Do Less, Not More in 2016

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”- Dr. Seuss

Too many people in both small and large organizations create a lot of extra work for themselves. They pump out content, send a flurry of mass emails, and rapidly develop services or products. I see lots of activity without enough planning, thought, or research. This often leads to poor results. Busyness isn’t productivity.

In 2016, I hope you do less, not more. Do whatever you do with care, thought, and deliberation. Make sure what you are creating will have impact. Don’t create unnecessary work for yourself.


Before creating an article, a product, a service, or anything else, ask yourself critical questions such as:

  • Who is this for?
  • How do we know they want it?
  • How long will this take to make?
  • Does this help us reach our business goals?
  • Is it worth the time?
  • Do we have the time?
  • How will we measure results?

Here are my other hopes for you in 2016:

Have a communication plan for this year. It doesn’t have to be long. A one page document with goals, target audiences and key messages can be sufficient. Plan what you are doing instead of taking haphazard actions. I did my communication plan for the year the other day in an hour. Download an example of a simple communication plan template here.

Go for quality not quantity. Whatever you plan to do online, go for quality not quantity. With digital content, especially for professional services organizations, this will serve you well. I encourage you to have short headlines, clear navigation, and straightforward language. Keep it simple and meaningful. Dump the marketing fluff. Here are 5 ways to give your website some love. Or check out my 2015 website tips that are still super relevant.

Don’t guess what the people you serve want. Talk with them, ask them, and study them. You’ll be much better at delivering items that are valued. Many companies create services or products based on intuition or false assumptions. I haven't seen it work well.

Be choosy about what ideas you execute. Ideas can be a dime a dozen. Next time you have a great idea, do some research to try to confirm it. Is it really great? Are you able to do it? Is it worth the effort? Remind me to tell you about my company called Recycled Sequins sometime. Great idea (I had a awesome tagline!), never executed (it saved me hours of work and frustration.)

Aim for joy. I hope you like what you are doing with your work life. If you don’t, what can change? Life is short, the first few days of 2016 are already gone! How are you going to spend your time?

I'll be doing more UX research and content strategy this year. Let me know if I can help you.

Wishing you a thoughtful, careful, and deliberate 2016!

4 Lessons from Yoga for UX Research

For three days after each yoga class, I was sore to the point of limping. It took me two years of classes to realize that’s not how I should feel afterwards. I finally learned that my classmates were not sharing my experience. They felt great the next day. I had applied my soccer training mentality to yoga. Push harder, go farther, do more. It worked for me in soccer. Not so much in yoga. I’m still learning through yoga 15 years later. Recently I’ve thought about how it has helped me become a better UX researcher.

This is what I’ve learned:

1. Embrace silence. It’s fun to be immersed in a yoga class with music. But there are some things I only get from holding a pose in silence. In that silence I can give my full attention to my body. I can also watch my thoughts. I'm 100% present and engaged.

When I’m conducing user research interviews, the silence before a vulnerable story is told is precious. If I break that silence, I may squelch a critical insight. I must give interviewees time to breathe and think. Silence is necessary in an interview just as white space is needed on a website. I keep my mouth shut, try to get my colleagues to shut theirs, and let interviewees do the talking.

Hotasana is a great place to take yoga classes, but I'm hoping they remove their auto-rotating carousel from their homepage soon. 

Hotasana is a great place to take yoga classes, but I'm hoping they remove their auto-rotating carousel from their homepage soon. 

2. Open your mind each day. My yoga teachers remind me that just because I could do a pose yesterday doesn’t mean I can do it today. And if I couldn’t do it yesterday, perhaps today I’ll have a breakthrough. I must drop my preconceived ideas of what yoga practice will look like on any given day. When I get on my mat, I approach the practice with a curious and open mind. I don’t know how body will feel and what I will learn that day.

Likewise, when I'm interviewing, I aim to drop my biases and assumptions as much as possible. Maybe this feature isn’t in fact the right one to build next. Perhaps the website doesn’t need a total reorganization. Maybe that obnoxious stakeholder does have an excellent point.

3. Care for yourself. It’s not anyone else’s job to take care of me. It’s my job. I’m 40, not 4. Yoga teachers remind students to listen to their body and modify poses when necessary. Yoga isn’t a “push through at all costs” type of activity, it’s mindfulness practice. I can apply this to my work.

If I’m overwhelmed, tired, hungry, or angry, I need to care for myself and stop working for a bit. The UX project isn’t going to improve by “powering through” it. If I step away from the project, the next indicated step may become clear.

I also need to be in good health, mentally and physically, when I am interviewing users in order to do my best work. Getting enough sleep, taking care of bodily needs and preparing ahead of time are all necessary to succeed.

4. Practice for progress, not perfection. Yoga isn’t about achieving the perfect pose. I don’t really believe there is a perfect pose anymore. Yoga is about practicing, growing, stretching, strengthening, caring, and calming. The goal is progress.

The same is true for UX. People and devices are dynamic—perfection will always be elusive. In my job, I focus on testing UX websites or apps so we can figure out what is and isn't working. We can then make informed design decisions. Hopefully with each new adjustment, we make progress toward improving the UX.

I have much more to learn, both about yoga and UX, so I’m going to keep practicing daily.

What are you practicing each day?

Five Business Lessons from the US Women’s National Soccer Team


I learned as much from playing soccer in college as I did in the classroom. I was trained in discipline, teambuilding, humility and hard work as I practiced and played consistently for those four years. These skills are more transferable to my work life than most of what I learned from my teachers (excellent as they were.) Now in a career as a content strategist and UX specialist, I continue to be inspired by the US women’s national soccer team (USWNT).

Here are five things the US soccer stars continue to teach me about business:

1. Perform no matter what’s going on outside the office. US goalkeeper Hope Solo, despite all her drama, shows up ready to play. She is 100% focused. Solo leaves her personal problems off the field. Does this mean you act like a robot at work? No. It means being fully in the present moment—not thinking about what’s happening before work or after work or at another location.

It takes practice to pull yourself back into the present moment when your mind wanders. If an outside issue is really affecting the quality of your work and ability to be present, take time off to address the situation.

2. Be authentic. Still fairly uncommon in athletics, US midfielder Megan Rapinoe has been out of the closet to the general public since an interview in 2012. Stop trying to be anything else but you—fully, completely you. Don’t copy others, and don’t suppress who you are. Find your unique identify as an employee or business, and seek the right surroundings where you can be yourself. Doing anything else leads to stress and isn’t sustainable.

3. Lose the ego. Unlike many other professional athletes, the US Women’s Soccer team members don’t seem driven by ego. Jeff Van Gundy, a former NBA coach who hosts two USWNT players as guests during their professional season, told USA Today:

“The utter lack of sense of entitlement was actually startling for me. For professional athletes, I always think about it in these terms: the most difficult diva of women’s soccer would be the easiest NBA player ever.”

In business, don’t let your ego get in the way of accepting responsibility and working together to do what needs to get done. Treat others respectfully as collaborators. Don’t demand that your way is always the right way—keep an open mind to new ideas. See what you can learn from those around you.

4. Stop complaining. A major difference between the ladies in the Women’s World Cup and professional men’s soccer players is how they act on the field. Whining to the referee, taking dives, acting hurt when not and general babyish behavior are part of the men’s game but rarely seen when the women play.

Don’t complain at work about how much stuff you have to do, your boss, or your coworkers. I remember listening to a co-worker in San Diego whine on and on about the management, and I thought, “We live in the US, you are well-educated, so go get another job if you dislike it so much.” People don’t like to listen to complaining, and it won’t help you in your career.

5. Cultivate grit. When the US team wins, it isn’t always pretty. Abby Wambach, the most prolific goalscorer to ever play for the US, will readily admit that her goals aren't necessarily lovely—but they still count. She is known for her perseverance and courage, the characteristics that combine for grit.

Showing up consistently every day, striving to be better, working hard, not giving up when things seem challenging - these characteristics pay off. More wins come from grinding work than flashy moments.

Today the USWNT team will take on Germany in the semifinal of the World Cup. Whether they win or not, they’ve once again inspired me with their hard work this tournament.

What have you learned from the USWNT?

Snow Down, Slow Down

Handprint in SnowAs much as I dislike the cold weather, when snow falls, we all slow down here in the South — and that I secretly love. We have to pause because most of us don’t have experience driving in snow, and our area isn’t well prepared for “wintry mix” or serious snowstorms. There’s usually a flurry of activity at the grocery store in the 24 hours before a storm, but then a hush falls over the town I live in.

There is great value in this forced slowing down.

When I think about websites, content and technology, I deeply believe the best experiences don’t come from hurrying. I’m not just talking about the final results — perhaps a beautiful, responsive website — but also the process for the people who create these things.

There is a quote I love that I refer to often:

“We live by slowing down and saying with our lives that the world will not be saved by frantic activity.” – Stanley Hauerwas, theologian, Duke University

This is written on top of my digital to-do list. When I’m hurrying to create content, it’s not fun. It's evident in the final product. I do better work when I listen, consider, reflect, reconsider, then act.

Especially on social media, it can feel like lot of pressure to produce things quickly – for example, another blog post or more tweets. “Don’t just sit there, do something!” sometimes seems to be the message.

But when I look at the people and organizations I really value, they aren’t bombarding me with information or running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Two examples come to mind:

  1. Smashing Magazine who only emails me once a month with a newsletter. I look forward to it because I know it will have thoughtful, interesting and useful content in it.
  2. Twitter member and usability expert Steve Krug tweets every few days or less. I like reading what he tweets out, and I don't need him to tweet 5 times a day.

Much of the time on Twitter and other online spaces, there are organizations and people spewing information about nothing of value. If I came across these overly talkative folks at a party, I would likely scoot to the other side of the room.

Now you can be that person at the party who talks all the time to hear themselves talk, or you could be the person who speaks up less frequently, more deliberately and more thoughtfully. At least for many professional service businesses and organizations, the second option may serve them best (e-commerce might be another story). I value those people who are ok with the silence and the slowing down, who trust that frantic activity isn’t going to make our websites better or our lives better or the whole world better.

I vote we slow down more frequently to do more impactful work and have more meaningful conversations. We can make this world a better place to be.

Let it snow!

Less Computer Time, More Productivity

Like many others, I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. It's increased since I've begun freelancing since I do more work and have less meetings in person than before. But I've been noticing something cool: The less time I spend sitting in front of my computer, the more things I get done in a day. 

I've been switching my schedule around and taking more breaks. One reason is to interact with others more since I feel isolated sometimes as a freelancer. Another is simply to meet the personal needs I have. Here's a typical schedule lately:

7:15am - 9:00am work

BREAK - find new location to work in

9:20am - 11:00am work

BREAK - meditate for 20 minutes

11:30am - 12:30pm work

BREAK - walk and get my daughter from pre-school and down for a nap

1:15pm - 3:00pm eat lunch and work

BREAK - 3:00pm - 7:15pm family time

7:15 - 9:30pm work more if necessary or do something fun

I'm getting a ton done by working in 60 - 120 minute intervals instead of trying to power through 3 or 4 hours straight. Sometimes I break to meditate, to go to the gym, to take the dog for a walk, or to step out of the coffeshop to phone a friend. It works! Higher productivity, less stress.

Want to learn more about this topic? See this NY Times article on mental concentration and taking breaks.

And let me know if you've had the same experience or something different!

Now for a longer break for the holidays!

Om into Productivity

My productivity and focus increased by about 40% after I meditated for 20 minutes today. In a short period, I wrote a bio for one website, finalized the schedule for a new website project, thanked a referral source, and did some research. And I had fun doing it. That is all. Om!