There have been few occasions where I have met a mind as interested with daily routines and habits as I am. But that’s Bombay born, Perth raised and Melbourne based illustrator and designer Jeffrey Phillips for you – intensely inquisitive and curious, with a barrage of little-known-facts always at the ready.
Commonly known as ‘Jeff the Peff’, the versatile illustrator is famed for his monochrome doodles and polished drawings, often accompanied with a witty caption.
Drafting and redrafting his daily habits as if his day were a sketch, Jeffrey regularly sets himself experiments and exercises to inject a little fun into the mundane – trialling the optimal waking time, practicing the piano before bed, testing his memory during his morning stroll. ‘All these little things serve to make me feel in control of my day, and provide a sense of agency over my life’ he says.
Having worked as a freelancer for almost five years, Jeffrey relishes the freedom to do (mostly) as he pleases. ‘One thing I absolutely treasure and value about the routine of being a freelancer is that anything I do is for myself, and there is usually no demand for my time early in the morning, so I am free to do as I please.’
From a leisurely morning consisting of eggs, podcasts and piano playing, to mastering the art of the handwritten ‘to do’ list, Jeffrey takes us through his day.
I’ve flirted with all types of waking hours. There used to be a time when I didn’t set an alarm and I could wake up anywhere between ten and twelve.
Then there was a time when I woke up before six to hit the gym with a bunch of friends. I know from taking Gretchen Rubin‘s habit tendency quiz that I’m an ‘Obliger’, and there is no way in hell I’m going to wake up before six on my own terms. But now those friends don’t go anymore, so I don’t have anyone to hold me accountable.
Currently, I set my alarm between eight and nine, depending on what I get up to the night before. Night Jeff is very optimistic about the time he can wake up in the morning, but Morning Jeff would much rather sleep in and have a long, leisurely breakfast.
I like to take my time getting up, and there might be a snooze or two. I’ll generally take a quick look at my phone to make sure there isn’t an emergency brewing, then I’ll go and conduct my morning.
Typically I will have eggs or porridge and a coffee for breakfast. I have my set routine, but I enjoy taking little deviations from it. If it’s an egg morning, I cook them in different ways. Sometimes they are hard boiled, sometimes scrambled, there is an English style of scrambled eggs and there is an American style, there is also an Indian style. Sometimes I’ll have them on toast, sometimes it will be an omelette.
I love to listen to a variety of podcasts, and in the morning I’ll listen to ABC AM for bite sized news, and occasionally I’ll also listen to The Economist.
After breakfast I’ll take my coffee and go over to the piano, and I’ll practice for 20-30 minutes. I’m a firm believer in learning as you sleep, so I’ll practice a difficult passage from a piece before I go to bed, and then when I sit down in the morning I’m really excited to see if my fingers have learned that pattern.
I’ll then head off either to the gym or straight to the studio on my bike, depending on the day of the week. If I catch the train I get off at Jolimont and walk through Yarra Bend Park.
This walk is also a no-phone-zone so I occupy myself with little mind games instead. One involves closing my eyes – I’ve got my sunglasses on so I don’t look like a complete fool – and walk as far as I can. My record is currently 50 steps. The secret is to take a really good mental snapshot of what is ahead of me and try to hold that in my mind for as long as possible. It’s like mindfulness meditation on steroids.
When I get to the studio I’ll check my emails and update my handwritten to do list. It takes me a little while to hit my stride – I just faff about for a while and distract people around me. I might hop onto Reddit, which is a terrible idea when you want to be productive.
Then there comes a point I realise I have nothing else to do but get stuck into some serious work.
I’ve been an illustrator now for four or five years, so I know more or less how quickly I can turn something around. If something needs to be done by twelve, it is done by quarter to twelve. If I am not under a strict deadline, I just go with the flow of my day, and just try to progress through my to-dos.
Lunchtime varies wildly, I’m frequently so engrossed in what I’m doing, I forget to have lunch until around three or three-thirty, when I’ll pop out and grab something on Swan Street.
When I get back from lunch I have narrowed my focus to one or two tasks that I want to smash out. I’ll work on them until they’re done, probably until around seven or eight.
I never take my work home, that’s really important to me. I love to draw, it’s my passion, so because I do it for work I have to have these mental shifts. As long as I’m in my studio that’s when I draw to earn a living, but as soon as I walk out of that studio, anything I do is for myself. This allows me to retain that sense of fun.
I’ll pop into the supermarket and get the makings for dinner, which I have quite late at the moment.
Once dinner is out of the way I’ll either read a book or practice the piano, guitar or watch something on Netflix, but that’s really rare – I have no entertainment at home besides podcasts, music, reading or my housemates Caitlin and Mon. If there is something on in the evening, like an exhibition, I’ll go to it, but if nothing is happening then that’s what I would do.
I’m usually in bed by around eleven, but I don’t typically sleep until after midnight.
‘The extraordinary moments in life don’t have to be grand events, they can be small, seemingly insignificant things. A smile from a stranger, missing my train or avoiding a pothole on my bike… these little mundane moments have the potential to trigger a great idea, solve a problem I have been stewing over or simply lift my mood.’ – Jeffrey Phillips