My Life as a Web Page

What if my life was a web page?  By day I am a web strategist …so of course it got me thinking. What if my life was represented on a home page? Would it be a good design?

First, you might ask, what makes a good design? There is no perfect answer to this question. It depends on the purpose of the site. There are visual design principles one might typically want to apply. Use of negative space, or white space, is one, for example. It adds balance to the page.

Web pages are built on grids. So I started with a 16-column grid and separated it into boxes to represent hours in a day.  If I were to represent my average day, how would it look? I figured out the areas of my life where I invest my time each day and laid it out on the grid to represent the hours spent.

Then I added some visuals to represent the activities that occur in those boxes.

Did this make a good life home page? It’s not bad, I suppose. I have a lot of boxes, so that means I have some variety in my life, but do I like the size of them?

What I noticed was pretty obvious. The very small 15 minutes worth of nothing—the white space.  These are super rare minutes in my life, but I know what they are. Sometimes they are the  minutes when I contemplate life before my eyes shut for the night. The minutes I spend writing a blog or sketching. Sometimes it is the minutes in my car—purposely sitting —not getting out quite yet. Or excusing myself from my office and sitting in the “quiet room” at work just trying to breathe for a few minutes where no one can see me. White space. And looking at this page, I think more of it might be needed. The activities of the white space get relegated to the footer of my life page, the less used but persistent “links” of my life – the soul time where I can create things, walk in nature, or just be.

Unfortunately, I can’t stretch the page like I can in the digital world and and make more time and create more white space. I must make one box smaller to make another bigger. I’m pretty sure I’ve pushed sleep to my limit at this point in my life. So that leaves the rest to try to jiggle around.

Granted these boxes aren’t perfectly labeled. Life isn’t this segmented. The Learn box could sometimes be labeled Play.  It just depends on the day. And I do Learn at Work sometimes, or Work when I Give. But generally speaking, the time averages are about the right size and I’m not sure I like what I see. The Work box is a tricky one. It’s not really an option to eliminate it, but change it….possibly…. dare I say….shrink it?  Yes. This could be considered. Do I need different boxes than the ones I have here? Does this design communicate my purpose? Does it say who I am or who I want to be? These are the questions I must ask myself.

That’s what the new year is for, right? To evaluate. Some of these frames are in need of growing and others in need of shrinking and I’m determined to find ways to do a little website redesign of my own in 2018.

Project Managing Myself

sock

Sometimes big changes start small. This sock drawer will look different tomorrow.

I manage projects every day—my family’s projects, my volunteer projects, and most of the time, work projects. I am a project manager—it’s what I do.

My Keys to Successful Project Management

  1. Prepare well. Understand the needs of the clients and what problem you are solving. Then prepare the requirements and strategy up front so your team can begin well and join you in the quest to solve the problem.
  2. Set deadlines and keep them. Even if your clients don’t give you specific deadlines, make them. And hold people to them. When you relax deadlines, you end up with wasted time, wasted money, and frivolous features on products that don’t need them.
  3. Be nice, but be honest. Deliver praise and feedback to your team with care, but don’t hold back on the truth. Quality and awesome customer service are the measures. Nothing else is acceptable.
  4. Give away the praise. Managing a project is important, but it takes a team to make something great. The skills and talents of your team need to be encouraged and applauded.

What I’ve come to realize this week is that I manage everything and everyone, but myself. And I need to. I need to be one of my projects and give myself the same level of detail, perfectionism, and care I give to every other project in my life. If I can’t do that, I won’t ever be able to achieve my personal goals. Instead I’ll continue to suck what life I can vicariously through the projects I manage for others.

So, I’m going to swipe a chapter from my own rule book and begin by preparing. I have some really big changes in mind and I’ve got some significant preparing to do. It all starts with cleaning out my refrigerator and sock drawer. No, my plans are not to become the Barefoot Contessa…but if those who know me don’t see a pretty big change by June 30, I will not have managed the Trish project well.

Happiness at Work? It’s In My Toes.

gold toes

Happiness is gold toes.

My toes are gold. Why? Yes..it’s true…I was inspired by the Olympics. But why gold? Why not red, white and blue? Or silver or bronze?

Gold because it reminds me of where to go. True, only one person can win the gold medal. But everyone..EVERYONE..can run for their gold. Giving it all you’ve got every day.

Today I watched a French hurdler false start in his qualifying heat. His Olympic dream was finished in two seconds. He fell to the side of the track and wept.

He was understandably crushed. But did he run for the gold? I think the answer is “yes.” Because although we only see a few seconds of failure on TV, what we don’t see is his years of daily training pushing himself—the injuries and ups and downs that got him to that race. Did he fail when it really counted? Maybe. But just maybe the years of work was actually the biggest part of his gold medal effort.

This week at work I’m being asked to report in a meeting: What makes me happy at work? What is it that makes work a place I want to come to every day?

With transition and change at the office, there are often feelings of uncertainty, unrest, even failure. Some days we find ourselves wondering “Why?”, or worse, crumpled at the side of our desks weeping after a false start.

When I thought about this question I realized that I usually try never to focus on the word “happiness.” It is illusive. Joy is easier. But as I thought more about it, I think happiness for me IS the gold. Not always obtaining it, but the continual challenge of striving for it.

So what makes work a happy place for me? The answer can be found on my toes.

  1. Gold is the treasure I share. Happiness comes if I can answer “yes” to this question: Do I have an opportunity every day to serve others? This comes first and foremost through earning money. I work so that I can provide for others and be charitable with the fruits of my labors. It also comes from serving people at work in every way I can. Often this looks like helping get a project done right, but just as often it looks like being a mentor or friend.
  2. Gold is the mission, goals, and strategy. Do projects have a mission, goals, and strategy that I can help create solutions for AND can I measure, see, and celebrate the value of those solutions? I am happy when I can say “YES!” Strategies and goals can and should change from time to time. Sometimes from year to year…sometimes even from day to day.  My happiness at work comes from understanding the path forward and architecting how to get there.

I look forward to hearing my coworkers’ answers to this question. As for me, and my toes, it’s all about going for gold. Not judged by someone else’s race, but for the only race I can control…my own. Running hard. Running happy. Running like it matters. Because it does.

Fearless

glove

The ball glove from my youth. Though old and worn and small, I’ve never replaced it. It has never let me down.

Shortstop—the position I played for seven years as a youth. There’s something every shortstop must be. Not a good aim. Not a good batter. Not technically flawless. These are all important, but the key to playing shortstop is just one thing. Being fearless.

I remember the day I became fearless on the field. I was in 6th grade. I had been playing softball for two years. I was a good fielder and was getting pretty confident. Then it happened. I was at practice and a hard hit grounder made contact with a rock on the infield and took an unexpected hop. The ball missed my carefully placed glove and smacked me square in the chin. Hard. No amount of skill or exceptional hand-eye coordination could have prevented it.

After some inspection, spitting of blood, and a little ice, I was back out on the field. The next ball hit was met with trepidation. I missed it. I couldn’t believe it. I was so mad at myself and I couldn’t believe I let one little rock—one bump in the road stop me. I had a decision to make.

As every good coach tells his or her fielders, you should charge the ball. That is, as soon as it is hit, you run toward it, resisting the tendency to back up and get a better read on it. You charge it.

So, I asked myself: Did I want to be a mediocre shortstop or a great one? Would I let fear drive me? The answer was no. I proceeded to take every ball hit to me with fearless abandon. Like I’d never done before, I charged EVERY ball and threw it to first base with wicked speed. I let the pain drive me. I decided I didn’t care anymore. If it hit me, it hit me. It would not be by my doing. That would just be fate—chance. It was one of the best practices of my life. I felt liberated from all the rocks.

As I sit here today, watching softball practice from my front porch, I am reminded again of this moment in my life. I am sitting on my porch because I’m feeling wounded from an event at work. A rock appeared in my life. No fault of my own. The ball smacked me hard in the chin. I’m feeling the pain and spitting out the blood. And now I have a decision to make.

My sixth grade self is tapping me on the shoulder and handing me my glove.

Back onto the field. Charge the ball. Fearless.