Senior Design Systems Designer • Manchester, UK 🐝

The truth about a 2-day working week, managing a low income, and who should attempt a shorter working week. Plus, Chuck’s recent work.

Man stood by a lake of water at dusk, staring into the distance.
Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky / Unsplash

How and why I moved to a 2-day week

Nearly 4 months ago, we received the dreaded announcement that no one wants to hear.

“In order to protect the business, we have no choice but to implement a restructure. Some roles, unfortunately, are up for redundancy.”

My heart immediately sank. I knew what the proposal would be before even seeing it. It’s clear to me my skillset is geared to scaling up—not scaling down. As a business decision it made sense.

After all was said and done, we did come to an agreement whereby I’d work 2 days a week for the business. Reflecting on it, it was such a novel experience I even wrote about how I designed my way out of redundancy.

With 3 days freed up, it’s tempting to spend that playing video games or treating it as a forced holiday. I did for a short while, but I had plans. I wanted to put into practice all the entrepreneurial skills I had learned to date to grow my writing.

And so I embarked on a journey most are afraid of—“doing my own thing”.

The reality of a 2-day week

If I could write a TLDR, it would look something like this:

TDLR; you need discipline, patience, and a goal you believe with all your heart.

At first, it was incredible. I found that I was disciplined and organised enough to structure my day, to achieve and deliver the outcomes that mattered most to me. The first several weeks, this happened:

  • My dog was much happier having proper walks every day
  • My sleep quality improved dramatically
  • My follower count on Medium doubled to 700+
  • I learned to develop Design System maturity, in an async way
  • I could spend time connecting more with people I cared about

Sounds amazing to me. What gives?

As with all things in life, there’s always the other side of the coin. In exchange for having this freedom over my routine, I had to drastically rethink my financial cashflow.

You see, cutting out 3 days a week comes with a 60% paycut. I wouldn’t be bleeding money if I played my cards right, but I wouldn’t be saving either. This gave me a glimpse back to what it was like living as a student.

Students, and others with low disposable incomes, have to make their finances stretch further. My meal plans were fine tuned to reduce waste, and I relied on “cost-effective” entertainment—often at home.

It reminded me of this documentary where four students go to Guatemala to live off $1 USD per day. Whilst my situation isn’t as drastic, there’s a takeaway I think everyone can really learn from.

When your income is low enough, saving alone cannot get you out of it.
Only 60 minutes—I highly recommend you give this a watch.

To get out of a low income situation, the goal is growth. Grow your skills, grow your value, and therefore grow your income. Only by growing my ability to earn my own money can I have room to save and invest in my future again.

At one point I became so obsessed with growing my writing, and the small income it brings, that everything else seemed to take a backseat. Cleaning, laundry, my diet, time with others. It’s like all the benefits I had in the beginning did a complete 180.

Five stages of grief, and acceptance

A few weeks ago, the penny finally dropped. The penny of acceptance. Accepting what it really means to “do your own thing”, to grow it, and how patient and diligent you need to be.

Yes, I’m earning something significant, and yes I truly loved the autonomy it gave me. In due time it would more reliably cover some of the essential bills, but it was still a long way to go as an income replacement.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking:

“But Chuck, Medium is to supplement your income, not replace it! It’s a springboard for other things!”

Very true, I understand that, but I’m not going to punish myself for trying anyway. Only by trying did I get to learn what was possible, what I’m capable of, and it can help me understand what type of future I want to create for myself.

Would I recommend it?

In short, yes, but do it with your eyes wide open. All the stories of people who dropped out and effected the world massively, and often created vast amounts of wealth were on a different level.

Often times, they had a kick-start by way of inheritance or connections.

I’m no different, I didn’t start my writing from scratch. I’ve been writing blogs for 14 years, wrote technical documentation my whole career, and started building my Medium portfolio a few years ago.

A head start is not the silver bullet to success, though. Consistency, determination, and willingness to pivot is what’ll get you there. Start small, build it up over time, and when the time is right you can make that swap if it goes well enough.

There’s this big bang approach that some people can take to making their own living, dropping everything and going all in. Huge respect for them. That’s not for me. I mean, let’s be honest—I’m still employed 2 days a week after all.

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Let's jump in to what I've been writing and reading, October 2022 edition.

… well, since August 🤷‍♂️.

What I've been writing

Latest and greatest

A product development process arranged as a lifecycle with arrows, focusing on the design process, and in the centre is “Design System” in a cloud shape.

The Design System lifecycle: it’s simply push and pull
How tokens, components, and patterns are pushed and pulled into a living, breathing Design System.

“By understanding how Design Systems fit into the wider product development lifecycle, its chances of succeeding are better. You don’t need a dedicated team to start getting its benefits. It’s more than just components, too.”

Experimental posts

Visually in 16-bit fashion: sign made from wood spelling out “Stardew Valley”, on a backdrop of the night sky, hint of sunrise, and rolling hills.

Got an IRL Side Hustle? Succeed Sooner with these Stardew Valley Lessons
Accelerate your growth and reach profitability, by applying these learnings from the Stardew Valley universe.

In case you missed it

A masterclass in sharing Figma’s prototype interactions
Reuse interactions in your prototypes without losing Design System updates by using components, inheritance, and an Interaction Wrapper.

Amplify your design team using these DevOps principles
DevOps principles to become an effective DesignOps person, and scale your team without hiring.

Will “Adobe Figma” still be free, nested properties, and latest UX trends
Friends of Figma Manchester event recap #3. Join the official group here.

Old but gold

The ultimate guide to breakpoints and flexbox in Figma
How to prototype advanced responsive designs in Figma using breakpoints and flexbox, and if it’s worth using plugins…

What I’ve been reading

Is management the right path for you?

With the extra time I’ve had, and having a role that’s both management and craft, I didn’t know which direction I wanted to build. This is a great read for anyone in the same position.

Just do it — getting started with design systems

I have a startup mentality, whereby I’m not afraid to get things done even if it’s not “by the book” or is a bit rough around the edges. The outcome is more important, and I totally agree with Dan here when it comes to Design Systems.

The best design system is no system

It’s provocative, but I wholeheartedly agree with the message Tony is trying to send. Yes, a system solves so many issues for us. But don’t become complacent. Don’t forget to think—what’s truly the best way to solve this problem?

Liked this? Forward to a friend, subscribe to my newsletter, Medium, YouTube, or become a Medium member to support my writing (and other writers, too!).
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