Tips for managing your mental well-being while suddenly WFH during COVID-19

While some of us might feel comfortable with working from home, there might be others who don’t. There are plenty of resources available now on what tools, frameworks and other tips to help improve or maintain productivity, but between those it can feel very disruptive to suddenly find yourself at home alone without the structures you have in the office. I’ve found that we mostly talk about being efficient or productive but the aspects of managing our own well-being are just as important.

I’ve written down some tips to try that can help organize your day or that can help improve the collaboration with your direct squad members.

Disclaimer: I’ve pulled the below from past experience when freelancing solo or working with remote teams, but I’m no expert. I hope you’ll find some of these tips useful to incorporate in your day to day life, but do explore remote-friendly tools or frameworks to try and actively move some of your common in-office activities to you computer. This will be an ongoing learning experience that can always be improved.

 

Professionally (productivity + transparency)

  • Be as transparent as possible and move your thinking out loud to your keyboard. It might feel like you’re oversharing, but you’re not.
  • With asynchronous messaging we are more in control to decide when to read or act on notifications. When you bring your focus back to Slack and can easily see what others are doing, you’ll feel less isolated. We can help each other with this.
  • Without the ability to pop by someone’s desk or simply stand up to get attention, we might need to push ourselves more to share something. Your teammates will be happy to be able to contribute and discuss.
  • Some squads might already have a habit of appointing a note taker in a meeting. If yours hasn’t it might be a good idea to ask for a volunteer at the start of a meeting to make sure there will be a record of the outcome.
  • Random thoughts are OK to share. If you want to solicit an opinion or different perspective on something simply drop it in the Slack channel of the most relevant team. You could even indicate your intention by prepending your message with [randomthought] or something similar.
  • Structure your communication for readability. With the increased information throughput it will be useful to apply some structure to allow everyone to sift through the noise. Think about things like doing your squad standup in a Slack thread, prepending an email with a tag (I like using [meeting-notes]. This is also valid for hangout conversations, be mindful to let people finish what they’re saying.
  • Emails to any group alias can be linked to through Google Groups (example). This is an easy way to refer to previous communication in Slack!
  • Create paper trails of meetings, decisions and discoveries. Colleagues might ask you for context and you’ll be happier when you can point them somewhere instead of context switching and explaining.
  • Be deliberate about your presence. It’s helpful for your peers to know you’re not available or don’t want to be disturbed, but the most important result of everyone sharing their statuses in a shared channel will be that everyone will feel more connected.Here are some tricks to do that more actively:
    • Inform people when you’re planning some focus time or going to run an errand.
    • Make sure to use Slack emojis / status update to indicate your availability.
    • Put all of your activity in your calendar to create transparency in your activity + keep yourself accountable (this could also help as reference during standup!).
    • Add the Google Calendar app to Slack to automatically update your status when in a meeting.

 

Personally (wellbeing + habits)

  • Make yourself a nice breakfast or lunch, without your daily commute you can treat yourself to something wholesome.
    At the beginning of your workday, push yourself to go outside. Even if it’s a walk around the block. Having been outside gets your blood flowing and clears your mind.
  • Before starting work, plan your day. Do you need to join any meetings? When do you want some focus time? If you plan ahead it will be much easier to set expectations with others.
  • Dress like you’re going to the office, it will help you change modes more easily.
  • Consider having walking meetings. Install Google Hangouts on your phone and use audio only. You’ll have an easier time solving problems or being creative and you’ll come back refreshed.
  • At the start of every meeting, ask how the other person is feeling. Since we aren’t around our peers that we see everyday for the time being, it might be difficult to get the emotional and social support we normally receive. We can call this out at the beginning of a hangout and support each other that way.
  • Don’t assume that you’re supposed to solve problems on your own now. Ask your team for help, propose pair programming sessions, screenshare your sketches, murals or write documentation together.
  • Don’t work and eat at the same time, or take your laptop to do laundry. It will be easier to keep focus if you acknowledge that every activity or moment has a start and an end.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if you experiment for a couple of days and still struggle, it takes more than six weeks to properly internalize a new habit (!).
  • It’s OK to be AFK (Away From Keyboard) every now and then, make use of the flexibility.
  • Create social time with your team (virtual fika, all day team hangout, etc. Anything to create a space to vent and banter).
  • Take breaks. Without anyone reminding you to do so you need to force yourself to get up and away from the computer every now and then. It can help to use a timer to nudge you to do so.
  • Create a ritual to end your workday, clean up your desk or go outside again for a bit. This way you will allow yourself to let go from work more easily and create space again for your personal life.

I hope some of these might prove useful for you while we’re all adjusting to this new way of working. How are you coping with being in a new environment?

Let me know on Twitter!

NYPL is a place to go to and learn from others

Free Product Idea: Global App Archive

There is something missing on the internet, but I can’t build it myself. Usually I would try to hack something together, but one of my 2018 goals is to not start any new side projects. Instead, I decided to publish my thoughts here, perhaps someone else will like this free product idea and build it!

Product Perspective

As a product manager, I often look at screens, user flows and websites with different lenses:

  • User experience (this on boarding flow was really frictionless)
  • App trends (it looks like adoption of password managers is increasing)
  • Design patterns (menu / navigation bars tend to be placed at the bottom more often)
  • UX copywriting (lots of improvements in CTA wording and expectation management)

When new patterns have broader adoption or when apps enjoy particular successes because of surprising design/UX decisions, I often try and talk about it with people around me. In a previous job we’d have a recurring product sync on Fridays, which I’d kick off with a round of showing interesting trends we’ve seen. It often was really inspiring to see what people brought into this meeting and how they connected that to bigger product development trends that shape the internet we use.

I believe that one of the core skills of a product manager is to be in touch with the pulse of the industry, be aware of market trends and understand why something works (or why not). That way we can learn from successes and failures we see around us, so we stand on the shoulders of giants and prevent ourselves from reinventing the wheel time and time again.

Something that is also incredibly valuable to watch is the evolution of apps or services (again, both in terms of product and design). We tend to forget that for a product or service to become as successful as they are today, often there have been hundreds or thousands of iterations based on the learnings a team made when working on their product.

I think this space deserves a product to cover something for these needs, so below I’ll try to describe this in more depth and even answer some Lean Canvas questions!

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Colliding heads, a still from an animation video

Hyper-realistic 3D animated human-like creatures

Ever since @marcohamersma pointed me to Going to the Store, I’m hooked on this kind of 3D art. I can’t explain why it’s so mesmerizing to me, as it makes many other people quite uncomfortable.

I was very happy to have found some more lately, and even more so to collect a bunch of those videos here to show you.

Here it is, a list of my favorite uncomfortable, hyper-realistic, human-like 3D animations. Be sure to check out the individual artists, because there is much more to be discovered that will keep you watching for a while longer!

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On attention management & owning your content

The internet became a terrible place. It seems that today we need to give our data, content and attention to others in order to receive a virtual form of social affirmation. This is my answer to that.

Attention as a currency

I don’t like this. I have trouble managing my attention and I noticed I started to develop several nervous habits. I am a child of the internet, a true early adopter. Hence I used to be an avid user of any services that had gained traction. It was interesting to see platforms rise to the liking of the crowds, but also to see them disappear again to be forgotten.

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Becoming a father a.k.a domain squatting starts early.

Landing page teunvanderven.com

Since a couple of months we’ve been anxious, excited and proud. A new human was about to be born, but most importantly; it would be our human.

We quickly learned that the old-school Dutch name “Teun” is a little complicated to pronounce for non-Dutch speakers. Luckily we could do something about that. Borrowing some code I’ve previously wrote on Music Hack Day projects, we’ve whipped up this little landing page to help people to learn how to pronounce his name.

Of course we’ve registered his name as a domain. So, a little landing page, a little domain, here’s to you little man: https://www.teunvanderven.com.

The Media Manifesto (2007)

My early learnings as an online media consultant still seem valid. As the current market is changing at a maddening pace I thought it relevant to write a retrospect.

In 2007 I had my first job at a publisher, Techmedia. It was a small company (±6 people) and we worked with a network of freelancers to publish a young brand called Bright. We worked on a magazine, weblog, video podcast and even a TV show. I was really excited about the market we were in, traditional publishers were just starting to understand what was coming and we had the opportunity to alternate between these two worlds: online and traditional media. We were creating branded entertainment, sponsored stories and set up barters with similar outlets in the market.

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On diversity and the stories we’re being told

I’ve always been fascinated by stories and what they do with us. Our thoughts, our characters, our experiences. Stories shape who we are and who we’re becoming. I was really inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who opened my eyes with her talked on the danger of a single story.

A single story emphasises on how we are different, rather than how we are similar.

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