Rule 3: Keep your act together.
We know for our work to be at its best, we need to be at our best, and having a healthy work/life balance is key. With the freedom that our “mobile first” office allows, personal accountability, steady productivity, and open communication are essential to keeping our office running smoothly and drama free (a.k.a. keeping our act together).
“Keeping your act together” is all about communication. Communication is and always will be king, and we all hold court to keep the kingdom (i.e. our clients) as successful as possible.
Several years ago, my personal philosophy of what I wanted “work” to look like was stamped into my brain. It was a typical day, with deadlines looming and phones ringing and proposals going out and designs being designed…you get the idea. We had a young, hard working designer interrupt a phone call to ask me a simple question: “Can I schedule a dentist appointment for next Tuesday?” I thought to myself: “While I gladly encourage proper dental hygiene, there is nothing in the world right now that I care about less than your dentist appointment.” And I may have said that out loud…but in a good way. I realized in that split second that my concern, and the concern of Best Behavior, isn’t asses in seats from 9-5, but creative, quality work done when it needs to be done, and we’ve built that ethos into our company culture ever since.
In the grand scheme of the world, filled with dinosaurs, shifting tectonic plates, wars, and space ships, we’re a blip on the radar of time. A well-designed blip, but a blip nonetheless. That’s why taking a purposeful approach to work/life balance matters to us. Time is the only asset that we all share, and our time is limited, so we better make the most of it. HEAVY STUFF, right? That’s why we actually have specific tools that help keep the clock moving in our favor, and I wanted to cover a few while maintaining a Tony Robbins “staring directly into your eyes without blinking” motivational tone.
Time is the only asset that we all share, and our time is limited, so we better make the most of it.
How do we do it…and does it always work? Well, the first part is easy to answer – the tools (detailed below) that we use every day maximize our communication options and make the most value of our time. Notice I didn’t say efficient. We’re not a toothpaste factory. Creativity and real engagement can get messy, so does club rule #3 ALWAYS work? Nope. Like Iron Mike Tyson said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” We get it right most of the time, and knowing what “getting it right” looks like in the first place, forces us to look at our process if we find out something isn’t working or someone is working too much. And we’re always ready to punch back.
The actual tools of our trade are not as cool as real tools like hammers and reciprocating saws, but they help us build effective brands. I hesitated to use that metaphor but I’m going with it anyway, and I’m always interested in talking/sharing best practices; I’m sure I’ll leave something out, but here it goes. You’ll find that “the cloud” is our friend. It hasn’t been our enemy yet, and until Terminator actually happens, I’m in.
Basecamp is our virtual home base. or basecamp. I guess that’s why they named it that. Some of you probably use something like Microsoft Sharepoint, so imagine that, but not awful. We’ve been using Basecamp every day since 2010 for all of our clients, and we haven’t found a better tool to keep ourselves and our clients in the loop – Every message, every file, for every project is at our fingertips, so searching through cc’d and bcc’d emails is a time-waster that we avoid at all costs. Jason Fried, the founder of Basecamp, has been on my reading list for years now as well, with books like Rework and Remote: Office not Required – both of which question all the conventional wisdom of how a modern office “should” operate. One of my favorite quotes from Remote: “The new luxury is the luxury of freedom and time.” Amen.
Google isn’t just for looking up “recipes for kale” or “how to get rid of all this kale.” We use Google for business – including email, synced calendars, and Google Drive so that no matter where we are, we’ve got access to calendars, schedules, and important documents. They have now named it “G Suite” which makes me sad and slightly uncomfortable, but still, pretty handy.
Dropbox is where the magic lives. And by magic, I mean the ingredients that go into the design cauldron to make the things that we make. “Native files” live here (meaning the original files created in Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) so that anyone can jump into a project at any level. It’s worth noting that we back up files to a secure, earthbound hard drive so we can take all of our animated cat .gifs with us when the aliens come.
Slickplan is our infantry in the war of web design and development. It takes all of the tough questions that must be answered – from site navigation and content planning to usability – and makes it into an interactive smorgasboard of detail and consistency. Highly recommended.
Mailchimp is our favorite for email marketing. It’s intuitive to work with, it integrates into all kinds of customer resource management systems and online forms, AND it gives amazing reports. It also automates follow ups and keeps track of your most active readers. I give it 4 bananas out of 5. Because you just can’t get a perfect score.
WordPress is the lifeblood or the “back end” of every website we build. WordPress is a content management system that powers about 1/3 of the internet – as in the “whole internet” – and it’s open source, which means that there are literally people all over the world working on upgrades and functions that we haven’t even thought of yet. We build everything from scratch, and we haven’t hit a wall yet with it’s adaptability and intuitive use. I’m typing right now…in WordPress, so that means that I can update this website anytime. You’re welcome, Internet.
Adobe Creative Suite. Yes, It’s Photoshop…and InDesign…and Illustrator…and Premiere. I get it. We all know it and love it but with the new subscription model it’s…well…How about I just tackle this in another post. It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times…
Meetings. I’m not even linking to anything. Last but certainly not least, in the spirit of valuing our time, we also “meet” as little as possible. Tuesday mornings are reserved for status updates, and we like to do that in person just to say hello and drink decent coffee. Otherwise, unless we’re in a state of active collaboration (or yelling back and forth…I tend to use the whiteboard if there’s one around), we’re working on the tasks in front of us until it’s time to ask for feedback, which brings us back to our old friend, communication. Regardless of working mobile or right next to each other – it’s absolutely necessary to bring swift praise for a job done well, and constructive criticism when it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
I know that our processes may not be universally accepted, but they serve us, and our clients well. Be prepared, I’m going to quote myself from a couple of weeks ago. It’s kinda lame, but it fits so well I can’t resist, much like a well-placed metaphor. “In a creative environment, it’s especially important to be three things: OPEN to criticism, HONEST with everyone, and RESPECTFUL when you don’t agree.” Then…get back to work. We don’t hand out participation trophies.
Founder, Club President
If you’re hot and bothered, or want to share “how you keep your act together” – please email me and let me know all about it. In the meantime, while you’re internetting, hit Best Behavior up on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.