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Working Effectively

Libraries are filled with books on how to work better. One of the best ones is ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. Liferay invested significantly in the 7 Habits training for offices in Hungary and Diamond Bar, and this investment will scale as Human Resources can coordinate the efforts. We encourage everyone to read this book, as it is something you can expense.

These are our four keys to working effectively as a Designer at Liferay.

1. Plan

As the saying goes, ‘failure to plan is a plan for failure’ — so plan everything. At the beginning of the year, meet with your manager and set goals. Meet quarterly and see where you are, what tasks and milestones you need to accomplish your goals for the year. You should meet monthly or biweekly with your project teams to plan out your sprints. You should set aside some time to plan each workweek. Set aside time to focus on the daily tasks, but also prioritize time to work towards your larger career goals.

Set aside time each day to plan it out — when you’re just starting out, it would be beneficial to sync on a call with your manager the first few times, to figure out what works best for your scenario. If you’re a remote veteran — you’re probably already doing this.

2. Focus

Working outside of a traditional office setting can give you an instant advantage for focus — you don’t have to worry about the potential distractions inherent in open office plans. Of course, there are new distractions at home — laundry, dishes, television — but we’ve found that by hiring the right nerds and giving them fulfilling and engaging projects, they’re more likely to work too much rather than not enough.

In this digital age where it seems like everything is designed for optimal distraction, the ability to focus is a differentiator. This is a recurring theme in Cal Newport’s work. This is not a novel, revolutionary, or controversial idea. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on the internet before getting distracted by some sort of notification. You also don’t need to go far to find ‘thought leadership’ pieces on the values of ‘social media sabbaths’ or going ‘off the grid’ — yet those temporary measures alone are not enough — to truly achieve focus, we need to change our paradigm.

If you’re new to the concepts of minimizing digital distraction, be sure to read up on it and take action; customize your notification settings, and block out time in your calendar for highly effective work.

3. Communicate

Highly effective communication skills are a must, especially for designers, the following are from the Liferay Communication Guidelines.

All communication at Liferay should be governed by these four principles:

  1. Kind

    Written communication is tricky and easy to misinterpret — at Liferay, this is further complicated by the fact that we are an international company spanning various cultures. Therefore, take the extra effort to be polite. On the other side, assume the best intent — seek first to understand, then be understood. Be direct and clear with feedback, but don’t unnecessarily call people out publicly, approach them 1-on-1.

  2. Relevant

    Respect people’s time — get to the point quickly and succinctly. This will require practice and editing, so before hitting enter on a message, take a minute to edit and consider adding:

    1. Structure, where necessary — using ordered lists will help you organize information better and makes replying easier
    2. Emphasis, where helpful
    3. 🙂 (emoji), for all kinds of reasons — keep your cultural context in mind, as emoji meanings aren’t universal.
  3. Open

    Before posting a question or providing an answer, consider if your message would be more beneficial to a wider (or narrower) audience, and adjust appropriately.

    From creating meetings to starting conversations, strive to be as inclusive as possible. Keep written communication in English as much as possible. Private conversations are easier held in your native language, and that’s ok, but all public channel discussion should be held in English for optimal searchability.

  4. Proactive

    Communication always involves two parties, a transmitter and a receiver. Both parties should assume responsibility by keeping the following questions in mind:

    1. Has this been asked or shared before?

      Pro-actively undertake an appropriate amount of due-diligence before asking someone else for their time — Google, Loop, Slack all have a search function 🙂.

    2. Is this relevant?

      Always Be Considerate of your audience — don’t share information too broadly or too narrowly. Only share confidential information with the appropriate people.

    3. How can I help people in the future find this information?

      If your communication is happening in an inaccessible channel (email, private group, private channel, etc) but the outcome is beneficial (think: relevant, necessary, enlightening, educational, or guidance, etc) for a wider audience, document the communication in a way that it can be found by said audience (for example, post it or hold the discussion in a public channel or make an announcement of conclusions).

4. Collaborate

Good teamwork is critical to our success — good collaboration is a key to synergy, when we work together we can combine ideas and create a third way that is better than just the sum of the parts. For good collaboration to happen, these are some of the things that are required:

  1. Common goals
  2. Embrace differences
  3. Be humble
  4. Never dismiss an idea
  5. Share

A critical part of effective work is sharing; ideas, wins, losses, frustrations, gratitude — as a team distributed all over the world, sharing generously is key to helping us all grow and get better.

Each team will operate differently, depending on their region, product, project, or status — some general guidelines we have for helping teams stay productive:

  1. Stand Up at the beginning of the week — this should take no longer than 20 minutes for the team to share what their planning for the week, share blockers and ask for help.
  2. Midweek Critique — this can be a longer gathering, schedule 1-2 hours for this, teams can share work in progress and get good feedback.
  3. Weekly Review — this can be done entirely in Slack, at the end of your day on Friday share with your team a quick recap of your week, share what you accomplished, give kudos, let people know what you didn’t get to this week, and share any blockers.
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