. Each night I took work home with me in order to meet unreasonable deadlines. There was no clocking out. Work was my life (can you relate?). Eventually, the stress and workload caught up to me, seriously affecting my health, personal relationships, and the quality of my work. This led me to question life and work styles and how they affect both the body and mind. I knew that stress and external pressure to maintain a certain image were harming me–personally and professionally. Ultimately I had to find my own path, stake my ground, and begin living and working in a way that is enriching and fulfilling to me.

Since joining Fresh Tilled Soil over two years ago, I’ve re-designed my work life, including avoiding a commute, working from home, daily exercise, and a lot more positive time with family and friends. Ever since, my thoughts have been clearer, my body stronger, my temperament more stable, and my work much higher in quality. Additionally, with my own needs met, I can shift my focus back on my team, client, and personal relationships, giving them the time and energy they deserve. Work is now just part of my day—something I wake up excited about each morning and do because I enjoy it and the people I work with. After all, that’s why I started designing in the first place.

Some things that I’ve learned that have helped improve the quality of my life and enhance my creative process are:

  • Recognize that everyone has a creative process and that letting each person define their workflow and environment ultimately will result in higher-quality work and more efficient productivity.
  • Come together often to discuss said processes so you can understand how to work with your team members and pick up tips and tricks from them.
  • Write things down and follow through on longer term plans/projects by breaking them into smaller, manageable tasks.
  • Prioritize your work. Consider deadlines but also who needs what, when.
  • Don’t stay stuck. Recognize when you’ve hit a blocker, move on, and come back to it later.
  • Keep your body happy/healthy/nourished/exercised. Remember that the brain is part of the body.
  • Treat yourself. Celebrate both small successes and big wins.
  • Recognize what holds you back, and then fight like hell against it.
  • Limit screen time. Don’t go down rabbit holes. Get out and experience the tangible world.
  • Branch out creatively. Try things you’ve never done before.
  • Do something for yourself every day.
  • Ask for help. It is unreasonable to expect that your needs will be met without expressing what those needs are. Be your own advocate!

Stay tuned to the blog, as we’ll be interviewing other FTS members to find out what workstyles, habits, and tips/tricks help them do their best work.

About Jenna Bantjes

A graduate of the Art Institute of Boston (and the winner of its annual Graphic Design Exhibition), Jenna joined us through our apprentice program. Before...