Full Stack Anxiety

14 Oct 2018

I stumbled across this talk & it spoke to me and the conflicting priorities rolling round in my head.

Joel perfectly defines an anxiety common to Product Designers, but also outlines a simple way to prioritize what to learn and work on out of all the opportunities.

I’m a designer, so I should probably learn responsive patterns, methods for remote user testing, Sketch, motion graphics, Framer, keep up to date with current design trends, and a million other things.

I’m a developer, so I should probably learn SVG animations, Node or React or Ember, BEM principles, new web inspector features, Vim or at least better Sublime workflows, and a million other things.

I’m also a human being, so I can’t possibly learn all these things. I have to choose.

So… what do I choose? Full Stack Anxiety is that creeping doubt, when you just don’t know what the right choice is. Do I grow as a designer or do I grow as a developer? As a manager, a teacher, a business-person?

1. Ask yourself

“What kind of work do I want to do in the future?” And, when approaching a new skill ask, “What am I becoming by learning this?” If that skill doesn’t help you become the person you want to be, then it may not be worth your attention.

2. Create some structure

Remember that big, scary list that Califa presented? Make one for yourself.

“As anxiety provoking as the list is, it’s better than a general, vague panic,” Califa said.

A bit of organization-even a simple list on paper-eliminates the need to keep juggling those tasks in your brain.

3. Take the decision out of the moment

Califa suggests creating a simple if/then statement.

  • If this skill can be applicable to other parts of my life.
    Then I’ll learn it.
  • If this is a skill that’ll be in demand for years to come.
    Then I’ll learn it.
  • If this brings me closer to who I want to be.
    Then I’ll learn it.

Hopefully, this helps reduce that overwhelming list to something more approachable.

Sketch kills Photoshop. React kills Angular. Rails kills PHP. JS kills Rails…and on and on. There’s always going to be something new. And all of them will die at some point.

Prioritize transferrable skills, like typography, programming patterns and management. The more longevity a skill has, the better an idea it is to learn it.

5. Prioritize happiness

“At the end of the day, life isn’t all about work, and nothing is worth being that anxious over.”

So, if you’re still having trouble reducing that to-learn list to something manageable, Califa has a way to make it simple.

Do the things that make you happy.