First things first

When everyone’s giving you tasks and they’re all urgent, where do you begin?

As UX writers, we get a lot of asks. There are far fewer of us than designers, product managers, and a slew of other stakeholders who need copy from us. That means we’re getting lots of requests at the same time, while the people asking don’t necessarily have an understanding of everything else we’re juggling. We don’t want to let anyone down or miss any deadlines, but at the same time, we can only do what we can do. Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding how to prioritize and not burn yourself out trying to do it all at once.

Process

Define an intake process for new requests. Getting random Slacks and emails and being asked for “just one string… or six” in the hallway in passing is not going to work.

Impact

Urgency of tasks is important, but in my opinion, impact comes first. Work with the task owner to understand the goals and potential impact of the task on the business and on the users. What problem is the task solving? Is it a must or a nice-to-have? Is it a bug in production or a general improvement? I’m not saying nice-to-haves and general improvements shouldn’t happen, of course they should, but they should not be prioritized over more impactful projects.

Urgency

Image Credit

Scope

While you’re having that conversation about meaningful timeframes, you’ll also need to nail down scope. Owners often won’t know how much time goes into a copy task, and that’s OK. Just keep asking all the questions until you figure it out.

Dependencies

When considering urgency and scope, don’t forget to factor in dependencies. If you think you only need a day, but you can’t start until Compliance and Product finalize the spec, the clock doesn’t start ticking on that day yet. You can actually leverage dependencies by scheduling other tasks into the breaks while you’re waiting for external blockers to resolve. Multitasking at its finest.

Scalability and automation

All of these tips are built on the assumption that you are human. But what if you weren’t? Or at least what if you were augmented via scalable/automation tools, for example, if you could get a plugin that would automatically correct style guide aberrations so that stakeholders were equipped to bring you better drafts and save everyone time.

Communicate

Whatever your intake process, however you define urgency and scope, through it all, communicate, communicate, communicate. The more transparency task owners have into your process and progress, the more they will feel like partners, respect your time, and be satisfied with the deliverable. Don’t be a black box, be a fish tank. Let everyone admire your colors.

Image credit

UX writer specializing in complex products. Passionate about making tech accessible to mass markets. Also a proud em dash enthusiast.