Learning and inspiration
Ironically, some of the most important learning that you will do won’t be from actively pursuing knowledge, but rather from the downtime in-between reading, studying and practicing new skills. As mentioned before, the mind takes in information best when it is relaxed. Given that, it is really important to schedule breaks for yourself and have moments where it may not look like you are doing much on the exterior. This is the time when your brain is busy making connections between all of the things you have recently assimilated, and starts firing new flashes of insight for future ideas.
Your mind also takes in information best when you are inspired, so make it a regular practice to seek inspiration. Be open and aware of all of the sources of inspiration around you, whether it is visual design, music, food, topics of conversation, comedy routines, movies, fabrics, or other people. Inspiration can come at any time and in any form, so the best thing is to be ready to capture it when it shows up.
Another, more structured method of generating inspiration is to create a “swipe” file. Swipe files have been used in the copywriting industry for years, where the practice is to save clever pieces of copy, great headlines and powerful phrases to use later as sources of ideas. You can do the same, but of course, you aren’t limited to copy—anything that you can save that captures and stimulates your imagination is worthy of going into your swipe file.
One of the online note-taking programs would be a perfect tool for storing your swipe file: screenshots, pictures, pieces of text, scanned sketches, etc. Later on, when you base a design on an item from your swipe file, you will probably be very happy that you saved all of those items that inspired you at one time.