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How to Stay in Your “Zone of Genius” as a Designer

Few people reading this post right now likely regard themselves as geniuses.

The word “genius” generally conjures images of complex equations on chalkboards and quirky professorial types.

However, I believe that each of us has a “zone of genius,” or a type of work that we can do exceptionally well — perhaps better than almost anyone else on this planet.

Our own personal genius-zone isn’t always obvious right away. It can take some time and effort to discover exactly what gets us into that zone. But when we’re there, we know it. When we’re working in our zone of genius, we’re fully engaged. We’re doing our best work, the kind that brings us the most joy.

Once we’ve defined our zone of genius and understand how to best get into it, we should try to stay there as often as we can. In fact, spending significant time on anything outside your zone of genius is a mistake.

This is easier said than done sometimes. There are plenty of demands on interior designers’ time and energy from other parts of their business as well as from personal responsibilities.

But successful designers will make a serious effort to get the most of their unique talents and then leverage them to grow their businesses.

Identify Your “Zone of Genius”

If you’re making your living as an interior designer, your “zone of genius” is likely the work at the heart of the design process.

You probably feel “in the zone” when you’re discovering beautiful pieces that inspire you, then bringing them all together to create amazing spaces. This is the kind of work that likely drew you to interior design in the first place.

But you can’t be genius-level in every design aesthetic. You’re only going to feel in the zone and joyful about the style that you love the most. And, as I’ve mentioned in the past, focusing on the style you love the most is what will make your design business stand out from the crowd and attract the best possible clients for your business.

If you’re not sure what your zone of genius is, think about the work you do that’s uniquely yours. It’s the work that takes advantage of your most unique strengths. And it’s the work that constitutes your business’ most valuable resource.

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Be Diligent About Using Your Time Wisely

Many people define the “zone of genius” as the place where your passion and your talents align.

But I think there’s another dimension to consider: Your time. Doing the best kind of creative work often requires deep thinking and uninterrupted stretches of concentration. You might not be able to get into that zone for short periods of time, or at any time of the day.

Part of identifying your zone of genius is figuring out how long you need to get into the zone, and the times of the day or week it happens the most easily for you.

Maximizing your genius-zone-potential also requires acknowledging that there’s a limit to how much “genius” work you can do in a single day or week. Once you pass that threshold, the quality of your work will start to decline.

Getting serious about maximizing the effectiveness of your time might require getting really specific about when you’re going to ignore all the other work and tasks in order to focus on the most important work. Time is constant, so you have to be really diligent about how you use it.

If you struggle to maximize your genius-zone time, you’re not alone. Compared to the time they have available, most designers only spend a fraction of their day in their genius zone. And that’s despite the fact that it’s their favorite work and the most essential to the success of their businesses!

Avoid the “Only I Can” Trap

The biggest culprit when it comes to distracting designers from their genius zone work is the other work that it takes to run their business. This work includes things like drawings, renderings, project management, client communications, and even accounting.

These are all important tasks, and they all must be done well if you want to succeed. But design business owners often fool themselves into thinking that they’re the only ones who can get these kinds of jobs done quickly and well.

Solopreneurs and other small business owners are particularly prone to wanting to control every aspect of their work, because their personal reputation is at stake.

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Plus, they might be good — or even great — at doing these other tasks. This means they probably get positive feedback and reinforcement for doing it themselves. And in some cases, the non-genius-zone work is actually easier to tackle than the valuable creative work on your to-do list. Think about it: It’s easier to sit down and answer emails at the end of the day than to stare down a blank page or screen.

That’s how the nonessential busywork can lure us away from our more difficult, more important work. We can tell ourselves that we’re still being productive, even if we’re in the process of avoiding the most important work on our list.

The fact is that these kinds of tasks can be taken care of by other people or even by software. For more on the best tasks to delegate and your options, head over to my full blog post on the topic: The Case for Removing Yourself From Non-Design Work.

Take Proud Ownership

Another thing that keeps interior designers from delegating effectively is a false belief that it’s somehow their responsibility to personally manage each aspect of each project.

In particular, they think if they don’t put the drawings together, or don’t personally source all of the materials, that it wasn’t really “their work” after all.

But your designs are still “yours” even if you have some great people helping you make them a reality. [bctt tweet=”Your designs are still “yours” even if you have some great people helping you make them a reality.”]

Think of a big oceanliner. It has a large crew, and they all play important roles. But the captain still decides on the direction the ship is going. It’s the captain who takes full responsibility for where the ship ends up. That’s your role in each of your projects. (Related: The Beauty of Taking Full Responsibility for Your Business)

Plus, your clients certainly don’t care who did the drawings or drew up the proposal for their project.

They just care that, in the end, they get a great experience at a good value for what they paid. They care that they get the style that they fell in love with — a design with your personal aesthetic. And, of course, to give them that, you need to maximize your time in your zone of genius.

If you need help identifying your zone of genius or prioritizing it over your other work, I’d love to hear from you. I work with bright, driven designers to solve exactly these kinds of issues. Please contact me to learn more about one-on-one coaching, mastermind groups, and events from Interior Design Master Class.

How to Stay in Your “Zone of Genius” as a Designer by Interior Design Master Class

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