A user manual for me

And lots of gifs of the iconic Lesley Knope

Becky Colley
Jan 8 · 4 min read

A what?

Your ‘user manual’ lays out the ways in which you like to work, to make it easier for people to understand your motivations, preferences, and frustrations.

Cassie Robinson. explains it nicely:

“Sometimes you just learn to work together through doing and getting on with stuff but there are some basics that it is probably helpful for everyone to know… not all your needs and preferences can be met, but there is still value in making them explicit for those you work with.”

Read more and download Cassie’s manual template here.


In my previous team, at Citizens Advice, lots of people shared their manuals and they really helped us to work together in an understanding, respectful, and efficient way.

I recently joined the Barbican Centre as their UX Lead so it seems a good time to publish my own. Let’s get on with it.

Conditions I like to work in…

  • I love fresh air and natural light, and having a plant on my desk makes me happy
  • It’s also important to me to be able to go outside for a walk at least once during the working day
  • I need a bit of buzz — places that are quiet all the time freak me out
  • If my headphones are on, that’s my “do not disturb” sign
GIF description: The cast of NBC’s Parks and Recreation enjoying a group hug

The times/hours I like to work…

  • I’m usually in the office by 9.30am and like to leave by 5pm
  • I prefer to take a short lunch, but I meet friends once or twice a week and will take a full hour then and come in early/finish work later
  • Taking an actual break is important to me, so I avoid lunchtime meetings wherever possible
  • I like to work from home once a week
  • When I’m out of the office, I’m out of the office — I don’t respond to emails/Slack, etc., unless I contacted you first or it really can’t wait
  • My calendar is open so if you can see that I’m free you’re welcome to book something in, just tell me what it’s about if I don’t already know
GIF description: Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope saying, “I’m going to work until I’m 100 and then cut back to 4 days a week.”

The best ways to communicate with me…

In order of preference — and the quickest way you’ll get a response:

  1. Slack
  2. In person
  3. Email (but do I really need to be CCed?)
  4. Phone call

I prefer quick meetings. If we’ve discussed everything we need to, let’s finish early and give ourselves some time back. And if it’s informal and there aren’t too many of us, let’s walk while we talk.

GIF description: Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope saying, “Shut your mouth.”

The ways I like to receive feedback…

  • Instantly
  • If you have a criticism, please be specific and constructive so I can learn and improve — and in writing is best, so I can refer back to it
  • I’d rather have an awkward conversation that let things stew so let’s be direct with each other
GIF description: Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope saying, “You are a beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox.”

Things I need…

  • Variety, but without too much context-switching in a day
  • A bit of solo time every day to process things, reflect, and absorb
  • To always be learning
  • To feel like I’m contributing to something that matters
GIF description: Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope saying, “We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, and work.”

Things I struggle with…

  • Not understanding the point of what we’re trying to achieve and the value it will add
  • Politics and bullsh*t: be straightforward, please
  • Lots of meetings or full-on days (as an introvert they exhaust me)
  • Detail — I’m a decisive and action-oriented Red¹, and while I try to bear in mind that others need to plan I do get frustrated if I feel like time is being wasted labouring over the same point too much
  • Being seen as domineering when I’m passionate and trying to be productive!
  • Presenting, but I’m working on this
GIF description: Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope saying, “So, I’m right on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

Things I love…

  • Learning
  • Failing fast — and that being OK
  • Being involved in everything (another thing I’m trying to be better at, as I’ve been told I can spread myself too thin)
  • Getting people excited about user-centred design, especially if they initially don’t seem to get it
  • Seeing the impact of a job well done
  • Making a difference
  • Snacks
GIF description: Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope eating a waffle

Other things to know about me…

  • I struggle with Imposter Syndrome
  • I’m an INFJ²
  • I believe everyone should be able to bring their whole selves to work and am a fierce egalitarian and ally
  • I will always speak up for others — even though I struggle to do it for myself
  • I chain-drink Yorkshire Tea
  • I like to travel, particularly to unusual places (most recently Cape Clear Island)
  • I’m into dogs


[1] Hartman Personality Profile. Wikipedia [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020]

[2] Introduction | Advocate Personality (INFJ-A / INFJ-T). 16Personalities [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020]

Becky Colley

Written by

UX Design Lead at the @BarbicanCentre. Likes dogs, 90s R&B, and exploring new places | beckycolley.co.uk

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