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  • September 6, 2012

Shut It Down!

While cruising the boardwalk with my family this weekend, I was struck by what the boardwalk has in common with web design and development: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Decorative Illustration

I savored the moment and the fact that my off-the-cuff insight was the only time during our lovely evening that I thought about the greater web industry. I was 100% anchored in the moment with my wife and kids and only thought about work long enough to realize I wasn’t thinking about it.

I take pride in balancing work and life, and it’s a delicate balance. I leap out of my chair at the end of the day, despite the fact that I love my job. I race home to coach tee-ball or for pizza-and-a-movie night on Fridays. That’s when I shut it down and focus on my family.

But, I can’t always prevent work’s tendrils from creeping into home and vice versa. I was fortunate enough to kick off our recent weekend by the boardwalk with the very welcome news we’d won a huge project. Not too shabby, but work crept in. A few days later, smothered by all of my kids in bed one morning (it’s like cuddling with an octopus made entirely of elbows), I dreamed up this post instead of the My Two Gregs opus I had ready to go. Work crept in.

The easy jokes about the sales guy encouraging you to give thinking a rest aren’t lost on me. To those that use the term “sales guy” like that, I extend a very cordial invitation to you. Realize that everyone working in client services works in sales. In our team, I merely lead the sales efforts of our larger group. Everyone at Happy Cog must work directly with clients. We’re all user experience practitioners. We’re all web standards bearers. We’re all in sales. That’s the basic job description.

There are many excellent minds in our industry so immersed in our work they can’t stop thinking about it. They eat, sleep, and breathe it. This is well-evidenced on Twitter. This lifestyle is often lauded as a symptom of their passion for their work, but I see it as a symptom of undisciplined minds. These folks are often seen as some of the finest speakers and writers in our trade, but I bet they’re a drag when it comes to client services. You need to be able to separate from your work, to put it in perspective, and stay normal.

Over the course of a long design project, it’s the interpersonal connections and relationships you forge with clients that keep the roller coaster on its tracks (crap, this does relate to the boardwalk after all). These connections matter as much, or more, than your innovative ideas and penetrating insights.

Talking shop only gets you so far. Maybe you coach your daughter’s soccer team or you’re building a canoe. Whatever your passion, it’s those personal interests that clients often relate to. It’s also those interests that cultivate your inquisitive mind and sharpen your problem-solving skills. The outside-of-work stuff improves the work stuff, in more ways than one.

This was manifest within our team recently too. My boardwalk adventure was hot on the heels of returning from Happy Cog’s first company summit in Chicago (I’m stringing together vacations like a Rockefeller, or Brett Harned). We spent a few days collaborating and discussing process and another few days listening to some of the industry’s most excellent minds at An Event Apart. It was the things around the discussions—karaoke, the dinners, the walks around Centennial Park—that was the really good stuff. The outside-of-work bonding is what I’m looking forward to the next time we all hitch up again. We’re better off as an organization coming off this trip, and it is as much a credit to the fact that we all genuinely like one another as it is due to any new processes or other products of our working sessions.

It’s the extracurricular stuff that keeps our work and our workplace human. In client services, we’re all in the human business.

Do you see virtue in being wholly immersed in your work? Do you balance your work with some amazing hobbies and passions? If so, chime in here. You never know, someone else out there might be one of the world’s leading experts on DC Comics’ 1985 epic Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series. No? No one? Just me?

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