Be more productive: Block distracting websites and apps on all your devices with Freedom - try Freedom today

Bill Tribble: Carving Out Space for Offline Things That Matter

Bill Tribble Freedom Matters

This designer & musician knows that finding the time to disconnect is critical to our wellbeing

Here at Freedom, we frequently find ourselves inspired by the people who use our product.

From Academy Award-nominated screenwritersbestselling authorseditors, and journalists, to developers, illustrators, designers, academics, and entrepreneurs – the Freedom community is packed with curious, creative, and passionate go-getters.

We love to share your stories because we believe the best way to solve the problems we face at work in today’s world is to learn from those who are living those experiences daily– and thriving while they do so!

Meet Bill Tribble

Bill Tribble is a designer, artist, and musician based in London. He has worked around the world for a variety of companies large and small including Hopin, Google, Canon, and Warp Records, and is currently working at Unmind – a mental wellbeing platform for the workplace.

Bill has a particular interest in mindfulness and co-hosts the Awake In Mindfulness podcast, and he also mentors and teaches aspiring designers. Not only does Bill use Freedom to help him on these many ventures, but he also shares the same mission: to help make technology a force for good in the world.

We were really excited to learn more, so we recently caught up with Bill to learn more about his work process, how he stays productive, and how he finds balance.

Bill Tribble Unmind

Firstly, what started it all for you? When did you realize that your relationship with technology was something that needed to be examined?

I think I’ve been dealing with this on and off for decades. I used to install ‘nanny’ apps on my PC to monitor and sometimes limit my game time 20 years ago! I think in terms of mobile phone use 2016 was a big year for me. I found myself spending way too much time on Twitter following the US election. The Cambridge Analytica revelations were a turning point also. It really made clear the predatory attitude that Mark Zuckerberg’s companies have towards their captive audience.

I can carve out more space for offline things that matter to me.

What has been the most notable difference since intentionally sculpting your relationship with technology?

As mentioned – this has been an ongoing process. What I’m finding recently is that I can carve out more space for offline things that matter to me like reading books, playing with my son, and building my own instruments.

What resources or tools (apart from Freedom!) do you use daily and have found most beneficial to your creative process?

I think the most important thing is just making sure you have a focus, a highlight for what you want to achieve each day. I found some of the tips in Jake Knapp’s “Make Time” book useful for this. With a highlight carved out each day I feel like I’ve achieved something even if the rest of it was smashed with meetings.

On the Mac, it’s the small things for me like getting used to keyboard shortcuts for navigating around an app or the OS quickly. Hiding everything irrelevant (Cmd+H) – tabbing back and forth when necessary, or using Spotlight to open the app or file you need (currently experimenting with Alfred as a Spotlight replacement – it’s pretty good).

Making space to disconnect and remember everything that really matters to you is so critical to wellbeing, but so easy to miss.

How do you stay motivated and focused on a daily basis? Do you have a routine, process, or place that helps to get into a productive flow?

Meditation, walking, running, and cycling do the most for me – in that order. Making space to just disconnect and remember everything that really matters to you is so critical to wellbeing, but so easy to miss.

I’m also pretty rigorous about focus in my work – I tend to block out all notifications for periods of focus and hide everything that’s not relevant to the task at hand.

What conditions or processes do you have to help guard time and space for creativity and exploration?

At work, it’s often about blocking out time for deep focus. When my calendar gets crazy I’ll start blocking out regular slots (e.g. “Design Focus”) so I can actually get some work done. I’m also a big fan of getting together with colleagues to bat ideas around, or running focused workshops in the Design Sprint format (check out Jake Knapp’s excellent book)

Does your way of working differ a lot depending on whether you are designing, writing, composing, or producing?

Not a lot really – for me it’s all about singular focus. Doing one thing at a time.

What excites you most about technology?

There’s still so much untapped potential in the design and use of technology. Right now so much of the emphasis is on amplifying the worst side of human psychology – but we could do so much more to amplify the good.

As a designer, have you ever felt conflicted about having to use things like the hook model, or dark patterns in your work?

I’ve fought hard against using these patterns in my work. For example, while working on I pushed back against adding metrics for ‘likes’ on the social side of the platform. 

Do you have a productivity playlist or particular music genre that helps keep you focused?

This varies quite a bit but I tend to listen to music with no lyrics a lot of the time when I’m working. Dub techno by artists like Deepchord is a particular favorite.

What would you recommend as a first step for someone who wants to start incorporating mindfulness into their daily routine?

Find the spaces where you already feel mindful and lean into them. This might be a hot bath, a run, a morning coffee – whatever it is, and just really make the time to explore and deepen those experiences. I’ve never really gotten into them but a lot of people find meditation apps like Headspace useful (I use the really simple app Oak sometimes, but mainly just as a timer).

Beyond that for those who want to really go and explore a meditation retreat might be worth considering – this is how I got started. I’d recommend taking a look at – but with caveats (we did a recent episode on retreats on the podcast).

Find the spaces where you already feel mindful and lean into them… really make the time to explore and deepen those experiences.

What projects are you currently working on that you are most excited about?

In my work – I just joined Unmind and it’s been awesome so far!

I’m also the co-host of Awake In, a podcast on mindfulness and wellness, and on the music side of things, I’m currently making a daily electronic improv piece which I share via Instagram and Soundcloud.

Bill Tribble Illustration

You can find out more about Bill and his work on his website and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Soundcloud.

The Awake In podcast is available on Apple, Google, Spotify, and Stitcher.