When crap hits the fan

I’ll be totally transparent here.

I can’t write what I was planning on writing today. I’ll save that draft for another day. Not feeling it.

Today was a very difficult day at work.

Sidenote: JosephWalter.com is my side-hustle. My full-time job is Director of UX at an international company where I manage and lead teams of UX Product Designers and Architects. We support multiple websites and apps with millions of monthly users.

I thought I’d share from a few random thoughts going through my mind as I process how to work through these tough professional obstacles that popped up today.

This is the stuff I’m telling myself. Maybe it will be useful to you if you’ve been hit by a tough professional challenge in your design career.

1. Don’t do or say anything hasty

In the moment when tough obstacles hit there’s plenty of things that you probably want to do that aren’t constructive. Whether it’s pulling somebody aside to gossip, turning in your resignation, or firing off a reactive email or Slack comment… don’t do anything hasty or stupid that you’ll regret later. I wrote about staying calm and dealing with stress a few weeks ago.

2. Recalibrate

When you’re in the trenches at work and dealing with stressful or surprise challenges it can be easy to slip into a mindset where design projects feels like a serious life or death issue. Here’s a reminder that the problems you face at work aren’t actually that important in the context of life and family.

Any parent will cry if they read this tragic article of loss, but it will also put work back in perspective and remind you of what really matters.

3. Listen

Is there somebody else you could listen to who has perspective in this issue than you? Not somebody to go vent to, but somebody familiar enough with the context who can provide legitimate feedback and advice. Not somebody who gossips, but somebody trustworthy who would have legitimate advice that may or may not agree with you.

4. Sleep on it

For any designer obsessed with solving problems, sleeping on something without a resolution can be a real challenge. If your mind’s racing and you feel like the challenge must be solved today, then you know what I mean. The reality is, some things simply can’t be solved today. It’s probably okay to sleep on it and return to the challenge with a fresh perspective tomorrow.

5. Take responsibility

Avoid the blame game. Blaming others is an easy trap to fall into when we’re faced with a surprise issue. Take responsibility of your role in the issue in order to shift to a position of power where you can actually influence change. I wrote about this last week.

6. Take action

You don’t want to stay knocked down for too long when you get blindsided. You’ll need to get back on the horse. Usually sooner than later. Is it a situation where you can lean into the problem and take action to neutralize the issue? Even if it is a situation where it wouldn’t be prudent to take professional action, you at least need to take action mentally and overcome the issue. You don’t want to get mentally or emotionally stuck on something without dealing with it and moving on.

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