Artisan Blog

10 Tips for Active Listening

Nadia Osman - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Between texting, phone calls, emails, tweets, LinkedIn posts, Slack messages, Pinterest boards, Gchat, and so on, communicating with each other is at an all-time high. However, communication requires really, truly listening -- and active listening is a skill that tends to get lost in the sea of technology noise.

The good news is that anyone can improve their active listening skills. By doing so, everyone can build better relationships, resolve conflicts and understand issues, whether in the workplace or elsewhere. In short, becoming a great active listener can yield amazing benefits for your career and relationships.

The most important thing to remember is to try and NOT problem solve on the fly. Try and quiet your problem solving mind. When you are thinking ahead to the answers, or what to say next, you are no longer truly listening!

Read on for 10 tips to help you develop and hone active listening skills:

1. Maintain eye contact. Don't be distracted by the ping noise of your phone, or scan the room to see what else is happening. Give them the courtesy of your full attention. Better yet, put your on airplane mode when in conversation with someone in front of you.

2. Relax. On the other hand, paying attention to someone simply means that: pay attention. It doesn't mean you need to maintain a serious or fixed stare. Carry on as normal, nod, but remain attentive by being present.

3. Be empathetic. The soul of active listening is empathy. If the person you're listening to is sad, happy, fearful, or angry in your conversation, put yourself in their shoes. Pay attention to power words and repetitions such as, "I was really, really upset" or, "I was ecstatic to get my promotion".

4. Look for nonverbal cues. Their cadence, tone of voice and body language can offer a lot of information. Look for small signs of nervousness, enthusiasm, or anxiety for example in their mannerism, gestures, and posture to help determine how they really feel.

5. Create a mental image. If you're having trouble following along or paying attention, paint a visual image in your head to help stay focused.

6. Avoid interrupting. Sometimes, it seems like a good idea to finish someone else's sentences, especially if you think you know what's coming. Yet this can derail their train of thought or come off as impatient. Moreover, interrupting can also come off as aggressive or competitive, as though you're trying to "win" the conversation. Slow down to their speed so you can listen attentively.

7. Stay in the moment. It might seem like a good idea to jump ahead mentally and plan what to say next. However, doing so means you're not actively listening and only  listening only to part of it, while devoting mental energy to your next move. Rehearsing and listening at the same time doesn't work, so give your full attention to the other person.

8. Wait for pauses to ask questions. If you don't understand something, ask for an explanation, but, wait until there's a pause. Additionally, if your question takes the conversation off-topic, gently help steer it back on the right track.

9. Offer feedback. "Congratulations!" "What an awful ordeal!" "You must be excited!" show that you understand their feelings. You can also just nod along and show your understanding with facial expressions that match their emotion, like a smile or a frown.

10. Don't judge. Even if you feel like something they said was alarming or should be pointed out, resist the urge. Likewise, don’t jump to conclusions. A story with a rocky start may indeed have a happy ending!

Our Favorite Places to Get Work Done in San Francisco

Nadia Osman - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

san-francisco-work-spaces

For those that work from home or have flexible office situations, it can be a nice option to try a new work location from time to time. We know the Bay Area is teeming with fabulous coffee shops and cafes that can offer a respite from the home office. Here are some picks to get work done in San Francisco while enjoying some tasty treats.

Coffee Bar (Mission): While the name might not stand out as special, the coffee sure does! (All the benas are sourced directly from local roaster Mr. Espresso.) Known for being a start-up hangout, this cafe is especially great for those who need to power through a work marathon. When you get hungry, grab some food from their full lunch menu.

Haus (Mission): This space offers Scandinavian minimalism and plenty of tables and chairs to accommodate all kinds of busy bees. Simple and elegant, Haus has coffee, tea, kombucha, and baked good. Best of all, on warmer days, you can work outside on the back patio with lots of seating.

Matching Half Cafe (Western Addition): Warm and charming, the floor-to-ceiling windows at this corner coffee shop lets in plenty of sun and serves pour-over Sightglass coffee, along with some lighter fare for breakfast and lunch. For those popping in towards the end of the work day, there’s local draft beer and wine, plus happy hour specials.

The Social Study (Fillmore): Vintage in its approach (exposed brick, pendant lighting, used books and globes scattered throughout for decor), this spot delivers on its name, making it a great place to study and socialize -- like, say, meet a co-worker to go over a project, or set up a meeting with a client after hours. Hip-hop, disco, funk, and every other groovy beat that gets piped in through the speakers keeps you pumped throughout the day.

Nook (Nob Hill): For those in need of a hearty breakfast or lunch to fuel them, this neighborhood cafe has plenty of good eats, from a well-known Caesar salad to their vegan German chocolate cake. Watch as the cable car rolls past the sidewalk seating, or come in later in the day when you need a break for their daily happy hour and finish up the work day with a delicious Sangria.

Java Beach Cafe (Outer Sunset): Why work from home when you can work by the beach? Simple coffee, bagel sandwiches, and surfer clientele keep this place busy, even if it might look a little dated by SF standards. Cozy and comfortable, you can take in the sand dune views and watch the sunset while you wrap up the remaining pieces on that project.

Where are your favorite San Francisco coffee shops and cafes to get work done?

How to Be Happier at the Office, Virtual or Not

Nadia Osman - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

happier-office-remote

Although productivity, efficiency, and creativity are important ideas to nurture and improve upon in the workplace, so is your mental health. It’s as necessary to be personally and professionally happy as it is to draft the copy, pitch the design, or get the project done. How can you be happier at the office, whether you’re commuting or working from home?

In short spurts, stepping away from your desk and getting out is a good thing. Doodle, shoot some hoops, have a dance party, or play a videogame to clear your head for a moment.

Rock out. Music can definitely improve your mood. Keep your favorite songs on file, or cull multiple playlists so you always have your favorite tunes at the ready.

Meditate. This is an excellent way to clear your head and improve your mental and emotional state. Find a quiet place (or put on headphones) and take five minutes to breathe. You can also use apps like Headspace to help guide you.

Get some greenery. Find a pretty vase and stock up every so often on fresh flowers to brighten up the day. Or, try some small plants that can withstand office lighting, like bamboo.

Stock up on water and better snacks. While you may be tempted to eat free chips at the office or fill up your desk drawer with candy, we recommend lots of water throughout the day and high-nutrient snacks that will fuel you through the day to keep you feeling healthy, not sluggish.

Exercise before work. Getting in a run, swim, or some kind of cardio before you start your day can help improve your energy for the rest of the day.

Focus on gratitude. Identify three things daily that you’re grateful for. Doing so has shown to offer greater psychological and emotional benefits. Moreover, show yourself some kindness. Instead of listing major milestone achievements, keep a running tab of the tiny wins.

Be social. Connect and engage with your co-workers. invite them to a lunch or happy hour. Don’t let social awkwardness or anxiety get in the way -- you just might make a new friend!

Praise. Praising your co-workers won’t just make them feel better -- it’ll make you feel better, leading to an increase in empathy and decrease in stress. Write a note, give them credit in a meeting, or start team bonding traditions.

Want some inspiration for cool office spaces? Check out our Pinterest board!

5 Ways to Know if Working Remotely Works for You

Nadia Osman - Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Telecommuting is quickly becoming less of a trend and more of the norm. In fact, 37% of U.S. workers say they're done it! Part of this is the practicality of the modern workplace -- for many positions, it's not necessary to be in an office. And for many workers, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is preferable to a higher salary.

So, where would you like to work? At your home office, or on the sofa? What about in a co-working space or a coffee shop? You might think that telecommuting would make a great part of your daily work routine, but it takes a surprising amount of self-discipline, concentration, and effort. See if working remotely is right for you by asking these five questions:

  1. Can you communicate well online or via video chat? Interacting with a team in-person is very different from being online. You need multiple communications tools to connect. If you feel like email is the only way to get in touch, you need to shake it up and practice communicating with instant messaging, video conferences, and teamwork platforms like Slack and Asana. Get comfortable using these technologies, and know when it's best to hop on the phone. One last thing: if you can't be available when everyone else is, you'll either have to work twice as hard to stay on top of what's happening, or need to connect more often to stay abreast of changes.

  2. Are you able to initiate conversations and projects? You can't be shy when you work remotely! Starting conversations with your co-workers or manager so you can get the ball rolling on projects is necessary. And if you're a manager, it can be hard to be present and available when telecommuting. You'll need to reach out to team members regularly, and set very clear goals and expectations, as well as offer support from afar.

  3. Can you be a great team player without seeing the team? Since you won't be interacting with colleagues in the breakroom or over lunch, you need to think about how you reach out and connect to co-workers. This means having team calls to catch up, setting up video conferences to brainstorm ideas, or scheduling virtual lunch dates. You may also have to boost team engagement by recreating "water cooler" conversation. Ask about personal topics like vacation plans or what was on TV last night.

  4. Do you have a great task management system in place? Many telecommuters report they are just as productive as on-site employees, but poor management and engagement could mean telecommuting doesn't work for a company -- or for you! A lack of oversight can lead to major issues later. If you're working as part of a team, talk to your manager about what work productivity really means, and how to prove it. If you're a manager, make sure your team understands those goals, and hold them accountable. And if you struggle with personal responsibility, working remotely may not be the best option for you.

  5. Is it possible to still meet occasionally? Okay, the whole point of telecommuting...is to not go into the office! But if you're working for a company that's located in the same city as you, it can't hurt to visit the office now and then. This way, you can review things like quarterly goals or evaluate projects with the whole team at once, and then get back to work. Think of it as a fun way to catch up with people, too! Try to schedule a happy hour or some kind of after work activity so you bond and get to know the people you're working with online.

Flexible work hours bring a specific set of challenges, but also many rewards! The needs of working remotely vary from those of the traditional office, so as long as you keep in mind these ideas, you'll be able to keep your team engaged and motivated.

4 Ways to Turn a Challenging Day Into a Good One!

Nadia Osman - Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Having “one of those days” where everything is feeling out of control, is really about how quickly you can recover. You can write the day off, or you can turn things around with a new game plan. It’s mostly about managing your attitude.

  1. Take a break. Sometimes things only seem bad, and a moment away from the center of chaos (also known as your desk) can help you see everything clearly. If you freelance, extend your lunch break by a bit longer to give yourself some well-deserved “me” time. Or, if you’re in the office, take an extra moment out of your day to take a quick walk to clear your head.

  2. Get ideas out of your head and on to paper. Create a to-do list and set realistic goals for accomplishment. Stress can make a challenging day worse. Identify what you can do quickly and take control of your day. For example, “I have to respond to this email by lunch,” or, “I need to come up with three more ideas in the next hour”. This motivation will help you see past the bad day blues and get your mind back to work.

  3. Ask for help. When you are in a challenging situation set time limits for your tasks, delegate where possible, and prioritize. Ask your boss or your co-workers for a helping hand. Collaborating and working together, gets more done!

  4. Eat! Make sure you have good nourishment. Feeding your mind and body is essential to how you deal with difficult situations. Avoid sugar!

Some days are more challenging than others, with events seemingly beyond our control. However our attitude is entirely in our own control. How we deal with a stressful situation, handle ourselves and treat those around us, is our responsibility. Find a way to get a quick attitude adjustment when it’s needed.

We’d love to hear any tips you can share on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook!

First Day on the Job: How to Make Your First Day a Success

Laura Pell - Wednesday, January 14, 2015

 

The first day at a new job is nerve-wracking for everyone and first day nerves should be expected as you prepare to meet your new team members, managers and departments. To make sure it's a positive experience for both you and your new company, we put together a few of our favorite points to make your first day an absolute success.

First day success falls into two categories:  Operational and Interpersonal. 

The first step for Operational success starts before the start day. 

What are the orientation or training plans?  Does your new company or assignment have an on-boarding plan in place?  Will there be a workstation waiting for you?  Will you be working on a Mac or PC?  Will there be a team of people or will you be the solo designer for the day?  If you are working with a recruiter, they should provide these details for you ahead of time.

Equally important are the Interpersonal skills such as meeting and interacting with your new supervisors and coworkers.  Before you start, take a look at LinkedIn and your new company's social media pages to get a sense of the team, interests and company culture.

 

Introductions

Introducing yourself to new people can be daunting, especially if you're an introvert, but making an effort at the start will have its benefits in the long run. First impressions are lasting impressions so make a point to introduce yourself to your new team and have a quick chat with people you meet in the kitchen, the elevator or just around the office. Ask questions about what they do at the company and what they like about working there. Let them know what department you are joining and offer to help if they need anything from your team.

Treats

We'll let you into a not-so-secret secret. Everyone loves cupcakes or some kind of treat. Taking in a box of cupcakes or candy for your team is a delicious little ice-breaker and gives you a reason to walk up to new people and make your introductions. Setup business lunches to make more formal introductions and learn as much as you can about the company and its people.

Positivity

At the early stages, it’s best to listen more than to talk. Get to know everyone’s communication styles and personalities. You should be absorbing as much information as you can and asking questions so you can quickly get up to speed. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something, there’s always a learning curve with new jobs and it’s usually expected. Show up 15 minutes early, grab a coffee and be ready to tackle anything thrown your way. Oh, and don’t forget to smile!

How was your first day at your new job? Did you try any of these tips to get you through your first day?

 

Laura Pell - Artisan Creative

 

Achieving Goals: Why a Theme is More Effective Than a New Year’s Resolution

Laura Pell - Wednesday, January 07, 2015


How many times have you set a specific goal for yourself at the start of a year and achieved it? In a recent survey of over 1000 Americans, just 45% said they set resolutions for themselves. If you’re the type of person to say “I want to lose x amount of lbs” or “I’m going to read x amount of books each month” but have never quite attained your goals, consider setting yourself a theme instead.

 

What do we mean by theme?

A theme is an overarching mindset that you carry with you throughout the year – it can just be a single word. If your goal is to become healthier, ignore the introductory gym memberships and instead of setting rigid rules, try implementing healthier habits into your routine. With every decision you make, think of your theme or word.

This can be applied to just about any subject. If your goal is to find a new job this year, rather than set yourself the task of finding a new job, try thinking of a theme like “building relationships” or “making new connections”.  If you spend a whole year putting effort into business and personal relationships, at the end of the year you should have a much easier time with your expansive network.

Much like good design, you want to keep your themes simple. They need to be easy to navigate and clear. Without having to focus on specific measurables, you may find you’ve adopted new habits without even realizing it. Remember to stay open to new possibilities and changes in direction; the significant thing about having a theme instead of a resolution is that you never quite know where it will lead you.

Did you achieve last year’s resolutions? What theme will you set for yourself in 2015?

 Laura Pell - Artisan Creative


Holiday Shopping for Designers: 6 Gifts for the Creative in Your Life

Laura Pell - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

 

Christmas is a little over a week away and we’re betting that most of you have presents wrapped and ready to go. For the small handful of you that have left everything to the last minute, we picked out some of our favorite gifts for your creative team mates or friends. Amazon Prime is a sure way to get your online deliveries before the big day, although many companies are offering last minute shipping. We love giving unique gifts, things that people wouldn’t buy for themselves but will frequently use and appreciate so we picked out gifts we think designers will love.

DIY Print Shop
For those designers who love to create their own shirts or graphics, why not buy them a DIY print kit? They have a range of options including gig posters, table printing and shirts. It’s a nifty way to learn the screen printing trade at a relatively cheap price. They are taking orders for Christmas delivery until December 22nd

Bamboo Keyboard and Mouse
A biodegradable and environmentally friendly keyboard and mouse made entirely out of bamboo. This is an interesting way to make your desk stand out at work or at a home office. If you really want to go all out, you can even buy a matching calculator. The letters are engraved into the wood, offering a really unique way to get your work done.

Tuts Premium Membership
Tuts is an online resource to help people build upon their creative skills by self-directed learning. You can go at your own pace and learn a multitude of topics across code, design and illustration. If you’ve overheard conversations about wanting to create an app or brush up on photography skills, this is your chance to put the wheels in motion. They have over 18,000 tutorials available online by expert instructors. Find out more on their website.

Field Notes
If you watched this week’s viral design video, Lynda’s logo design challenge, you would have spotted the quick mention of Field Notes booklets. Inspired by old school vintage agricultural books, they are made in the USA and include some limited colors and editions. These are a must-have for any creative. 

Doxie One Photo and Document Scanner
We mentioned doc scanners in last week’s blog about managing finances and the need for managing documents. With the Doxie One Scanner you don’t have the hassle of connecting to computers and scanning your work – it sends directly to your favorite apps.

Inside The Sketchbooks of the World’s Greatest Designers
A glimpse into the minds of the world’s greatest designers and illustrators, this wonderful book aims to inspire creativity. Informative and visual, you never quite know what each page will bring. Different techniques and ideas are shown along with visual representations of some of the most creative minds. For designers who are always on a quest for new inspiration and ideas, this would be a cherished book.

What are your favorite gifts for creatives? What do you think of the gifts we’ve chosen? Share your ideas with us on Twitter @artisanupdates.

Laura Pell - Recruiter at Artisan Creative

Goal Setting: 10 Best Practices for Setting Goals

Katty Douraghy - Wednesday, December 03, 2014

 

Around this time of year, people start reflecting on the previous months and begin setting goals (and resolutions) for the coming year.

I’ve also always done this until a recent event changed my perspective completely.  It happened by chance on my birthday at the 180th Meridian, the international date line.  In a split second I was simultaneously standing in today and yesterday.  Quite amazing, however, it made me realize that a date is just an arbitrary number -- a line literally drawn on a map.

As I reflected on a new “birth year”, it made me realize that “start dates” can be counter-productive when it comes to setting goals and resolutions. Why wait until an arbitrary date in the future like Jan 1, or next week, or even tomorrow to make a change that will be impactful in your life or in your career?

Why wait to plan that once-in a-lifetime trip, why wait to plan your financial future, why wait to get healthy and fit?  All goals will require time and action steps to accomplish, so why delay the start until sometime in the future?

As human beings, we fall into a second trap of mistaking our daily to-do lists with our goals.  We often set too many goals and try to change too many things at once—and then we get busy with life and only accomplish a few of them.   Once we get busy, it’s easy to lose focus, and have the day-to-day to-dos of work, kids, school etc. take over the goals we want to accomplish.  How many times have we all said, “ I don’t have time to go to the gym”, or “I don’t have time to go on vacation!”

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly and unapologetically— to say “no” to other things.” -Stephen Covey

Here are 10 Best Practices for setting goals that I have learned:

1)     Set only one or two (maximum) Key Goals you want to accomplish in a certain period of time
2)     Write down your goal and WHY is it important for you to accomplish this goal
3)     What do you need to STOP doing in order to accomplish this goal?
4)     Set a specific timeframe & metrics needed to accomplish the goal
5)     Work backwards from the date above and calendar the steps below
6)     Set the specific, actionable and controllable steps needed to reach that goal
7)     Ask yourself, am I in control of these action steps, or are they dependent on someone else? If so, change your action steps because you can’t let someone else control your goal, or plan an accountability metric and share it with that person
8)     Set check points along the way to track your progress
9)     Share your goals and action items with someone else and engage them as your accountability partner
10) 
Don’t wait…Start today!

Without specific mini steps along the way, the goal has the danger of becoming just a wish.

 Katty Douraghy - President at Artisan Creative

 

Agency vs. Client Side

Laura Pell - Wednesday, November 19, 2014

 

For many people, there comes a time in your career when you start considering what it would be like to work on the other side. There’s no right answer: agency life can often involve long hours and multiple clients, but it can also be very rewarding. Perhaps working for a brand is more suited to you if you like to specialize in one area and take ownership? Many of our candidates talk about their desires to work for the other team so what better way to help you make the decision than by comparing them side by side.

What’s it like to work at an agency?
Agency life can often have a reputation for long days and hard work, but on the upside you get to flex your creativity and have exposure to many different accounts and brands. You can be working on a last minute project one day then quickly switch gears onto a pitch or something entirely different the next. Multitasking is king so you must be switched on and ready to take anything thrown your way.

For designers, an agency is a perfect way to build your portfolio. You can show a breadth of work with multiple brands while proving to future hiring managers you have what it takes to survive in a fast-paced and deadline-driven environment. This rings true for those in marketing, client services or similar verticals.  Being exposed to many different brands also means you will qualify for more jobs in the future so think about where you want to be in 5-10 years and make sure your current responsibilities are in alignment with your future goals.

What’s it like to work client side?
Unlike agency life which can be very seasonal, workflow in-house is often more stable and predictable. Projects are usually repeated (and improved upon) each year so you know what to expect and when. There’s also a sense of brand familiarity. You will live and breathe one brand and their message so you can become specialized in their area, such as CPG or technology. There’s also the added job security -- agencies are reliant upon business from their clients; if one client leaves it can put jobs at risk. We’re not saying that layoffs don’t happen for in-house companies because sadly they do, but it can be less of a concern.

In the end, it comes down to what you want to get out of your career. If you like high energy and a variety of work, perhaps the agency world is where you will thrive, but if you feel you want brand familiarity, it could be time to look at client side.

Have you worked on both sides before? How did the experiences differ? Share your thoughts and experiences with us on Twitter @artisanupdates.

 Laura Pell - Recruiter at Artisan Creative


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