A user manual is a document that tells users how to use a particular system. More recently personal user manuals that help others work with you better have begun to spring up.
I’ve seen a few great examples of personal user manuals recently, most recently from Dan Barrett, and I really like the idea; Unfortunately I’ve never had the time to sit down and draft one.
As I approach the end of my current role and prepare to start at somewhere completely new, I thought it was a good time to reflect on myself, and what it might help others around me to know.
Conditions I like to work in:
- I like open plan offices, but every now and then I will need a day working from home or a quieter office where I can focus and recharge.
- I have a high tolerance for background noise, but I don’t like harsh or unexpected noise; similarly with lighting, harsh lighting can give me migraines.
- I’m not a fan of hot-desking, I prefer having a desk I know is mine. Even when visiting other offices I will always default back to the desk/s I normally sit in. In my office you can always spot my desk as it will have my lego name plate and some bobble heads on it. This may seem odd, but it helps me feel ‘in control’ even when evening else keeps changing.
- I do enjoy a good workshop, especially if it has post it notes and sharpies, but I’m less of a fan of traditional meetings.
- My favourite environment is sat with my team, where we can discuss and share what we’re doing, solving problems and achieving things together.
- I enjoy working in fast paced environments, I’m best when I’m busy and getting things done.
The times/ hours I like to work:
- I don’t work Fridays, there will generally be an hour or two where I catch up and respond to emails, but Friday is my day for sorting out all the things I need to at home so that at the weekend I can give my son my full attention.
- I’m usually in the office by 9:30, but I’ll log on at 8 am and start responding to emails and calls on my commute in. I generally leave the office by 4:30, but will answer emails up till 5pm, and then usually log back in for an hour or so once my son goes to bed.
- For childcare reasons I have one day a week I can’t travel far and tend to work from home or finish a bit earlier, but I balance that by having one day a week I can stay over night or work late.
- I have the most energy late morning or early afternoon.
The best way to communicate with me:
- I generally respond quickly to text messages or WhatsApp.
- Twitter DM’s are ok, but if I don’t follow you I probably won’t spot DM requests.
- I don’t like ringing people, and prefer to only answer calls from people I know.
- I’m not a big fan of emails, especially not long formal email chains. I respond best to quick and easy requests that I can deal with on the move. If it needs proper consideration it will probably have to wait until I have time set aside to be at my desk.
- I much prefer informal conversations, and respond best to people coming and talking to me.
- If I’m in an open plan office I’m always interruptible unless I have my headphones in, at which point leave me a note and I’ll come find you when I’m ready.
The ways I like to receive feedback:
- I prefer feedback one to one in person, rather than in a group.
- I’m trying to be better at receiving positive feedback and not being embarrassed/self-deprecating,
- I do like written feedback especially if it’s constructive or critical feedback so that I can properly reflect on it and refer to it, but positive feedback is good in writing too so I can save it and share it with my manager, or with myself when I need a boost.
Things I need:
- I need to know I am empowered, I need to feel trusted and given autonomy.
- But I also need to feel supported, I need to know where to go when I need help or just to talk something through.
- I need to have open conversations, both in a group and one to one.
- I need big messy problems to solve.
- I need to be doing things that matter, that are helping people.
- I need the opportunity to coach and support others, especially when I’m not hands on with a project as it helps me feel like I’m still helping others.
- I need to have the time to go to events and network, these help me recharge.
Things I struggle with:
- Putting my thoughts down coherently or capturing action points etc. I’ve worked hard to improve my written and organisational skills, but I know they are not my greatest strengths. When asked for written briefs etc I do better when I’ve got the chance to run it past someone else before submitting. When it comes to organising things, I tend to surround myself with those who are better at it than me.
- I can find conflict draining, especially if it carries on for a long period. When dealing with conflict I need to be doing something else at the same time where I’m working with ‘my tribe’ and achieving results positively.
- My memory isn’t great, and I’m usually balancing a lot of things, so if I forget something, do remind me.
- Delegation, I’m trying to get much better at delegating, but my tendency will always be to protect those working for me, so I need to be reminded that people want me to delegate so that I don’t feel like I’m putting burdens on others.
- I struggle with unnecessary hierarchy or process. I find it frustrating to explain the same thing over and over again.
- I struggle to initiate conversations, and I’m not great at small talk with people I don’t know, but I do love talking to and getting to know people.
- I’m not always great with connecting names to faces, even of people I know, so please don’t be offended if I need a reminder.
- Talking at people, conferences/ events/ even large meetings are hard for me, but having one or two friendly faces makes all the difference.
- Eye contact, it’s not you, it’s me. I am listening and I do care. The same with fiddling or doodling. It’s how my brain works, please don’t take it as a sign I’m not paying attention because I am.
Things I love:
- I love coming up with ideas and solving problems •I love working with a team or one or two others.
- I love making people laugh
- I love feeling needed
- I love building teams
- I love making a difference, and improving things for people.
- I love getting to know people, what their interests are, what makes them tick.
- I love to smile.
Other things to know about me:
- I am neurodiverse, Dyspraxic with ADHD and Dyslexic tendencies; things like eye contact, doodling, memory etc are all part of this. But I’m good at thinking outside of the box and approaching things from a fresh angle.
- I am incredibly loyal, if we are friends/colleagues I will always have your back, if you need help I will always do my best for you.
- I am adaptable and resilient, I will always try to keep going and be flexible in my approach in order to deliver the right thing. I’m good in challenging situations. I get things done.
- People don’t always think I’m taking things seriously, but I’m very committed and passionate about what I do, I will take on the toughest situations, but I’ll do it with a smile.
- I’m a people person.
- I’m a ridiculous extravert and a massive geek, I recharge by spending time with my tribe.
- I’m a single mum to a neurodiverse child, I work hard to balance my work and home life, and talk openly about the challenges of that in order to support and encourage others to do the same.
Me in a nutshell:
I like to think I fight for what is right, helping others and using my networks and skills to solve problems, just like a certain lady detective. But obviously with less murders and less fantastic outfits.