Let's Tech Communicate
By Katie Haggath
This month, I have been working from home more than ever. On the one hand, it's been very pleasant working in front of a log fire on a cold day and watching the horses grazing through the window. On the other hand, I have never made so many cups of coffee or washed so many dishes. Getting things done is the theme of this month's LTC: from staying productive when your own brain is against you, to avoiding the three-steps-forward two-steps-back problem when switching projects, to understanding your own creative type to make the most of how your brain works. Then, is it very simple or basic? Very short or brief? Very powerful or compelling? Get your pedant's hat on for the very silly war on "very".
How do you stay productive when your own brain is against you?
To Avoid Distractions, Stop Using Time Management . Yes, you read that right. There are loads of articles out there, full of handy hints about time management, productivity goals, and good work habits. With the best of intentions, most of us don’t do any of them. Most people can’t go a minute without splitting their attention. In fact, according to 4 Strategies for Overcoming Distraction the average person is distracted or interrupted every 40 seconds when working in front of their computer. And that’s because Time Management is, in itself, a distraction. And a stressful one at that.
Did you know you have a Forgetting Curve?
Think of efficiency like a train. When a train gets up speed toward one direction, if you suddenly radio into the train engineer and tell him or her to change direction, it takes a lot of time for the train to slow down, change course, and build up to a new speed in the new direction. Imagine doing this direction switching multiple times in an afternoon — the train won’t get anywhere. In the same way, switching between projects forces you to start from the beginning each time you come back, because you will have forgotten a lot of context in time you have been away from it. Unfortunately, as technical communicators we rarely have the chance to work on just one project at a time. So how can you avoid inefficiencies even with context switching?
Creativity is OUT
Stick to boring. Fight the urge to get creative. If you want your product to stand out above the rest, then be average with your design. It might sound awful to the artists among us, but our brains like average – it is easier to process. The web is moving to closer and closer to a shared design language, and websites tend to follow the same conventions. But this is a good thing. With less focus on the “I” in “UI,” designers have more time to focus on the “U.” At the end of the day, the user is what really matters. Conclusion: Good UX = Boring UI.
Creativity is IN
Creativity is widely regarded as being good for employee morale, productivity, and critical thinking. Innovation drives companies forward. And yet, there’s a lingering idea that too much creativity is a Bad thing. Why? Everyone has a creative “type” – each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Knowing yours helps you understand where your mind is at, and how you can change your approach to get better results in your day-to-day work. The quiz even tells you who your best collaborator is (mine is a Thinker, to balance out my Visionary). Find out your creative type.
Thanks to Chris Lovie-Tyler for sharing this on Slack!
Get your pedant’s hat on – is it very simple or basic? Very short or brief? Very powerful or compelling?
Most of us remember Robin Williams’ compelling speech in the Dead Poet’s Society on the laziness of the word “very”. The war on “very” is silly . Check that: the war on “very” is very silly. Or ludicrous. Take your pick. But let’s start with the premise, which appears to be that there is something wrong on principle with the use of common intensifiers like “very”. No disrespect to the Captain, but this is bollocks. One of the foundations of good writing is to use simple common words wherever they work.