How book-reading can make you a laser-focused web designer

Web Design & Development
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Drew Lyon
Published Dec 2014
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In a nutshell, we’re not as good at multi-tasking as we think we are. Reading books improves our ability to focus on one thing at a time, making us better at complex tasks, like web design.

If you’re reading this chances are it’s not the only thing you’re doing. You’re juggling an array of tabs and windows, you’re waking up your phone just to tell it to go back to sleep, you’re shelling pistachios, and, if you’re lucky, maybe every so often you’re taking a moment to stare out the window and appreciate how leaves fall. Ahhh how serene—

Okay, scan another sentence.
-Where are the pictures?
-Check your email.
-Where was I?
-Forget it, jump to the conclusion…

Read a book.

Not just any book, but … wait, actually, yes, any book.

Start the Game of Thrones series, read Stephen King, check out the new Hillary Clinton biography, whatever you’re into. Commit to reading any full-length book you think you’ll enjoy. All that matters is that you’re focusing your attention on the singular act of reading. Why?

Not because it’ll make you more cultured or learned member of society, but because it’ll make you better at your job. If you’re a designer, you’ll have a distinct advantage over your non-book-reading brethren and sistren—

Is sistren even a word?

-Command+T to open another tab.

-According to the, yes: “Both brethren and sistren were used in Middle English (12th to 15th centuries) simply as the plural forms of brother and sister.”

-So the answer is yes—or at least it used to be.

See what I’m talking about. I’ve gone totally off the rails. Where was I…

Your Secret Weapon

The advantage you’ll have over your peers is that you’ll be more focused. You’ll get more done in shorter amounts of time. But how?

Reading helps you become a better single-tasker—and single-tasking is crucial to completing complex mental tasks to the best of your ability. Just ask Brainfacts (based on research by Society for Neuroscience):

“While the right and left sides of the prefrontal cortex work together when focused on a single task, the sides work independently when people attempt to perform two tasks at once.”

What that means is that we have a limited amount of brain power and the fewer things we’re doing at once, the more mental energy we can put toward each one. One task gets 100% of our available brain power—meaning better results, fewer mistakes, and yes, more efficiency.

One Mind, One Design

I think we can all agree that good web design—a combination of form, function, and problem solving—is already multi-faceted enough without asking your brain how to make chicken marsala on top of it. Put everything you have into one activity, then move onto the next.

But what’s so great about reading, specifically?

Reading demands and develops two of the most important skills needed for single-tasking: focus and attention span. It’s also fun and informative and quite frankly, mentally liberating. Give it a try.

Read for thirty minutes (a day, perhaps) without doing anything else. Think of it as mental exercise, think of it as guilt-free entertainment, think of it as job security.

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