I imagine that in another decade or two we’ll look at 2010s-era device use something like we do now with cigarette smoking.
From The Simple Joy of “No Phones Allowed” by David Cain
Balancing work with the rest of life
This Friday around one of our Developers in Austin and I talked about bringing our work home. Not in an actually typing out code way but in a way that still takes up mental headspace. He was bringing home some of the challenges and working through them in his head after work. For me, I’ve seen this become more and more of an issue as I became a manager. I’d bring home the hard conversation that I had to have with an employee and how I could have done it better. I’d bring home the sales call that I’d have tomorrow. I’d bring home the pain that comes with someone moving on from thoughtbot. And, ugh, what was I thinking when I said that one thing. These things bleed into our lives outside of work even if we’re not at the computer working on them.
While I’ve tried to solve this for me, I can’t say that I’ve figured out what works best for me. I haven’t found a system that I can stay consistent with. The first thing I’ve done is saying “Work Complete” as soon as I reach my car. This tick is a suggestion from Cal Newport, in his popular book ‘Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.’ He calls it a work shutdown. While this is a nice verbal and mental queue for me to clear out headspace from work things. They inevitably weave their way back into my head on my drive home. It’s not a magic bullet.
The second thing that I’ve tried that I’ve had success with is doing a short 3-5 minute meditation. This helped me clear my headspace up before my drive home. Changed my focus to driving and allowed me to better decompress from work. Meditation in general helps me focus on now and stay out of my head. This helps me, but it doesn’t prevent me from thinking about work either.
What doesn’t always get recognized as much is how much other life things affect work. My three kids, a dog, a wife all depending on me for different things, I’ve seen my life start to get in the way of my work too. My work schedule has shifted for appointments, for school drop-offs, for dinner time and for traffic. During working hours, I need to schedule appointments and follow up with things for the house. This weekend my car of 10 years started smoking and smelling like burnt rubber. It’s not that we didn’t know that it was on it’s way out but I was hoping that it would last me at least a few more months. I know the issues and stress that I have with the car will find their way into my work week. I need to work from home so that I can take in the car to the mechanic, so it’s already having an impact on my week.
A long time ago I realized that there is no real separation that work is part of life. It’s part of what makes us feel like we’re contributing. My work self is going to seep into my family self, but my family self is going to flow into my work. This is more important to me to understand not just for myself but also for the people that I’m managing. They each have their own lives, work is a piece of it, but it fits into a much bigger puzzle. How we feel at home affects how we feel at work and how we feel at work affects how we feel at home.
Remember It Now
A majority of my career I’ve been an individual contributor and I’ve been lucky to work at companies that value heads down time. Since a majority of my work was on the computer, it made sense that I should keep my notes on the computer too. It was easy to track down design mood boards and code snippets that way. Of course, I’ve fiddled with which app would best suit my needs. I’ve dabbled with Evernote, written a lot in IA Writer, taking great notes in Bear. Each has its pluses and minuses, and each served me well.
These notes all helped me remember something later. To recall details that I would otherwise forget.
As I made the transition to a manager and salesperson, I saw my schedule start to fill up with meetings. In-person one on ones, sales calls, and interviews for our open design positions have taken up a majority of my time instead of that heads down work. Each one of these started to blend together, details got mixed up or forgotten. I began to see another need for notes. I went back to the apps that had done me well in the past. It seemed only natural that they would solve this newfound problem. Instead, I found myself being more distracted by taking notes on my computer and struggling to keep up in those meetings.
I found my way to writing things down on paper and started to see how impactful it was. The notes enhanced my focus in the meetings instead of making me away from them. I found that I was able to recall most of the meeting without needing to refer back to my notes. Things started to feel better and just a little saner.
But I took down too much detail, things that I wouldn’t need a reference back to. I noticed that I started to get careless in bring my tasks taken from meetings notes to my task manager. I wasn’t following up or doing the things that I needed to get done to be a good manager, leader or salesperson.
I realized the need for a stronger system. I had seen a couple people extol the bullet journaling system successfully for notes and tasks, and after using my notebook for notes, I wanted to give it a shot.
After being strict with bullet journaling for a while, I’ve eased down and have chosen the aspects that I think help me the most. I found that I could be leaner with how I record things, that I was the only one that would look back at them and I only needed to write down things that would jog my memory.
I don’t keep up with an index, one of the more core tenants of bullet journaling. I found it hard to remember to do and relatively useless. I realized that I hardly ever look back more than a few pages. I keep lists to do in the back of my notebook, but I don’t do many of the logs commonly found in a bullet journal. This way I don’t need a special notebook with multiple bookmarks and can keep.
My notes and tasks system is something that has always been evolving to meet my needs. I love looking back and seeing how my systems have changed and what has worked and note worked with each of them. I have realized that the more that I physically write the better I’ll remember it later. I feel like my memory across other areas has been better as well, but that could be circumstantial.
Looking back, the one thing that has changed the most is that now I take most of my notes as something to remember now, something to reinforce the tasks I need to do now, not necessarily something to remember later.
Much like a water slide with a section of pipe missing, a broken flow forcibly ejects a user, to great surprise and frustration.
Be the Villain – Eric Bailey for 24Ways
Obligatory Redesign Post
Redesigning my personal site has always been difficult for me. I’ve lacked a direction for the design and had a hard time finding my voice. In the past I’ve escaped this by by having almost nothing but type. This year I set a goal for myself to write frequently and focus the design towards that goal. Communication is a big part of my job now and I desperately need the practice for written communication. Yet there has been nothing but crickets since.
I’m a designer so of course I need to redesign my site in order to write on it…right? I started this iteration of my site design over the summer with that in mind. It never got to a place that I loved and slowly lost interest because of it.
I picked it back up in the fall and after much slow iteration I think that I’m finally in a spot that I feel confident in. The core of the redesign centers around my writing, since that was the goal. It fully commits me to write. If I don’t this design and site will become stagnant quick. I’m hoping that that forces me keep writing consistently.
The redesign, again, relies heavily on type. Specifically FF Meta Serif. I loved how the black weight of the serif came across. Stocky, reliable but with a little bit of style. It’s weight allows for me to create an easy hierarchy with the type. For the body copy I rely on system font stack. I want people to read in the typeface that they are most accustomed to. This choice also keeps the page weight smaller.
I didn’t want to rely on any fancy animations or page transitions. A result of both my time and skillset but also to harken back to a time where building a personal blog was a bit more simple. These choices are meant to put more emphasis on content and not the design around the content.
Accompanying each new post is an illustration that represents the content. This gives me a constrained small problem to solve, makes writing a little more fun, and affords me some space to add personality to the site. It is a small piece that is meant to reference back to my art directed blog posts of long ago. Just as I’ve been wanting to get back into writing more, I’ve also wanted to push myself back into drawing. Drawing has been a form of meditation for me over the years and something that I try to build into a habit as well. I’m excited to hop back into sketching and sketching with a purpose.
While I still don’t think I’ve really hit the mark with the design, I’m happy with where it’s headed. I think it gives me enough of a platform to start writing and leaves some room for improvements along the way.