Sometimes in our day-to-day lives we can get the feeling that we’re inconsequential. Maybe we’re getting caught up in the smallest details of our work, or we’ve lost touch with the big picture and feel like a little cog in a big machine — a machine that is moving really fast.
I’d like to introduce you to Brooke.
Brooke took my Raise Your Profile course last year and identified a clear goal for herself in the early stages of the program. She wanted to focus on being intentional in leveraging her design expertise to her projects rather than “doing things ‘deadline to deadline,’ so to speak.”
Brooke developed two strategies that have guided her in bringing more intention into her design work and raising her profile in her practice while still gaining more time to have a life.
Then something amazing happened.
Brooke’s intentional work spread beyond her own projects; she created a little ripple effect that spread to the rest of her team.
Inspired by the Raise Your Profile course, Brooke defined a few new strategies. Here’s what she’s implementing in her workplace:
Strategy 1: Daily Check In
Brooke took on a new note taking approach that helped her use her time more effectively. Each day in a daily “landing page” she journals the main things to get done for her project that day with time estimates, a personal goal of the day, a note on what she is grateful for, and what she wants to do that night. It helps her stay efficient, keep her eyes on the prize (instead of getting bogged down in the weeds) and keep a healthy balance of work and self care.
“This takes 5 minutes on the train and sets my awareness for the day. I’ve found that I’m initiating follow-ups and asking critical questions sooner, and leaving myself larger chunks of time for deep dive design work.”
Strategy # 2: Get Ahead of the Project
Brooke took the process of zooming out beyond just the day-to-day to the flow of her project load. “A lot of problems happen when we realize too late that there is too much work for the team to do within a normal working day or week, often because other projects have come up or we haven’t planned out how to meet a deadline far enough out.” Brooke developed a template file that she uses to see calendar milestones visually to anticipate when a project will take more time than she has available —and to say no, ask for help, or propose a different way forward in advance of the crunch.
“I’ve used it recently to predict how long a project deadline will take us, to negotiate internally to concentrate on fewer but more critical tasks over fewer man hours to meet the deadline without overwork. It’s helped us push the project further than we would have been able to otherwise, and complete it without working late or weekends.”
The Ripple Effect
Coworkers have been inspired by Brooke’s demonstration of thinking ahead and zooming out of the day to day. It’s also made the projects better.
“With this approach,” says Brooke, “we’re often able to spend more time testing and iterating the design, because planning for the deadline has already been done.”
While it can be hard to say no to projects, or advocate for a less-is-more approach, the risk of being the innovator has paid off for others in Brooke’s company. “One day in a meeting,” she recalls , “I didn’t have to be the vocal person, because my colleagues were already speaking up about it.”
Being the Change Changes You
In Raise Your Profile, Brooke identified for herself that her goal was to communicate more effectively. While this is ultimately in service of being better able to advocate for her design ideas and expertise, she says it has benefited her work and her entire team more than she expected.
“My boss turns to me now when we have internal discussions about how to improve communication, and to gut-check and what has caused problems in the past. I recently led this conversation as we brought on a few new employees.”
When we feel like a cog in the wheel, we don’t recognize that we have more power than we think. That power might be developing new habits that make our work better, and even just showing up to speak for how they might help our company or industry.
We are the cultures we live and work in, and while we almost never have full agency (hey Ms. Dictator) we often have more power than we think.
How are you using yours?