Quick Tip: Color Palettes

Choosing the right color combinations for any art projects or presentations can be often a very daunting thing. Do your colors work well together, isn’t the combination too dark or too bright etc. I’ve found a useful trick that can help you get inspired for a palette based on a picture/photo of your liking.

Here are 2 example pictures for this quick tutorial.

Diamond beach - Iceland - Seascape photography“Diamond beach – Iceland – Seascape photography” by Giuseppe Milo (www.pixael.com) is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sahara Desert From the Space Station's EarthKAM“Sahara Desert From the Space Station’s EarthKAM” by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Use any vector graphics software (even Paint will work) and import your images. I like to place my palettes in circles but feel free to do it your own way. Remove the outline of the circle and with our circle selected, click on the dropper tool. Click on the image to select your first color, move along the image to pick the darker or lighter shade. Once you like the selected shade, click off to deselect everything or click escape and duplicate your circle, placing it right to next to the first one. Now follow the same steps, select your second circle, pick the dropper tool and pick your next shade. Continue for as same shades as you wish.

Once you’ve picked all the shades, click on the first circle and locate the color tab (might be called Fill & Stroke depending on the software you’re using). Under RGB you’ll see the values defining the color. Note these values under each of the circles, so that each time you’ll use the palette you’ll get the exact same color.  

Color palette 1

Color palette 2

PPT Theme Example: To use your new palette as a theme in powerpoint, open a blank presentation and navigate to the Design Tab -> Variants (More) -> Colors -> Customize Colors. Below pop-up window will show.

Click on the color Text/Background – Dark 1 which sets dark text color for light background. Navigate to Custom tab and fill in the RGB values. Continue for dark background in the same way, then fill in the Accent colors.

In my first example I have 5 colors – 1 is text color and other 4 will be accent colors. I’ll leave accent color 5-6 and Links undchanged for now. Once setup name your theme and hit Save.

Now you can create a ppt with your color scheme, here are some examples how to use them:

Color palette 1 ppt

Color palette 2 ppt

Enjoy!

Schedule

Schedules are basically plans at work. While a plan answers the What (and preferably the Why too),  schedule defines the Who and When. The first time anyone of us had a ‘real’ schedule is probably the 1st grade of elementary school. A little timesheet where the school designed your day from the moment you come in until it’s time to go home. Minute by minute you know what will come each day, which periods you’ll be attending, how long they are, when breaks are and when will is your lunch time.  Everything was planned. The next important schedule usually comes with a job, whether it’s in outlook calendar packed with meetings, or shift schedule, route plan etc.  The idea is the same, your work is planned and you have a reference or a guide to follow throughout your day. There is one more schedule that one is entirely in our hands – our day schedule. I assume most of people don’t schedule their days outside of work as well in calendars of other forms, but we all have an imaginary schedule in our minds. Although it is in our hands, but only to a certain degree as our work/school/sports schedules dictate major part of our working days and our private lives are planned around work/school etc.

Even though you can’t (or shouldn’t) remove meetings that you don’t need or want to attend from your calendar you can have a little word in the organization of your day. I started to block sacred timeslots to avoid 4 hour meeting lines but mainly 2 biggest pain points: lunch time and Friday afternoon meetings. I strongly believe there is a special place in hell or a 10th circle in Inferno for people who book meetings during lunch or on Fridays. The same technique can be used for dedicated focus times that you need e.g. before important deadlines for all finalizations you’ll need to do and this way you’ll know you have a reserved slot for last minute updates in case you need it. There are many other ways you can use to free up some time, but you still won’t get away from lots of unwanted meetings. The key issue started when my work schedule started to leak heavily into my regular day schedule – work was taking up too much time, leaving nearly no room for other activities. That’s when I started look for ways how to squeeze your personal life in between work.   

I’ve found a book called Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky that had lots of useful tips. Two former Google employees have spent a great deal on redesigning sprints and their second book Make Time  focuses on removing distractions, improving productivity and focus and time optimization. I highly recommend reading the book and visiting their blog – https://maketime.blog. One of the chapters talks about design your day and provides examples for work days of both authors – each being a different kind of person (morning vs night). The idea is to identify unused blocks of time in your day and make them a dedicated time for whatever you need to accomplish. Let’s say you work from home and you sleep till 8/8:30am and log in at 9 and work till 7pm and you want to start training for a marathon. Before and after this slot is your time that you want to use. Depending on your energy levels you could either start waking up early and have an hour or 2 slot before logging or heading after work or in the night if you got other duties in the evening. If your lucky you can sneak out during working hours to do the same but it’s more about reorganizing your daily schedule and make use of available time. I practiced my workouts like this for moths and couldn’t be happier. Weekends were for family and evenings as well so I’ve found 2 hour slots on Thursday and Friday in the morning and had workout sessions with peace in mind.

That’s how you can adjust your schedules if you have one, but what how do you plan a schedule for a sabbatical? In order to avoid unnecessary procrastination and chaos within my time off I sat down and tried to design a flexible plan that would include both things I wanted to learn or work on and activities for my own enjoyment as well. First, I’ve started with a blank week calendar to decide ‘work’ days. I wanted to keep the Mon-Fri structure with weekends off mainly to accommodate with my family and partner. It would not make sense to have a free day in the middle of the week and then work on Saturday if everyone in my life follows Mon-Fri work weeks. Then I looked at my day structure, ironically the 9-5pm slot is the best for, again accommodating to my family, but also I like to having things done for the day, so shutting off at 5 is perfect for me. My schedule needs to be flexible as 9-5pm works for most days I still want to be able to adjust as needed but keeping a certain structure. I created 3 blocks for my day: Work Focus (WF) – 4 hours, Enjoy Time(ET) – 4 hours, Lunch – 1 hour. I want my days split between learning and trying new things, but enjoy some time on non essential work skills as well. Work Focus is undisturbed time for projects, courses anything new to learn. Enjoy Time works for a hike, bike, cooking a new recipe, reading an interesting book etc. Last block is simply 1 hour break for lunch. These blocks are just a reference for me and I plan them either 1 day ahead or in the morning. Some days may look like WF-6, ET-2; WF-8, ET-0 (it was raining and I enjoyed the task at hand); ET-6,WF-2 (perfect weather for a long trip) and so on. Below is an example week structure I have maintained.

My weekly schedule

Burnout

I’ve always been a dreamer. Amazed by all the beauty in this world, wonderful places, cities, food, nature and cultures. I want to see it all, one day, when I’ll have plenty of money and time. Until then I’ll work a day job and enjoy the weekends and 2 vacations a year. Not that appealing plan for 40 years, if you ask me. Regardless of the appeal of this plan I had no other. I thought it’s either work for someone or be rich. I wanted to be rich. Not necessarily for the money, but the freedom – mainly time. Having the opportunity to just pack your backs and hike through Patagonia, the Alps or anywhere your desires and not having to save up all your vacation and then return to the same job and routines. Spend a year in a different country/continent, learn different languages, cuisines and simply enjoy being alive.

My idea of being rich is not fixed to a specific figure. For me it’s having your monthly expenses covered by preferably passive income, savings for a minimum of 1 year of comfortable life and extra money for own projects that may or may not turn into additional income and a little more for travel – no 5* fancy hotels, just nice and clean airbnb and airfare tickets to cover.

That was my idea, but here’s the reality. Since I was yet to discover my million dollar idea and become rich and free, I’ve been working as analyst for Fortune 500 companies. It was the whole pack: BS corporate mottos, meaningless and endless meetings, year end conversations, promotion cycles, busy open spaces, Christmas parties and team-buildings. I’ve been quite lucky and my career developed fairly quickly and I reached a position that had a fair amount of responsibilities and awesome salary with it. But as it usually goes the higher you climb the corporate ladder the more demanding the job gets. The project I’ve worked on was extremely time consuming and of course understaffed. My 9-5 job quickly turned into 8-7pm often till 8/9pm. Long months of constant pressure, moving deadlines and work weekends until it happened. It was Friday, I was tired, angry and fed up with work as usual, but this time I shut the computer, took my headphones and went on a walk. I walked for 3 hours and knew something is different. I was done but this time really done, the great burnout has finally arrived. On my walk I’ve trying to think of solutions to my situation that would not involve giving a notice. A longer vacation ? Maybe some tropical island for 1 month would solve everything and I will come reenergized as never before. But I knew that it won’t work and began thinking about other jobs, something more relaxed even for less money to avoid this kind of stress. I didn’t want that either. I finally came to a conclusion of taking a sabbatical and here is why: I got the money take a couple months of, I don’t have kids to take care of, I’ll learn things I never had time because of the job and most importantly what’s the worst that can happen ? Lose a few months salaries and that’s it. Count me in!

Graphical representation of escaping the corporate world

Today is day 15 of my sabbatical, I wanted to to start a blog: check and write my first post: check. I’m crushing this.

P.S. I’m trying to learn some graphic design, so be prepared for some top-notch illustrations as above here and there. 🙂