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Senior Product Designer at Dialpad; formerly Stack Overflow Joined over 6 years ago via an invitation from Matt G.
At Stack Overflow, we created a base modal style that had minimal styles applied by default. Then other components were placed within it as needed. Most of the time, most modals were composed of a headline, copy, maybe some inputs, and couple action buttons.
@Casey — How often does your team meetup in person?
Re: Setting work hours— Yes, this is a temptation—especially if you enjoy your work. "Just five more minutes…" turns into another hour too many times. The thing that has helped me here are two things:
1. Set working hours for yourself—and keep them! There will always be days where your schedule may change, but for the most part lock in a limit. For me it's 8:30am-5:30pm. When 5:30pm comes around, I stop working. Everything will be there tomorrow. Nothing will burn down. You need to make sure your leaving margin in your life for others and yourself outside of work.
2. Have a dedicated work area. Some people I know like to move around the house all day depending on how they feel. I find when I do that, it's hard for me to disconnect after-hours. Instead I have a dedicated work area where I always work when I'm home and when I'm done I walk away and try to stay away from that area when I'm not working.
Re: Isolation / Human interaction— If you're a person who feeds off of interacting with others, I'd recommend looking into a coworking space—at least a day or so a week. If you don't want to make a commitment like that, at least designate a day you try and go to a favorite coffee shop. Look for local freelancer groups on Meetup or other websites to meet up with. That helped me a lot when I first made the transition to remote. Now I don't need it as much, but I still try and get out every couple of weeks. Also I've found other ways to get out, like joining a gym and attending classes.
@Matt — I didn't use any tools unique for remote teams. Remote team members formalize your communication process further. I still used Google Docs, Calendar, Gmail, Slack, Trello, GitHub, JIRA, etc like when I was in an office.
Re: Working across timezones— Again here is making sure you document and communicate progress, ideas, and roadblocks to your teammates so they can respond when they're able to. You can still communicate that you need feedback within a certain amount of time, but you're also accommodating their schedule and work hours as well.
Re: Not feeling trapped in your house— When I was first starting out, the best advice I got was to get out at least once a week to stave off cabin fever. I found a group of local freelancers and other remote workers and we scheduled weekly meetups. I don't get out as much anymore, but I've also gotten used to working from home and value my ability to work in silence (most of the time).
@Rowan — Do you have specific questions about what it's like to work remotely? I've worked remotely full-time for the last ~6 years, working as a Senior Product Designer for Stack Overflow and Dialpad. As I made the transition from Stack Overflow earlier this year, I compiled some thoughts on 5 lessons learned after working remotely for 5 years. If you have specific questions, let me know.
My 2 cents here: This isn't a problem relegated to junior designers. This problem exists no matter how much experience you have. While you might qualify for more jobs when you have more experience, you also will have more demands then you do right now (because you're older and possibly have more responsibilities to consider) and finding a match with an employer is still a problem.
My advise here piggybacks on what others have said:
First: Great goal! I hope you hit your goal. That said…
Second: If you haven't built reading time into your regular schedule, you might find reading almost a book a week a bit ambitious. If you have and you can read that much: awesome! Personally I'd love to read that many books but life gets in the way. My goal this year is 24 books.
Third: +1 for fiction writing. Writing which stirs the imagination can help feed your creativity.
Here are some books I've enjoyed recently (fiction, and non-fiction):
Devil in the White City is a great book.
Lack of case studies is a bummer though.
Story link? Never mind. Found it
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