Stop, start, continue: creatives share their work/life resolutions for 2021

Creatives who had a big 2020 – Stephanie Unger, Jeff Low, Melody Sylvester and Skye Lee – tell us what they will stop, start and continue doing this year.

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New Year’s Resolutions can be a little daunting, so big they never get off the ground, but what they represent is vital: a self-initiated mission to make the most of a fresh start. A more approachable format is the stop, start, continue technique, a common feature in many a project meeting that encourages people to analyse the good, the bad and the improvable of their work and process. So, we thought we’d ask a handful of leading creatives who saw success in their discipline in 2020 to share their own personal stops, starts and continues, looking back last year to set goals for 2021. From illustrator Stephanie Unger embracing her identity, to Google’s Skye Lee ditching screens, via director Jeff Low rejecting the premise of being able to stop anything, the results are a fascinating insight to the creatives’ personal outlook.

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Copyright © Stephanie Unger, 2021

Stephanie Unger, illustrator

Stop:

I would really like to stop filtering hugely important parts of my upbringing from my work just because I have always felt they are irrelevant and inappropriate within the industry. I’m a second generation immigrant and I grew up on a council estate in southwest London and I feel like I have had to suppress certain aspects of my life in order to serve a more general audience. 

Start:

With the recent racial and social justice movements and the disproportionately white industry we reside in, this year has shown me the importance of trusting my own vision and to start creating work that I want to see in the world and would have loved to have seen when growing up.

Continue:

2020 has given me a huge amount to reflect on in my personal life, career and the ways I want to move forward. I feel that having this time to unpack and process has been really beneficial to my creative practice, giving me a clearer vision of the artwork I want to produce. Moving into next year, I really want to continue learning, reading, watching and listening to ensure I keep growing as a person and as an artist.

Jeff Low, director

Stop:

I reject this premise because it implies that I’m in some sort of control of things when I can’t find pants that fit me properly, I fall up the stairs constantly and I eat my body weight in nicotine lozenges every month.  

Start:

Bringing back the phrase “screw the pooch” because it’s etymology fascinates me.  

Continue:

Sobbing into the mirror at the sight of my glue coloured ancient body.

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Engine: Moneysupermarket campaign (Copyright © Moneysupermarket, 2020)

Melody Sylvester, head of film, Engine

Stop:

Wasting time talking about why things MUST change to people incapable of it.
Crapping myself over public speaking.

Start:

An ‘Ask Me Anything’ industry podcast to widen my mentoring reach.
An Engine Film training and internship programme.
Insisting we commission even more diverse talent in all areas.

Continue:

Championing excellence in production.
Fighting for activism in advertising.
Banging the drum for ALL producers and editors and the incredible work they do.

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(Copyright © Google Search Apps Team, 2020)

Skye Lee, director of UX, Google

Stop:

Talk less. Do more. These times call for taking action where it matters. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s broken and to overthink next steps because I’m scared to stumble. But I’m committed to taking consistent, focused action, even in small ways, to support causes and people I prioritise.

Ditch all devices after 6pm. Being on video calls all day takes a toll on... well... everything. Now more than ever, I have to prioritise screenless ways of entertaining myself, whether it’s going for a walk, formulating a new nail polish colour, or finally cracking open that book that so far only looks great on my coffee table.

Face reality. When I feel depleted, lonely, or anxious, I’ll acknowledge the feeling first vs. insisting everything is great and that I can muscle through it. I constantly tell myself that working through discomfort and difficult situations directly and honestly builds resourcefulness and resilience.

Start:

Read more books. The blurry line between work and home often makes me feel restless, agitated, trapped. So to find an escape when leaving the house is impossible, I want to get back to losing myself in stories. Reading will be my new obsession of choice.

Double down on making. I want to learn a skill every month – with the same rigour, structure and dedication that I rely on at work. I’ve found a renewed zeal for cooking (ok ok, burning things). December is the month of calligraphy; January watercolours. Creative experimentation during both dedicated and everyday moments is critical to my staying optimistic and refreshed.

Have more fun! Playing more pranks, testing new skin care products, laughing in meetings and NOT muting my mic. The more fun I have, the more engaging my design. The more I show up with joy, the more engaged my teammates. Yes, this is a serious time. But I’ll be more mindful of when levity might be more useful than emphasising how grave situations are.

Continue:

Notice the blessings everywhere. My cup of coffee. The perfect pen. Health insurance. A “good morning” from my teenage son who spends the rest of the day rolling his eyes. I’m making a continual effort to stay present – if I pay attention there are micro-moments of joy in every direction.

Remember why my work (at Google Search) is important. Search has the duty to enable all our users to get the information they need to act and to also inspire. In 2020, this mission is more critical than ever. Sometimes, when faced with another day like the day before and the day before that, I remind myself that users are depending on us, on me, to get it right.

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Copyright © Stephanie Unger, 2021

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, now overseeing the website’s daily editorial output. Contact her with stories, pitches and tips relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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