More thoughts by Nicole Jones
When I was consulting, I measured my work in hours. I’d guess how long something would take, add a small amount of slack, do the work, and then measure against my estimates. Did I charge fairly? Am I good at guessing how long something takes? Am I profitable?
But now, back in the world of salaries, I find this model to be a bit unfair to myself and what I want out of life. More and more, I’m measuring my work from the energy I have at the end of the day. Do I have enough energy to explore new ideas, learn something everyday, and keep my motivation going? Do the people I work with bring me up or wear me out? Will this project ship—and if it does, will it help people?
Energy is hard to measure. It’s a gut feeling. An end-of-the-day question: was that the best use of my time?
This year’s for the stuff that makes me nervous.
Hard stuff. Like standing up for myself in bad situations. Getting specific and elaborating when I’m comfortable with the opposite. Or starting conversations that need to happen.
The times when I need to apologize immediately or not be such an ass. The times when I have to retrain my brain to think positively and make something great.
Messy stuff. Like selling ideas or teaching people how to give feedback, instead of giving up when we don’t speak the same language.
This year’s for taking steps toward understanding.
I like change, which means I switch up how I write once in a while. I move furniture first or go for a photo walk. I draw boxes on a whiteboard or type directly into text fields. I think out loud to hear my own voice. I ask questions and listen to other people’s feelings and ideas.
These patterns come from different things around me, like my environment, friends, and how I’ve been feeling. Writing is a personal and subjective practice. As we change, our styles and interests do too. With that in mind, here are three patterns I’ve noticed in myself lately:
- Wait until the end of the day to write something personal. When you’re completely exhausted, it’s easier to speak from the heart.
- Don’t worry if your work isn’t perfect. Focus on the feelings you want to convey, even if they’re fuzzy at first. Cover what you care about. Then, fill in the facts, reread what you wrote, and edit for details.
- Talk with people a lot more than you think you can. You’ll be a better human for it and your work will improve too.
So what about you? What kinds of patterns do you find yourself following these days? I’d love to hear about them, whether about writing or anything else.
I just went to Confab London, a conference where people from 28+ countries come to shake hands, sip cocktails, and listen to each other’s experiences in the web industry.
While Confab is made for people who work on content and communications, everyone’s welcome. The environment is so welcoming that it kind of makes Twitter feel like a mosh pit or an overcrowded shopping mall. We shove and shout, and every now and again things get so ugly we need a professional timeout. This kind of aggression leaves me with questions:
- How can we show empathy for other people in the field? What assumptions can we make about our peers?
- When something new launches, what kinds of responses are appropriate? Is it always the best or worst thing ever?
- If something is broken or needs work, how can we tell someone that can do something about it?
- If we dislike a design in 140 characters, are we teaching clients to judge based on personal taste?
- If we’re unhappy with a customer service representative, should we shout about it to friends on Twitter?
I’m not sure where the lines are here, and we’re all figuring it out as we go. I mess up a lot. But if we give strangers the same kind of respect that we give clients, we might learn more from each other along the way.
Embracing the Mess
What began in a state of grace soon reveals itself to be a jumble. The human mind, as it turns out, is messy. — Ellen Ullman
A couple of weeks ago, Adam Michela and I were talking about the design process. He said something that was revelatory for me, and I’m still working through it.
We were talking about systems and how we try to make them extensible. When it’s finally time to ship a product, things start getting weird. All those hours and conversations start to unravel. Every last-minute change feels like a punch in the gut. I said, “I hate it when people do things without thinking about their implications.”
“But that’s why we are designers,” Adam said. “Because we can see those implications and think through them.”
It was a Friday afternoon. I was tired. I went home and rested. But Adam got me thinking, how do we embrace the mess? Or should we?
If we notice things most people don’t, what kind of responsibility does that give us?
Here are the dates of Nicole Jones's future thoughts
- Wednesday, 5 June
- Friday, 5 July
- Monday, 5 August
- Thursday, 5 September
- Tuesday, 5 November
- Thursday, 5 December