My name is Tanner Christensen; I’m the founder of Shape.co, where I’m building a platform and exclusive community to help designers and design recruiters or hiring managers learn how to interview better.
Before founding Shape, I was Head of Design at Gem.com. And before that, I designed software for autonomous vehicles at Lyft, led the design of the Atlassian mobile platform, and designed for nearly 3 billion people at Facebook.
My home office is where you’ll find me almost any minute of a typical workday. But the office setup varies because we have two homes on either side of the United States. On the West coast, my office is a small corner of our home, and it’s a little private area I can focus on. On the East coast, I have a much bigger home office for videos and podcasting in addition to daily work.
I’m not excited about having to commute to an office every day. Maybe I’d feel differently if the office was a short walk away, but where we live now, any office would be at least a 45-minute drive. I prioritize my time over where I work, so home offices are my preference.
Coffee. It’s cliché and a bit of a meme, but I struggle to get started in the mornings, so I rely on caffeine to help me get out of bed.
After I eventually get out of bed, I start work immediately (with a cup of coffee). It’s not the best habit to sit in front of a computer first thing in the day, but it’s part of building a business.
I start the day by checking emails and customer support tickets on Intercom. I’ll check social media feeds to see if anything popped-up overnight I can or should look into.
After emails, I take a few minutes to meditate and write. If there’s an idea I’m particularly interested in exploring, I’ll write a short post about it and share it on LinkedIn and Twitter for feedback and others’ thoughts.
From there, I’ll shower and maybe have a small breakfast. Then start going through my backlog of priorities I track in Asana for myself.
I’ll work for hours, then maybe take a break to go on a walk or play games on my Steam Deck. I return to work until 6 or 7 pm when I close shop and spend time with my wife.
Something I’ve always prioritized is daily walking. As someone who works behind a computer screen all day, I’ve found getting outside into fresh air and moving my legs rewarding in many ways. So I like to prioritize my mental health and a bit of physical health regularly.
I’ve also learned to give myself space to recuperate if I’m feeling burned out, tired, stuck, or anything. If I don’t step away from work and lay in bed for a bit or watch TV or something, I’ll burn out and then not be able to work anyway. So I freely give myself the space and time to rest as needed.
Lastly, I have been maintaining a personal journal. I try to write at least once a week with a work journal I jot in at the end of every work day.
I’ve also been keeping a work journal for a while now, and it’s helped me navigate my daily experiences working with others, managing difficult obstacles, and understanding how I work.
Apart from going for daily walks, I like to do two things whenever I’m stuck on something.
First, I’ll see what other people are working on and building. There are so many incredible things going out today; it’s hard not to feel inspired when you immerse yourself in other people’s ideas and creativity. Something in me always gets motivated and inspired when I see what other people are building.
Design founder and advisor Wendy Johansson is always up to something interesting. Tina Roth Eisenberg (of swiss-miss.com fame) is someone I admire and am constantly inspired by. Marshall Haas is the founder of multiple successful businesses, so I look to see what he’s up to for a bit of business motivation.
Second, I like to take a different perspective of my work often. For example: if I’m working on a website design for my business and feel stuck, I’ll try to re-frame the work.
Instead of saying, “How do I design this section of the website?” I might say, “What would I do if I were making a storyboard for a movie?” Or, “How would I design this if it were a book, or if I had never designed a website ever before, or if the design had to literally pop-off the screen?” These different questions provoke different ways of thinking about the work, which is usually enough to get me unstuck.
Watching movies, exercising, sitting on our backyard patio with friends, playing games, reading, writing, and just being around my wife and our two dogs.
I firmly believe in working hard, giving yourself space to recover, and letting your mind work on “work” things subconsciously rather than consciously. When I give myself proper space away from work, I find when I come back to it, I’m far more energized and inspired than if I try working non-stop.
Many struggle with work-life balance, but it’s never been a significant hurdle for me. When it’s 5 o’clock or I have accomplished the two or three main tasks I set out to do in a day, I close up my laptop and step away from my desk.
That’s not to say I don’t often jump back into work if an intense idea strikes or something urgent with a customer or advisor comes up. But I consistently like to have proper “working hours” and “personal hours” in my life.
Something about being in a different place always helps me feel rejuvenated. My wife and I like to take one or two big trips a year overseas if we can. We didn’t do that during the pandemic, but this year we were fortunate enough to travel to France and Mexico, which was restorative.
Even if we can’t travel far, I’ve always been a big fan of going to a new park in the city and reading a book or even booking a local hotel for a weekend, to get that chance of scenery and experience.
If you don’t prioritize your well-being, you won’t get it. Meaning: you can’t rely on someone else to say, “Hey, you need to eat lunch today.” Or, “Get outside for 5 minutes so your eyes and body can be refreshed a little.”
You have to find ways to make small efforts a priority in your life to balance work and everything else. Set a daily, recurring reminder on your phone, for example.
Exercising more often. Everyone knows exercise is important for health and well-being, but it’s hard to prioritize for many. Getting a Tonal and a Peloton in our home has made exercising much more effortless. And taking short daily walks with my wife has made it easy to get some exercise every single day.
After work, sitting on the couch with my wife and our dogs is the highlight of every day for me. Being close to them and reminding myself how they are the most valuable things in my life feels good. My wife is a wonderful source of inspiration, motivation, and care in my life. I couldn’t describe how much I appreciate having her as a partner.
A big thank you to Tanner for this interview!