Recap of my first month at my new design job as Head of Design, working on product design, design systems, leadership, marketing, and more
Even as an Apple fanboy that loves MacOS and iOS, I know that like any software, it isn’t perfect. Not to mention the lack of customization options and (at times) a cluttered interface.
Over time, I’ve found a few apps that replace default Mac apps that make MacOS a better operating system to use. I happily pay and advertise how useful they are just because of the sheer influence and impact they’ve had on my digital workspace and workflow.
In this article I’ll happily share them with you and (hopefully) dodge the dozens of questions I get every time I post a screenshot of something and happen to include one of those apps. Kidding! But no seriously, I need a place to direct people that ask this over and over 😅
I’m the type of person that likes to have the least amount of visual clutter and items in my view when I’m working. I tend to get easily distracted by icons and notifications and have geared my digital workspace to avoid that.
Bartender has been one of the best apps for this quirk that I have as it takes those 10–20 icons that show in your top bar and hides them in a secondary bar you can toggle on/off easily. No more having to get distracted by random red notifications and status updates!
https://www.alfredapp.com - free or $19 for full
To be honest, I’m still baffled that Apple’s Spotlight feature is as poorly made as it is. It has become quite unpredictable, doesn’t accept keywords to better filter what a user wants, searches unusable files, mixes files with apps in search, etc.
This is where Alfred comes in. Alfred is basically a customizable version of what Spotlight should be. Not only can you customize the look of Alfred, you can also add and create “workflows” to make your own shortcuts that make your life easier. Alfred also uses certain keywords to better understand what you’re looking for and what actions you are trying to take. For example, if you just type a name it will search for apps, but if you type “open” then the file name, Alfred will switch from looking at your apps to looking at files you can open.
I get asked about this app the most and I can understand why if I’m being honest. While MacOS default dock gets the job done, it doesn’t try and do much more outside of that (possibly for better battery management). uBar takes your dock up a notch while also making it quite nicer to use, while customizable and nicer to look at.
uBar creates a smaller dock that can hold favorite apps you have, provide better context on notifications, generates window previews on hover, lets you choose which window to open to, lets you see a calendar on hover, and gives shortcut access to your main Finder folders and preferences just to name a few. I personally like that it feels more out of the way than the original dock and still feels in place in adjacency to the top bar. You can even change where it is positioned and the style of dock you’d like.
https://www.getcloudapp.com - free or $8 for Pro
Just like Alfred, CloudApp makes the original MacOS screenshots ten times better. With CloudApp you can use a keyboard shortcut to take a screenshot (or record a gif!) and instantly get a link that you can share with others.
This app has been super helpful for me in my work life for sharing screenshots of design and code items I’m working on for instant feedback and no hassle of uploading. CloudApp is super fast and makes recording gifs when showing animations or click throughs very easy as well.
https://veeer.io - free
While there are quite a few window managers out there for Mac, I personally use VEEER because of how lightweight it is. It does what I need it to without using up RAM and slowing down what I’m working on. It also has a few small unique shortcuts like the way it alternates full screen and minimized windows.
Hope you found this valuable and I hope you try out the apps I mentioned. Got other apps that make MacOS better? Let me know which others I need to try out!
As of when I am writing this, I am starting my first day at my new job tomorrow. I’ll be starting as a Product Designer at Dave, a financial tech company based in Los Angeles.
While looking for the next place to call home for my work life, culture was one of the biggest deciding factors for me. I believe that working with folks you can also call your friends outside of a work setting makes for the best outcome and work ethic at a company.
However, outside of culture, I was also looking for a role that was slightly out of my grasp and knowledge of prior experience. I was looking for something unfamiliar and that I hadn’t yet mastered. I’ve learned over my time in the industry that the best way to stay happy and challenged at a job is to work on things you haven’t had the exact experience with. It keeps you on your toes, keeps you learning, and keeps you yearning to get even better at what you do. You quickly realize you aren’t a master at your field, yet you can be a master at managing and improving how you approach each of these unique experiences.
Dave for me was a great step in the right direction for my career. At Dave I’ll be working on designing the future of finance as someone who has never designed specifically for this field, and for a change my job won’t only rely on what is looked at on screens. I’ll be working on designing real life experiences from brand to packaging and more. On top of that, I’m the first designer to be full-time at the company besides the CPO. As a result I’ll be working on developing a process around how design works with other parts of the company and probably even hiring and leading other designers as we begin to grow the team.
How this applies to your career and how you work can go many different ways, but I think the overall guidance of looking for something you feel confident yet unfamiliar with is a good place to start. The exciting part of life are the times we apply ourselves to overcome new obstacles, leading to a better you. Having the foundational skills for the job to rely on while using the rest of your skillset to learn and adapt I have found to be the best teacher in life, no matter how many mentors I have or books I read.
Working remotely is all the rage nowadays. Companies can hire more diverse sets of people, save money on salaries, and find the best people fit for the job. After all, 43%of the workforce has spent at least some time working remotelyin 2017. Working remotely provides for a more flexible schedule and even no set schedule like we have at MetaLab. Remote working is better suited to some people’s personalities and lifestyles and can be a healthier and happier alternative.
However, that doesn’t mean remote working is easy. As I mentioned, you really do need a personality and lifestyle that fits with not being in an office and often working in a spot from home. Routines and concentration are a must, including restrictions and reducing distractions. These are typically obvious to those in or considering working remotely, but a part you may not think about is written communication.
Technologies and companies such as Slack and Microsoft Teams have taken over the digital office space and become the new norm. As a remote employee, I’d say about one-third of my day (as a Product Designer) is spent writing and communicating with team members and stakeholders on projects we are working on. Written text can sometimes be tough to communicate in both content and tone and requires attention to detail and the way we present written words to others. Something as small as punctuation can completely change how words sound and feel to others, let alone communication not being descriptive or contextual enough.
As someone who has been blogging consistently for the past 100 weeks, I’ve naturally improved and progressed as a remote employee as well. I’m more able to think about how my writing is perceived, when and where to be descriptive, more clear and concise, and overall better able to set a tone in written communication. Also not to mention I can type much faster now 😉
If remote working is something you are interested in or are currently doing, I highly recommend investing time and effort into improving your writing. Blogging is always a nice, for-sure way to improve, but if you’d rather not start a blog then writing for yourself or even being a more avid reader can impact your written communication skills altogether.
If blogging sounds enticing and you’re not sure where to start, I’ve written quite a few articles that touch on getting started! Here’s an article from last week that you may find helpful.
If you’re someone who is lucky enough to work in the creative field, you probably know how difficult it is to work in the same vein of creative work outside of your full-time job.
I’ve struggled with this since I can remember and still struggle with this to this day. As a digital designer, I’ve always wanted to constantly get better at design and pursue things outside of my full-time gig. To not wear myself thin, I spent time learning other skills that I could blend design with such as design, code, and entrepreneurship. This has proved very useful time and time again and has since helped me accomplish career goals in my life that I am able to enjoy today.
However, now that I’m in a working environment that I love and constantly learn from, I’ve since shifted my focus to other creative outlets outside of work. The main example for me being my music. It’s been about 6 months of me working on music and I’ve noticed it actually have positive influence on my work and personal life so I wanted to share and hopefully encourage you to pursue the same.
When I used to do design all day only to come home to try and design all night, some nights I was miserable. I didn’t feel like hitting my head against the creative wall and getting something mediocre to do the job.
Not that working on other creative outlets doesn’t have its frustrating days, but they are far less often. I typically feel excited to exercise different creative muscles and mature my perspective on different aspects of the creative world. Now I look forward to learning and trying out new things with music and other outlets that impact my happiness and satisfaction creatively.
Because I have goals to work towards within my music work, every time I come back to work on those goals I’m more and more excited to get work done. I feel excited to keep working on that track that was coming along well and feel motivated to get better because it’s something relatively new to me. I constantly feel that rush of something new and exciting and look forward to working on music at the end of each work day.
The work I do in product design can be draining somedays on top of meetings and tasks I have to work on. Decision fatigue becomes a very real thing when you’re working on a difficult project I have found personally.
Luckily I’ve found that creative outlets can really make an impact on this feeling. In contrast to watching TV or playing videos games, creative outlets allow you to flex other creative muscles that influence subconscious thoughts you may have on full-time work.
I can genuinely say that I feel better refreshed and ready to tackle the day after a music session the night before. I feel in a better spot to pick back up on projects at work and can even have a better perspective than I did the day before.
I personally am someone that doesn’t like to put all their eggs in one basket. Not only do I feel bored and unchallenged, but I feel a plateau constantly creeping up on me as a person overall. For better or for worse, this puts me in a position where trying different things constantly makes me happier overall. On top of this it expands my understanding of other people and industries while finding different ways to inspire others.
Through music for example, I’ve met quite a few new friends and have had others find me online through my musical ventures. Even folks that I know through my design and development work have expressed interest in the work that I do and even shared wanting to try music themselves. Meeting new people and having conversations around creative outlets with others keeps me at ease with the worry I mentioned before.
Since joining MetaLab a few months ago, I’ve had to transition back into daily stand-ups after not having them since I worked at Satchel last year. While stand-ups are incredibly useful in a work setting, it definitely takes some preparation and getting used to or can lead to miscommunication or even be action-less at the end.
Here are some tips I’ve implemented for myself that you may find useful for your own standup preparation:
At first I thought I could remember off the top of my head everything that I did the day before but I was completely wrong. Some days I would forget a few tasks that were completed and would jeopardize deadlines or personal task lists.
Instead, I now keep a notebook next to me throughout the day at my desk and I write down each tasks I finish that day no matter how big or how small the task is. Then the next day I have an accurate list ready to go and talk through with my team.
Sometimes I’ll have some software issues during the day (cough InVision cough) that can put an hour or so dent into my workday. Or sometimes I’ll be waiting for another task to be completed by another team member before I can proceed. Addressing these blockers in stand-ups is crucial to be transparent with your team and your team may have advice on how to better approach these blockers next time you face them.
Ever leave a stand-up and need to think for a second about what actually needs to get done? No, just me? All joking aside, this is an obvious but important one. Make sure you have a clear picture of the goals for your tasks that day and what needs to get done for that day. It helps!
A genuine mistake I used to make was not asking for prioritization of tasks. Some tasks needed to be done before others for client presentations or calls so it was important to put those first.
Not asking for priority level on tasks can lead to interference with the schedule and tasks of others which you definitely don’t want to be the cause of. Prioritizing your tasks for the day also allows for some leeway if not every task gets done because you got the most important ones out of the way at least.
I started a new job about two months ago. A job that requires me to be in work mode for 12 hours a day (I wake up at 5:30am, start work at 7:00am, and get home at 5:30pm). Needless to say — the days are long and tiring even though the work is usually fulfilling. Something I have struggled with since starting this new job is making time to work on side projects. My previous job was from 9:30am–5:00pm and I worked from home with no commute. I wasn’t used to working on the same thing in the same spot for as long as I need to now.
When I get home, I usually don’t want to do anything. Even watching over my own health and making sure I work out is a frustrating struggle. Let alone working on more design and development work after spending my whole day working on it.
Lately though, I’ve been using a 15 minute rule. Basically, I make sure I work on one of my projects for at least 15 minutes a night. Some nights I only do the 15 minutes and move on to watching Netflix or playing video games. Some nights I get into the work and am excited enough that I don’t even realize 15 minutes have gone by and end up working for an hour or two.
Either way, I feel more productive because I have at least put in some work for my personal projects for that day. 15 minutes may not seem like much, but the point is to help keep you feeling productive and motivated on what you are working on.
I’ll get back to you on making sure I work out every day 😅
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