Listener questions: Advice for junior designers, activating empathy, work routine and more.

In this episode we will answer listener questions about content creation, the top 3 books I recommend to friends, advice for junior designers, how to get work done and my thoughts on being a “jack of all trades”.

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One of my favorite things to do are these shows where I am able to answer listener questions. I normally go through and create these shows in a vacuum so I love the moments when this is more of a conversation than a way one lecture. This show is built from questions people just sent me and some people who responded to my call for questions over social media,

Disclaimer!* – so sorry if pronounce someone’s name incorrectly. I did it in the past, I always feel horrible when I find out I did but please know I’m now doing it on purpose.

Question 1

When do you check email, get screen time, write new content, schedule social, etc? Do you schedule posts? Do you keep a content calendar?
From Daniel Herron

Try to keep a zero inbox so things don’t build up. Also, try to do as little as I can over email.

Screen time:
There is no substitute for doing actual work and a lot of it for me is in front of a screen. But work is the output of a much bigger process where you need to tend to your inspiration, process, insights and more. So for me, it isn’t about just the screen time but the overall balance of all these things so that the work that gets done is the best it can be.

Write new content:
I am constantly writing and doing it about 15-30 episodes at any given time
Raw, rough, needs polish and ready stages
I work this way on everything where I start with the big picture, refine that picture, try to break that picture, get to something I like and think is strong, and then dive into the details and execution

Schedule posts / content calendar:
I think I suck at social media. I know I should do things like sticking to a tighter theme, scheduling content, and all those things but I don’t. I publish content when I have something to say and I think those things have value. The world is full of people who say things with no value, repost others content with no commentary, collect followers and connections like it is their job so I am dedicated to not being one of those people. My hope is that in the long run this authenticity will pay off and it has but in a world where superficial and instant gratification content rules the day it can be a hard road to walk.

Question 2

What are the top three books you often gift to your friends/family/coworkers?
From Jayneil Dalal

My full list of books in on the Essential list on my podcast site so you can check those out there. The three books I have been reading or giving to people lately are…

Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership
Michael Ventura
CEO of Sub Rosa
Shares how empathy—the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes—could be what your business needs to innovate, connect, and grow.

Remote: Office Not Required
Jason Fried
Remote work increases the talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens the real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages.

What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People
Joe Navarro
explains how to “speed-read” people: decode sentiments and behaviors, avoid hidden pitfalls, and look for deceptive behaviors

Question 3

Any advice you would like to give to junior designers and interns who are starting their careers? How to deal with ambiguity, self-doubt and be more reflective?
From Rahul Jain

My advice is to embrace these things as they are going to be a constant throughout your career.

Ambiguity will be a constant because if our clients knew everything then we wouldn’t need us.
It is going to be a constant because creativity is a process that has infinite answers. So there will be ambiguity in all of it. My advice is to embrace it and find ways to be able to cut through it, know your process and work the problem from a lot of different angles so you can create some structure and possible solutions to the problem.

Self-doubt will be another constant
We are asked to do work that does not have a right answer and what we create comes from our experiences so it is personal to us. We are also people who look for patterns and insights which means we question everything. It is something I have struggled with but have found that stupid people are successful because they don’t have self-doubt. Too many smart people don’t succeed because of self-doubt.

Question 4

How to go about activating behaviors like curiosity, empathy, courage & trust in large organizations.
From Anca Lordache

This is a great question that has a complex answer.

Curiosity: Hiring and norms you establish
Behaviors like this are really hard to teach and bring out in people and teams that don’t have it. One way is to make sure behaviors like this are a priority in your hiring process. Another way is to look at the norms you establish for your team and your company.

Empathy: Design Thinking
Empathy is the core of Design Thinking and it is the best way I know to institutionalize it in your company and your team

Courage and trust: Be a real leader, walk your talk and executive godfather
This is another one it is something that isn’t going to happen quickly. Start by making sure you are a real leader who prioritizes these behaviors and makes sure you protect them. That happens by making sure you walk your talk and do what you say. Also look for an executive godfather who will look out for you and your team so you have the room to be able to do this work.

Question 5

How to focus on a single task and fight constant mode switching?
From Todd Schomer

For me, that constant mode switching is a fact of life so there is no fighting it. But there can be some controlling it. I do 2 things.

The first I talked about in the first question where I will capture big ideas and then work them up over time so I am able to keep work moving and make the most of time when I can get it

The other thing I do is that I know the problem and put things I place to be able to deal with it. I put time on my calendar for meetings that are just called ‘work’ or even ‘eat’

I also make sure that I focus on what matters. I list 2-4 things that are truly important every week for me to work on so I can use that as a focus for the majority of my time and then let everything else fill up the rest of the time

Question 6

How do you feel about being “a jack of all trades” compared to specializing in one style or discipline?

Looking through popular artists on Instagram, successful ones seem to work in one style, producing similar work that’s easily identifiable. The positive I see is that they really establish their “brand.” You can always pick out their work. However, I tend to be (and look for others who are) “T-shaped” – can do several things well, but also specialize, or have a strong background/style, in one thing. So, my feed or portfolio may be a mix of design and styles – from illustration to layout, and hand lettering.

From Corey George

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