C2-11-15 The Week of Being Stuck

This whole week has felt like a struggle that I’ve lost. I say that not from a place of depression, but a place of clear-eyed assessment. I’m writing this entry to try to identify what contributes to the feeling; perhaps a solution will present itself.

I’ve been stuck for the past week on actually pushing forward on my “Marketing Push” for March. To me, that means a revamp of the website to accomplish the following for visitors to my website, both first-timers and repeat visitors:

  • Easy to tell what I do
  • Easy to find something they know is here
  • Easy to see what’s new
  • Easy to find past topics of interest and explore

The general idea is to increase engagement, and also make it clear that I have a few things for sale. To sell those things, though, I believe I need a modicum of credibility. This I have, if you look at what I’ve written; I know that there are some good blog posts and insights in there. Finding it and making it easy to browse/download/buy is a huge usability concern.

I think of the redesign as “marketing”, or “more effective presentation”. Improving the user experience along these 5 dimensions should lead to improved engagement.

I made relatively rapid progress at the beginning of this session, defining a lot of important high-level conceptual goals and metrics for “Dave Seah” as brand. I know what I want to present. WHere I’m getting stuck is getting low-level and implementing them. There are a couple blockages I can identify:

  • I’m very self-conscious when I present myself or make any kind of statement
  • I’m not actually sure what the best way to present myself is, which is complicated by the previous statement
  • A lack of surety create huge resistance
  • I’m impatient, and part of my brain is still in the high-level “boss” mode that mistakes clarity of goals and strategy as being the “hard problem”. The actual implementation is far more difficult and uncertain, and my own judgmental brain is imposing paralysis on the production part that wants to please.
  • I don’t particularly like marketing, so that’s another contributor to internal resistance.

So, in other words, I’m kind of being a dick boss to an uncertain employee, and they’re both ME. I don’t intend to be a dick boss, and I am giving myself the time to explore the issues, but I’m also impatient. The uncertain employee part of me, wanting to deliver and prove competence, nevertheless is paralyzed with not knowing how to deliver to that expectation right away.

The above description would be right at home in many of my past work experiences. I have a strong desire to please, and at the same time I have a strong impatient streak. Uncertainty itself is a force that I’ve only recently identified, and I am still learning how to deal with it.

So…the solution? I have a few ideas that I’ve used in the past when stuck in these situations.

Manager mode: Relax, and Talk the Issue Through. When an employee is stuck or paralyzed, it’s probably because I’ve provided too much scope, implied that there’s a lot of expectation riding on it, and work side-by-side with the employee for a bit of time to push through the small issues until he/she gets into a groove.

Employee mode: Relax, put pressure out of my mind, and design in the small first. While I’m aware there’s an enormous amount of work to do to complete this transition, so starting with something really small, almost inconsequentially so, is a way to start. I have a tendency to like architecture and reasoning, which makes me a poor production employee, but for short periods of time I can put all that big stuff out of my head and just draw, say, a button with some text on it and not wonder if it’s the right text, or the right sort of button given the overarching UI design’s intent to sell more X.

Director mode: Balance the needs of the now with Employee Support. Time is a luxury that I can’t exactly afford, as I have to get these systems working and improving revenue as quickly as possible. However, I need to allow that building a new website and all its content takes time. What I can do, however, is bring Manager and Employee into my virtual office and review the progress, identify the positive stuff, get some estimates, and perhaps identify some near-term goals that will deliver results sooner without compromising the development and design process. I guess that is what I am doing right now, by writing this post. However, the reality is that the project seems like it’s “behind” and the longer this lingers, the most likely the company will fail. We want to avoid that!

So, having phrased the situation using a company analogy, specifically, what am I stuck on?

  • I’m feeling bad and incompetent at getting my website going. I thought I was better than this.
  • I feel this way because it’s March 22nd and nothing is public.
  • I also am not energized by doing this kind of work. It feels like I’m doing something that isn’t me. I feel I should be able to get over that, but has never been easy for me.
  • I feel I haven’t been using my time wisely or productively.

Overall..NO ENERGY. NO MOTIVATION. DEMORALIZED

What would help? Delivery of something. Anything. A short term burst of focus to deliver something that is tangible, part of the building process, and reusable. That feels like progress.

Specifically, what would that be? This morning I actually figured out how to implement the new changes on my current website by reconfiguring it to use a “front page”; that way I can put anything I want on it without recreating the main blog index. The question now is what to put on it. I’ve been stuck because the devteam is ready to move forward with HTML/PHP/WordPress implementation, but the content and marketing team are still battling each other trying to come up with wording, telling the design department to just “make something up” for now that they can fill-in later. That should sound familiar to any web developer / project manager / designer. If you can imagine all these groups talking to each other asking when X is going to be ready and why Y hasn’t been delivered with, you have classic organizational stuckness, where the messaging overhead makes it difficult for anyone to make any production at all.

Well, I can’t have that in my fake company.

Recovering

One thing I have been missing this month is the clarity of the Product-a-Day challenge in February. It was wonderful to wake up every day and know that I could just make something and post it. AWESOME, in fact. The reason I’m not doing it this month is because having a ton of products that people never see is not a formula for success. The marketing push this month is to create the platform so I can showcase all the stuff I’m doing and writing about, so people see it. That means building themed collections, packaging insights, and so forth. It’s like I’m turning a private collection of interesting artifacts into a museum-quality experience, with a really nice gift shop.

I can’t continue to try to think and handle everything at the same time. Sometimes it’s come in handy, but when it comes to processing the raw ore of possibility into highly-refined experience, I just need to keep an eye on that very limited scope.

I think I should do a creative reboot and just play for the next few days with regards to the dave seah marketing effort. Make it fun. It’s like the playfulness of the product-a-day challenge, except it will be copy, photos, etc. I’ll spend a little bit of time on that this evening and over the weekend. The mistake I have made is to try to be in the production mindset and be creative at the same time. It really doesn’t work. Happy Bubble Time is required!


About this Article Series

This series is about improving my website, thinking about it for 15 minutes a day first-thing in the morning. You can see the raw 15-minute text here. These posts are collected on The March 2013 Challenge Page.