A few weeks ago I found an article on Ness Labs about creating a personal user manual. Your user manual is a short document that communicates the basics of who you are, your preferences and communication style. It is a tool to foster psychological safety and build trust in the workplace.
For me, this article is a tool for a future work environment and a writing exercise of self discovery. Giving new people a quick glance at my personality and preferences can diminish the possibilities of misunderstandings. It can also be useful to create bonds over shared experiences or start conversations about topics in common.
Writing is a great tool for discovery, it is in itself a hard task, and it gets harder when you think about sharing it. By doing so, I realized how many things I still need to explore and reevaluate. The prompts in the article made me reflect on who I am right now, what I know about myself and what could be the best way to communicate with new people.
Here is my attempt at my user manual. It is not meant to be The Definitive Guide of Laura, but it is a great start.
Give a brief overview of who you are, where you come from, and your career history.
- Human, designer, philosophy student. Colombian, based in Brazil.
- My career history:
- Went to architecture school, dropped out, worked in architecture for four years. Studied graphic design and started working as a visual designer for an art gallery. Moved to Brazil to study philosophy. Currently working remote, teaching myself product design and doing research on Deleuze's Difference and Repetition.
What are your ideal conditions to work in?
- I'm a morning person and I rely heavily on my routines and structures. It is hard for me to drop everything at a given moment, I can do it if it is necessary, but I prefer everything scheduled in advance.
- My physical space is usually organized but filled with objects. I always have paper and pen at hand. I consider myself a visual thinker and taking manual notes with diagrams and mind maps helps me understand better.
- I do my best work when I have clear goals. I set weekly and monthly goals for myself and make sure my daily actions are aligned with them.
While most jobs are a combination of collaboration and solo work...
- I love being a part of a team and working with others. I think you can learn lots from one another and I love doing that. Especially in multidisciplinary teams.
- I also enjoy working alone, it is what I do most of the time, but silent companions are always welcome.
What’s the best way to reach you in case something is urgent?
- My preferred method of communication is email. I'm always available there. Takes me longer to answer on other channels. Are you comfortable with video calls?
- Yes. As long as they have a clear goal. I work better when I have structures, with a goal I can make sure to have everything ready to discuss.
Share how you like to receive feedback.
- I prefer to work on my own for long periods and get feedback on many aspects at once.
- I enjoy the process of seeing and correcting my own mistakes before someone else points them out. But I'm aware that receiving quick feedback is the fastest way sometimes.
- I love direct communication, it is better for me when people state very clearly what is wrong and why. I dislike when I need to guess what people are trying to say.
- When I ask follow up questions, sometimes I don't frame them in the best way and they may seem abrasive. I ask for clarification because I want to understand better and learn.
- My ideas are not precious and I know that constructive feedback of my work is not personal criticism. I can articulate the why behind my design decisions and have a healthy discussion around them, that doesn't mean I'm not going to change my mind.
Share how people can help you and how you can help others.
- I enjoy thinking and solving problems.
- Patience is my superpower. I get frustrated, as everyone else, but I always persevere.
- I'm disciplined, determined and very organized.
- I’m very curious. I love to explore new concepts.
- I love being punctual. I respect my time and everyone else’s time.
- I take my time to process. Sometimes I remain in silence thinking because it may take me a while to understand new information.
- I need to get better at interacting with people. I actively put myself into situations where I need to be social.
- I can change my mind when presented with new information, but I always do my research. It is hard for me to accept something without questioning.
- Sometimes I obsess trying to make perfect little details that are not so important. I'm still working on knowing how to recognize what details matter and which ones do not.
- I take the difficult route because I love to challenge myself. This could be time consuming and always depletes my energy. I need to remind myself to do the smart work and not the hard work
- I tend to overthink everything.
What are some things that people might misunderstand about you that you should clarify?
- My face is expressive and sometimes it seems that I'm mad but I'm just focused or tired. You can ask, I'm always going to be clear about what is going on.
- I'm confident in some of my abilities and when I talk about them I may look like a narcissistic person. I'm not, it is hard for me to accept when I'm good at something.
- When I'm stressed or frustrated, I need some time off to process my feelings. This usually means silence and taking a break.
- My English pronunciation and my vocabulary are not great. I always welcome corrections.
- I dislike complaints when they don't involve taking practical steps to solve something. And if it is impossible to solve, complaining is only going to make it worse.
- I'm introverted and shy.
- I'm usually working on many ideas at once, apparently that's how I like my life to be.
This is a fun section to share anything that can give people a better sense of your personal interests.
- I'm a fan of Kitsch. I've been a roller derby skater for 8 years and most of my friends from there call me Kitsch.
- I love coffee.
- My favorite movie is The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- I'm a bookworm, I love everything Science Fiction, especially Ted Chiang. I don't usually read non-fiction or novels but I make some exceptions.
- Music: I'm always listening to music. I have a playlist for every mood and I'm always in for discovering new artists. My favorite genre is jazz-chill-24-7-african-beats-with-latin-rythms-post-rock-disco-post-punk-merengue.
- I enjoy crafts. I love bookbinding, model making, ceramics, hand embroidery, drawing, sketching.
- For visual interests and others, my Are-na channel is where I keep everything.
Also, if you think something is missing, please let me know. I'm always in for additional reflection and, who knows, maybe a personal user manual part two.