Patrick Stafford is a Senior Digital Copywriter at MYOB, Co-Founder of UX Writer’s Collective, UX Writer at Stafford Content, podcast host and guest instructor at Academy Xi.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started as a business journalist fresh out of uni at SmartCompany.com.au. I started a few weeks before the GFC kicked off when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Over the next 5.5 years I interviewed hundreds (thousands, probably) of small business owners and focused on topics important to SMEs. It was a real crash course in business, I suppose.
After SmartCompany I worked in PwC’s digital consultancy as a content producer. There I was exposed to working in agile frameworks with design thinking, and begin providing some expertise to UX projects. Following that, I left to work at MYOB as a digital copywriter. I’m currently a Senior Digital Copywriter in MYOB’s online team.
I’m also a co-founder of the UX Writers Collective, run a content/UX writing business Stafford Content, host a podcast Writers of Silicon Valley, and teach a UX writing workshop at Academy Xi a few times a year.
2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m up early, about 5.30am or 6am. Immediately check my emails and messages. My UX Writers Collective team is based in the States, so I always want to catch up on what we’ve been doing.
If I’m not getting my son ready for kindergarten, then I head straight into work. Twice a week I have a UXWC meeting on the way to keep check in on what we’ve been doing.
Before work, I often work on UXWC. Developing new courses, writing blogs, etc. At MYOB, projects are full-on so I give that my all. It’s complex enough!
When I get home, I often delve back into UXWC or freelance work after spending some time with my wife and son. Occasionally I get a free night where I just veg out.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, I work from home one day a week. I thankfully work for a company that values results over presence, so as long as you get results then they don’t care from where you work. I’d rather be in the office to be honest as I like the in-person collaboration, but not having distractions for a day does allow you to get a lot more down.
My UXWC and Stafford Content work is fully remote.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?
The Getting Things Done framework is essential. I cannot praise it enough. The idea is basically that you need to put every single one of your tasks into an external system.
Get it out quickly, then organise it later. That way you never have to just trust yourself to remember things, because I have a terrible memory and will forget it.
Based on that list, I create different items and projects based on the GTD scheduling plan. I live by my calendar. I will schedule coffee and board game nights with friends several weeks in advance. If you’re not in my calendar, I’m just not going to be able to see you.
5) What does work life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work life balance is an interesting term. I think it’s different for everyone and what works for one person won’t work for another. For example, I drop my son off on Mondays to kindergarten, but I don’t see him again until Wednesday morning because I get home late and my wife picks him up and puts him to bed.
I wouldn’t recommend that for some people. On the other hand, every Saturday and Sunday morning I take him out for breakfast and we spend time together.
My issue is, how much time you spend balancing work and family life is not the issue, it’s the quality time. I might not get as much 1:1 time with my son as I like, but when I do, we have fun, we are focused on each other, I’m not sitting there vegged out on the couch. (Though sometimes that happens too!)
Also, communication, communication, communication. Most relationship breakdowns happen from unmet expectations. So set expectations early.
6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
Working at a fast-paced environment like Smart Company helped me develop the skills to write quickly and interrogate ideas. I don’t often fret about decisions – I just weigh the data and make one.
Also, Getting Things Done. I really can’t recommend that enough. Every time you have a task, put it down in your notes system and categorise it later. It is really the pillar of my busy life.
7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
Thinking, Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I always take an hour or two at the end of the day to just chill. Do nothing. Just sit and relax. It’s crucial.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I often see folks burn out because they just say “yes” to things. Never just say “yes” and figure things out. I regularly turn away work because I simply cannot fit it into my schedule.
You also have to really reverse engineer your planning. For instance, a client might ask me to take on a project. Okay, that project might take 10 hours. But what if I get sick? What are the contingencies? What if I hit a roadblock?
Build in contingency and schedule that time. If you cannot, then don’t take the project on. If you’re just running from place to place to project to project with no down time schedule, you won’t just burn out – your projects and quality of work will suck, too.
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