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Planning your work day

Only plan for 4-5 hours of real work per day.

― David Heinemeier Hansson, 37signals

This quote has a lot of truth in it, at least as far as my own work day goes. I once read (not sure where) another good piece of advice I tend to stick to: plan only what you can fit onto a post-it. This is also very useful to keep realistic goals.

Whether working on small scale or large scale projects, keeping things in perspective is very important for me. I can sometimes lose the perspective, especially during projects that I work on for extensive periods of time, if I don’t keep proper track of my work. In that case, it often feels like I’m standing still. It’s not a particularly nice feeling, busting your ass for weeks and weeks, and not have the satisfaction of feeling good progress.

My day usually consists of 4-5 hours of actual work I plan in the tickets. The rest gets filled with meetings, research, correspondence, and so on. I try to avoid longer work days because I don’t think they are particularly healthy. Your relationships might suffer, your body might, but your future work might, as well. Leaving enough room for reading and learning is imperative in the web industry.

Planning my tasks first thing in my work day is a good strategy. Besides using a ticketing system (my frontend team usually uses the feature-packed Assembla, while I sometimes use Trello), I like to keep a private, simple todo.md file, where I keep track of my own stuff (idea via Carl Sednaoui). Here’s what might be inside:

# 05. 04. 2014. - Project Name

[x] - first todo item
[ ] - second todo item

Simple, but effective. A list like this helps me review my work (and remind me what to write in git commits!). I simply add an “x” when I complete a task. At the end of the day, I have a clear idea of the stuff I did. Whatever I did not manage to complete, I switch to the next day. A system like this teaches you what you can fit into your work day and not go overboard.

Self-doubt

Found a quote I liked very much over at Merlin’s.

Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are.

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

Design with CSS in mind

A piece of advice to fellow designers: when working on a design for your web project, always try to think one step ahead. Try to think within the boundaries of code and about the process of modules being translated into HTML and CSS. It can save you a lot of time and headache. Ideally, work closely with the developers and iterate to produce best results.

Take a look at one of the icons I created for a web app I have been working on recently with the guys at neno:

CA app date icon

It’s an icon representing a date, as you may have guessed. This icon can be done with pure CSS and that is exactly how our front end team executed it. A little bit of rounded borders here, and a little bit of pseudo-content there. In case you’re curious, here’s our SCSS:

.location-navigation-count {
    position: relative;
    width: 44px;
    height: 44px;
    margin-right: 15px;
    margin-right: 1.5rem;
    text-align: center;
    background: $blue-dark-2;
    color: $white-1;
    @include border-radius(10px);

    &:before {
        content: '';
        position: absolute;
        top: 50%;
        left: 0;
        width: 100%;
        height: 1px;
        margin-top: -1px;
        background: $gray-1;
    }
}

I could have just as easily designed a different and more complex icon, but that maybe couldn’t have been done with just CSS and we would have been forced to export an SVG icon. That would take more time to implement and make the module more complex, more difficult to iterate, lengthen load time, etc. So, there you have it. The next time you design a comp, try to design with CSS in mind and make life a little bit easier for you and your team.

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