The Quiet Times

Roger Stringer • August 11, 2022

2 min read

Cap Watkins:

About two years into working at BuzzFeed, I reached a moment one summer when I looked around and realized I had very little to do. I'd been working hard for the past two years stabilizing and growing the design team, hiring and training great managers, as well as building up core design infrastructure like critiques, role documentation, et al. And it had worked! Everything was going well, people were handling what they were supposed to, and I was coincidentally left with a lot more free time than I was accustomed to.

After about a week of things being quiet, I started to feel uncomfortable. What was I supposed to be doing? What if I'd done it all? What if I no longer had anything valuable to contribute? What if my boss realized I was no longer necessary? As these discomforting thoughts crept in, I started looking for things to do, and began creating new projects for myself. At this point, I honestly can't even remember what they were, but I do know they were large and involved. For the next two weeks, I steeped myself in these self-directed initiatives, building momentum, meeting with folks around the company and getting buy-in on what I was doing.

Then I had my one-on-one with my manager.

"So, I have a big project I'd love you to work on."

Oops.

[...]

Now, when things are quiet at work, I take that time to think and reflect, knock a few items off my spring cleaning list (organizing and archiving files, cleaning up my email, etc.), or just grab time with folks I haven't chatted with in awhile to catch up and get a fresh sense for how folks are doing. I've learned there will always be more big projects and deep work around the bend, and to appreciate those quiet moments while they last. So that whenever the next thing does show up, I'm fully recharged and ready to take it on.

Important lessons about those quiet times.

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