As I type this, I’m into the last 2 hours of my flight home from Las Vegas, having spent six days there for #data19, Tableau’s annual conference.
Talking to some of my old and new friends and reflecting on the week in Vegas made me think there is a need for a little reminder. A reminder that you don’t have to do it all.
In the next few days you will see a lot of people blogging about their experience at Tableau Conference, recapping what they learned, whom they met, what they did and what they’re ‘taking home with them’. You’ll also see a lot of resolutions and plans by people for building their skills and growing their network between now and the conference in 2020.
I love reading those blogs and learning about each person’s experience at TC. At the same time, I know that being surrounded by all this energy and enthusiasm can feel like a lot of pressure to live up to those expectations and to almost ‘compete’ just to keep up with what everyone else is doing.
You don’t have to, it’s okay to not do it all.
As someone who regularly overcommits and overextends herself, I have come close to burnout several times and thankfully I am learning from those ‘close calls’ and paying better attention to how I spend my time and energy. But I know full well how it feels when you think you are not doing enough even though you are doing all you can.
I am sure that TC inspired you a lot. It’s almost impossible not to. There is such a buzz, such an energy and excitement everywhere, you learn a lot, you meet people, you hear their stories and you participate in all sorts of data related activities that inspire you to implement them back home within the companies where you work.
We had around 1600 people join #MakeoverMonday last Tuesday and it felt extremely energizing to see so many of you interested in our project. Of course, I would love to see a surge in participation as well as new ‘Makeover Monday initiatives’ popping up around the globe.
But there were also other sessions people attended and between Makeover Monday, Workout Wednesday, Sports Viz Sunday, Viz for Social Good, IronQuest, Project Health Viz, Data Plus Women, Tableau User Groups, Braindates, hackathons and meetups – well, where do you even start?
You know that you have the freedom to choose what to do and I want to add a reminder here that you also have the permission to not do it all, because sometimes it helps when someone else says publicly that it’s okay to choose your own adventure, even if everyone else is doing it differently.
You can commit to all the social projects, start a new TUG, participate in every Ironviz Feeder and spend a day each week teaching children about data. Amazing! But realistically, you will run out of steam very quickly and I’d hate for people to then abandon their engagement altogether because it was all too much.
So, I want to suggest a few ways that help me keep the buzz alive, keep energized and engaged without overcommitting myself and stressing myself out.
Write some notes
I received a little moleskin notebook from a customer during TC and funnily enough I was looking for a notebook right at that time, so it was an extremely practical gift to get.
I am a big fan of writing notes by hand. I write down ideas and stuff I plan to do and with this notebook I will start planning out the important stuff for the next few days, weeks and months.
Right now I have a lot of ideas for #data20 and the things I want to change there with regard to Makeover Monday, the way I approach conference and some of the stuff I would do differently when it comes to my/our role as a sponsor at the event.
Writing down notes in no particular order helps me collect my thoughts and get them out on paper. I prefer pen and paper because I have spent so much time staring at screens this week and it also commits stuff to memory better for me when I handwrite it.
Consider the value of things
I don’t like the phrase ‘I’m busy’. Yes, I typically have a lot of stuff to do at any one point, but to me that is simply the nature of working and filling my days with the things I love.
To me ‘I’m busy’ always sounds like I’m doing a lot of stuff but not necessarily the right stuff. So whenever I get a chance over the next few days and weeks, I try to focus on value. It is easy to get swept up in the excitement and ‘sign up’ for lots of extra initiatives and activities. They are always valuable but sometimes not in the way I need them to be right now.
I know I would gain a lot of value from participating in Workout Wednesday, but I can’t commit to it at this point, because I have a number of projects that I am about to start that will take up my time and focus.
I know that equally, I would love to participate in an Ironviz feeder to challenge myself, but I have not managed to free up the time in the past.
And it’s not just about time. For me it is also about value. These projects deliver massive value to the community but the value I can bring to people is not as much in building a viz as it is in supporting others in their process of learning, developing and building their network.
The same holds true for Makeover Monday. I love leading this project and seeing it grow. You have probably noticed that my weekly submissions are fairly simple. That is by necessity and also because I like simple.
The value I bring to Makeover Monday is not in the vizzes I build. The value I bring is in the feedback I provide, the support I give and the connecting of people that I am always keen to facilitate. So I focus my energy and time on those aspects of the project. If I could spend all my free time helping people find each other for projects, job opportunities, exchanging ideas and creating things together, believe me, I would.
So when I feel like investing into a new project or initiative, participating in a challenge or saying ‘yes’ to some other form of commitment, my process always involves at looking at the value of it. Not just the value to myself but also the value to others. I get a real kick out of helping people and I want to maximize my ability to do that. My day has only 24 hours, so I need to spend them wisely. I cannot do everything and that is okay.
Having screen-free time
It is very easy to spend countless hours in front of our screens, working with data, building visualizations, blogging, watching videos and webinars. Those are all great ways to engage and learn and develop our skills.
For me, though, it is so important to spend time away from my computer and my phone. Because it helps me to love what I do.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder and so does taking breaks from ‘playing with data’. It helps us return to our projects and ideas refreshed and energized.
Screen-free time doesn’t mean we’re not part of this community. Something I really enjoy is meeting my mentees for lunch and we talk face-to-face (whaaaaaat?), we share food and ideas and I get to help them develop their personal and professional skills. I also hear about the things they find challenging and the stuff that excites them and in turn I learn so much.
Spending time in nature, admiring the beauty that surrounds me and enjoying some solitude is equally energizing for me. Whether it is my bike commute, a run on the weekend or just walking to the supermarket, it’s good to switch off from the digital world regularly so that it doesn’t become a drain.
Setting realistic goals
Coming home from conference can feel a little like the first of January where we’re fully motivated and eager to commit, start on and crush all our data-related goals. We’re going to build technical skills, soft skills, we’ll network, do public speaking, engage in social impact projects and of course we will watch ALL the sessions we missed.
Kudos to you if that’s what you will do. Just know that it’s okay to pace yourself.
My goal is to firstly make a plan for the things I can improve over the next 11 months. How can I improve Makeover Monday as a project? How can I make it more useful and helpful for more people? How can I make the Makeover Monday LIVE session at #data20 run more smoothly?
How can I better allocate my time during #data20 so that instead of a jam-packed meeting schedule I have the opportunity to attend a few more sessions? How can I support my team in being even more prepared?
It’s those questions I want to tackle first.
Next up for me is connecting with people I met. Doing this as a second step gives them a bit of time to ‘arrive at home’ before I reach out and it gives me a chance to collect my thoughts before contacting them.
And in third place is then the stuff that I want to do for myself, such as building technical skills, engaging in projects etc. And again, it must be realistic. Makeover Monday is my biggest commitment and one that I am not prepared to drop. So anything additional needs to fit around it.
If it helps, maybe write down your goals and put a time commitment next to each point to see what you can realistically achieve.
You don’t need to tell everyone about it
I am a huge fan of this community and I love the conversations that happen all the time. From personal experience with social media I also know how draining it can be to feel like you have to share everything you’re doing and seek ‘social approval’.
Three years ago, I deleted my Facebook account because it gave me no joy and instead it robbed me of my energy and instead filled my day with noise.
In March this year I deleted my Instagram account and over 1700 pictures I had published over the course of several years. Not only did Instagram take up too much of my time, scrolling through a feed of people’s perfect lives, but it also made me feel miserable at more occasions than is healthy and it made me take pictures for the sole purpose of sharing them on the app, rather than because I wanted to take a picture.
So with Facebook and Instagram gone, I saw much more clearly how stressful, annoying and draining it can be to have a social media tool that encourages sharing to the point that we feel this constant obligation to ‘report to our friends’ what we’re doing, whom we’re doing it with and how much we love it. Even if we don’t.
Everyone can do as they please, so don’t feel like you have to take the same steps as me. What I want to encourage you though is to share only what you’re comfortable sharing.
It is fairly easy to share a viz you have built on Twitter. But if you’d rather not share it publicly, that’s okay too. The community loves seeing everyone’s work but if you’re not quite ready yet, take your time.
It’s also not compulsory to share your ‘post-conference commitments’ online. Yes, doing so can be encouraging for sticking with your resolutions but I know that it can result in a stressful experience. It’s fine to simply do the things you want to do and plan to do and share those (or don’t) rather than talking a lot about it.
Hopefully during TC you had the opportunity to see Susan Cain’s keynote on the ‘quiet revolution’. Susan shared research findings and many relatable stories and ideas about introverts and extroverts.
I always considered myself an extrovert and I am certainly sociable and outgoing, but in the past few months I have discovered more and more that I have a number of introvert tendencies.
Ahead of TC I watched Susan’s TED talk and read a couple of her articles. Following the keynote I did the online quiz on her website and – tadaaaa – it turns out I am an ambivert and as much as I enjoy social situations, they can also be overwhelming at times.
I have come to value quiet time and solitude for getting things done, focusing and for getting into a flow state. I can’t do that when I’m surrounded by noise and physical or mental clutter.
Hearing Susan put many things into words and clear descriptions encouraged me to write this blog. I know us extroverts (and the extroverted sides of ambiverts) can get a bit ‘loud’ and overbearing for those who work differently, who want to take their time to work things through on their own before sharing it with the world – if they want to share it at all.
I also know that when we’re ‘loud’ and active and ever-present on social media with our ideas, commitments and all the stuff we do, it can feel intimidating, exhausting and maybe even discouraging.
But I don’t want people to feel discouraged just because they have a different style or a different pace. And that is why I felt this post was necessary.
We are part of a caring and giving community, one that has a lot to offer and that is full of smart people. There is A LOT you can get involved in today, tomorrow, next week and over the next 11 months.
Please know that you level of engagement and the commitments you might want to make are up to you, regardless of whatever everyone else is doing.
It is okay not to do it all.