Slow December 2023: Slow Down, Exhale, Think Deep, Do Things

Slow December 2023: Slow down, exhale, think deep, do things

In 2022 we had our first Slow December, and in 2023 we repeated it. The practice somewhat matured, but still there is room for improvement.

What is Slow December?

Slow December is a full month where you are free from assignments, mandatory meetings, deadlines, and pressure. You can set your plans and execute them at your own pace.

Why Slow? 🐢

Modern life is accelerating at a rapid pace. While humans are a flexible species, evolution has not prepared us for the influx of information, pressure, and a constant sense of urgency.

It is good to slow down, think deeply, reflect, do things, and enjoy life. Vacations can provide relief, but what about work? Can we still do cool things and relax a bit? We at Fibery are exploring this possibility.

Why December? ❄️

  • This month has a lot of holidays.
  • This is the end of the year.
  • In some countries, it is getting cold.

And yes, we have special emojis for Slow December: 🐢❄️

Slow December rules

Slow December rules evolved from the previous year. Here is my long post from Slack to the team before the Slow December.

Last year Fibery had Slow December. This year we are repeating it. Here is the post to alleviate (or boost) the frustration of people who joined Fibery this year, and a reminder for older teammates. I’m announcing it upfront to plan all current activities and complete them till December to have a nice and pleasant slowness switch.

Rules:
🚫 No mandatory meetings (no company meetings as well)
🚫 No assigned tasks & deadlines
🍀 You are free to do whatever you want: explore some ideas, improve something in Fibery, or fix something in Fibery that you wanted to fix for 34 months but couldn’t find the time, try something new, like write a post.
🎁 It is desirable to produce artefacts of your activity: something done, something written in text, something visual, you name it.

FAQ
Q: Can we afford it?
A: Yes, one month will not make a huge difference. Upside of the creative month can be high, while downside is controllable and low.

Q: Why are we doing it?
A: This is a time to slow down, reflect and do something without pressure. Constant pressure leads to mediocre decisions, there should be time to think deep and explore deep.

Q: Can I pressure people to do things I want?
A: Sure, you can form ad-hoc groups and do something as a team. However, you don’t have to. Feel free to avoid any pressure and work in solitude and peace. You can also bribe teammates, use flattery and all other legal and semi-legal mechanisms to get your idea done.

Q: I’m not a developer, what should I do?
A: Find some interesting task. Explore some topic and write a post. Create some prototype. Try to sell Fibery to 5 people. Be 
creative, find something that drives your curiosity.

Q: Do I need an approval to include something into a product?
A: Yes and no. You are free to work on anything you want, but real productisation is up to Product Group to decide. So if you want to be sure that something will be included into a product, ask someone from the list above.

Q: I work in Customer Success, how to enjoy this when I have permanent pressure from customers?
A: You are unlucky, since this is the only activity we can’t halt. Some mandatory support should be done anyway, but maybe other people will help you from time to time, like take support channel for some specific day like Olga did? Ask for help and add some pressure.

Q: What if I started something and use full January to complete it?
A: Please don’t. Or you will feel the pressure and all good feelings from December will be washed away.

Q: Fuck this shit, I just want to work as usual
A: Feel free to do it, but at least breathe out and do it slowly and deeply. 😮‍💨

The team’s perception was super-positive overall, but some people questioned the sanity of this practice in our startup-mode situation. Anyway, we decided to go for it.

Here’s what we changed up from last year:

  • Instead of just 20 days, we dedicated the whole of December to the process.
  • A daily rotational duty was introduced for developers to assist the customer success team with urgent matters.
  • Everybody wrote down and shared their plans before Slow December kicked off.

What we’ve released/done

About a third of our team kept doing their usual stuff, just with less stress and more focus. The rest of us used this chance to whip up something surprising or learn cool new things. Check out what we’ve come up with and done.

Chatbots 👾

Vova and Alex implemented experimental Chatbots in Fibery in several weeks. You can create several chatbots that use several databases to answer questions or do other things. For example, we’re trying a Product Expert chatbot that knows all Fibery Features and Insights.

We already have tons of ideas on how Chatbots can evolve and become a very powerful part of Fibery.

The AI Assistant is one of the shiniest results of Slow December
The AI Assistant is one of the shiniest results of Slow December

Fibery Desktop apps 🍎

We got many requests for Desktop apps, so Alex, Dima, and Pavel formed a small team to implement them. Now you can download Fibery desktop apps here.

Fibery for macOS is now here!
Fibery for macOS is now here!

Visualize percent values in Views 📈

This was an initiative of a fancy pair Dima + Alexey. Here we also learned that we need to re-implement field units completely and it will be started soon.

Percent values are now visualized in any View
Percent values are now visualized in any View

Other done things

I don’t want to bother you with all the details, but here is just a list of some other things (not all) people worked on to give you a feeling about diversity:

  • Core refactoring (small and deep)
  • Performance improvements in various places
  • Restore deleted Space
  • Emoji picker improvements
  • Show all comments in the right panel
  • Filter search results by creation date
  • Set initial field values via URL parameter on Form View
  • Workspace health status in the Help menu
  • Prototype of Fibery extension for Figma
  • Fibery-2-Fibery sync prototype
  • UX design framework for Fibery
  • Reading, education, and learning
  • Experimented with persisting local DBs in the IndexedDB storage. Failed
  • Several articles were created
  • Described and iterated on a radical idea for the left menu
  • Investigated if kafka could be a replacement for our custom message balancing solution, turned out that it can’t
  • Played around with event-log-based architecture for Fibery, but decided that it was too radical to have any useful impact on our current product

Personal feelings and reflection

Personal feelings varied. Some team members felt satisfied with their productivity, while others felt disappointed due to distractions or external factors like illness.

Alex, Product Designer:

I wanted to develop several ideas, but there were too many distractions with current tasks, and I couldn’t focus deeply. Next time, I’ll switch off notifications for the entire December.

Despite the challenges, the team appreciated the slower pace and flexibility of Slow December. It allowed for focused work and deep dives.

Zauri, Product Designer:

I liked the idea of having a slow-paced month, even though I haven’t worked for a long time in the company. It’s a great opportunity to do things you feel are needed to the product, without having to restrain yourself and keep focus.

Andrew, Software Engineer:

I’m feeling satisfied because Slow December gives me a period without interruptions to perform focused and long-running (~1-2 weeks) experiments.

Overall, I think engineers and designers are more enthusiastic about Slow December, while marketing and customer success are much less so.

Future improvements

This Slow December went better than before, but still, we had some problems and will try to solve them this year:

  • Some features dragged to January and few people worked on them for ~2 more weeks. We need to wrap up slow December better, like the first week of Jan re-evaluate all uncompleted features, and decide what to do.
  • Not so many teams were formed. Maybe it is OK, but we will think about how to make this process better and encourage people to create teams and work together on some problems.
  • We will add a place to check out the cool things people made. Sharing plans doesn’t fit the spirit of Slow December, but sharing outputs as they are ready would be awesome.
  • One common problem is capacity. People tend to overestimate their capacity and plan too many things. However, this problem is unsolvable. You can’t beat optimism.
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Wrap Up

I think Slow December provided a valuable opportunity for the team to reflect, work on personal projects, and recharge for the upcoming year.

Let me finish this article with a quote from Chris, our solution architect:

Love it, and the feedback from outsiders makes me think that the idea will become discussed more widely, in the same way as the 4-day week has become a well-known concept.

I encourage your company to try it at least once. It is fun. 😅

Psst... Wanna try Fibery? 👀

Infinitely flexible work & knowledge hub.