This is the work blog for the KDE Visual Design Group a group of dedicated designers striving to improve community participation in design for KDE as well as design work in general for KDE applications and Plasma.

tisdag 28 januari 2014

Time, saying No and respecting both.

In which we talk about the work done so far, my run in with stress and time, respecting others and caring for your own. The value of knowing when to say "no".

Creative Commons SA - Pixabay

In the last weeks its been a ton of work for me personally. The first trembling touching contacts between the people who make up the Visual Design Group has been done, people are talking, contacts with the UI design group has been set up and I talked to allot of people with experience with design within Open Source projects in general and KDE in specific to get some suggestions, ideas and feedback (as well as old war stories). At the same time the icon work had to move forward as well as some logos that had to be done and lets not forget the looming ever present sword of Damocles that is the Visual Guidelines document. 
The list of things that needs to be done within the Visual Design Group grows bigger every day and we are moving ever closer to D-day. This not mentioning the AFK work I've done (three freelance gigs, applications to be finished and that darn university course I decided to take (I thought well "Communication Theory and Journalism" how hard can that be? :-) ))

This is not me complaining, I rejoice having too little time and too many things to do. 

Actually the issue is that I (like many designers, and I suspect many others as well) tend to like that sensation a little bit too much. We say "Yes" because we want to help and we say "yes" because we enjoy the sensation of working. 


For me this all came to a head about one and a half year ago. I was working four different rather well paying projects while at the same time attending a university course and had allot of relevant personal projects going at the same time. 
One morning, on the tram, my brain stopped. I freaked out. Humans scared me, I felt nauseous and it felt like I was about to die. This was the first time I had ever had something like this happen and it wasn't until about a month later that I got the question during a doctors visit "Have you been stressed recently?".
It turned out to be simple stress that kicked off agoraphobia. I couldn't fly, go on trams or busses and I suddenly couldn't stand large groups of people. Strangers freaked me out to no end. 
Now I tried telling her that I wasn't "BAD stressed" just "GOOD stressed" because I really felt good doing what I did. But to her credit she said "Bullshit, its all stress. You just like how it feels initially because you know that you'll get the euphoric sensation when its done, you're just addicted to it". For me this last year and a half has been a lesson in not doing more than I can handle. Combined with some medication and self-training the agoraphobia is under control and I can do things.
But my most relevant lesson was the capacity of saying "No". Being ok with people being upset that I don't do what they ask me. 

How does this all apply to us in KDE? Well this is the first big thing that I will try to get the younger designers on the Visual Design Group to employ: their ability of saying "No". I've spent the last week writing emails that essentially boil down to "No" to allot of requests to help out with visual design.

"Then why even have a Visual Design Group if they keep saying no to helping out with my problems?" - because its not just you, there are hundreds of issues and details that need help and work. If I could guarantee you that you would get help in time, I'd say "yes". If there was a hundred designers, there would be allot of "yes'es" but there isn't. But more importantly when I (or someone else) says "We can't do it now but I'll write it down" it doesn't mean we'll ignore you. I actually DO write it down and keep it in a list to be ticked off one by one in the future. 

Open Source relies in the kindness of skilled people - from the work on the Linux kernel, via the devs that are working on KDE and marketers to visual and UI designers working away to fix all the tiny problems that crop up and try to create something appealing and usable for us all to work on. The vast majority of us do this on our spare time. Some of us work within our field, others study, others do different things AFK but very tiny minority get paid working with this huge communal project that affects us all that is KDE.
The younger you are the quicker you tend to say "yes" to every bit of work coming your way. It may be ambition, it may be kindness but it will almost always be combined with that feeling of elation and happiness you get when you have allot to do. This affects every step of the process, in every aspect of work that goes into KDE and Open Source.


What does this mean to you? It means "Respect a No". Its not a personal attack and its not a snub. It simply means "I do not have the time right now". If you get a no from the Visual Design Group, it means "Sorry we don't have the time now, I'll sincerely look into it later". Please respect that.


If you are a developer, designer or marketer, what should this mean to you? It means "say no". Its ok. Do the work you have first before starting something new, give yourself time to do nothing in your spare time. Don't say yes to be nice, say yes because you KNOW you can do it in time. Don't take chances with your calendar, try to look at it pragmatically. "Am I certain I have the time for this?" if thats not a resounding "yes" - say no. Respect others time but also remember to respect your own.
If you notice that you've said yes to too many people - pick out the ones you need to do first and then write the others personally explaining why they will either have to find someone else or expect it to be late. This really is the last resort and should only happen a few times since it means "You really gotta say no more" - but sometimes it has to be done. It'll feel horrible, some may get upset, but it has to be done. 

We only have one lifetime, we gotta be careful how we treat it.

Ok so this wasn't that inspiring perhaps - next blog post will be about the individual members of the Visual Design Group and the call for MORE designers. I'll also try to go through all the things we're doing at the moment.

2 kommentarer:

  1. This is good advice. But all the mails that you get really shows that your effort is appreciated and that there is a great need of visual design. So please continue to say no and do what you can. It's so much better than getting overloaded and then quit.

  2. Wonderful post, so full of truth! I was actually getting a bit concerned when I saw how many things you are doing and planning to do within KDE, but now I'm assured that you won't overwork yourself. saying "No" is indeed crucial. And I don't think people will react negatively when you or your team tells them "No, sorry, we currently don't have the capacity to do it".
    What people don't like is being ignored. It appears to me that people who have not learned to say "No" choose to ignore requests instead because that feels easier. However, being ignored is a lot more annoying than being told "No". With a "No", you know where you're at, and you can look for alternatives. If you get no reaction, you don't know whether you will get a "Yes" soon or just nothing. Even bad news is better than no news at all, at least in this regard.