September 7, 2017

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Illustrator Liz Fosslien and Designer Mollie West Duffy Advocate Emotion at Work



What are you working on—on the side?

Our side project is an illustrated book (working title: No Hard Feelings) that aims to make it OK to acknowledge emotion at work. The problem with the idea that emotion does not exist at work is that humans experience emotion constantly, independent of time, location or task. Of course, there are large differences in how individuals react to emotion, but emotion itself cannot be turned off. More importantly, emotions can serve as valuable guideposts for decision-making. We should not want to turn our emotions off.

Our goal is take an affectionate but deeply researched look at how emotions profoundly affect key aspects of our professional lives and gives readers a framework for better understanding and embracing emotions at work. Each chapter focuses on how emotions impact a different part of work: from teams to health to communication to motivation. Every chapter includes a combination of business case studies, personal narratives, research studies and illustrations, and shows readers how to become more effective by improving their workplace emotional fluency. At its core, No Hard Feelings argues that if employers and employees can become comfortable communicating emotions and acknowledging the emotions of others, we can all be more authentic, productive and fulfilled in the workplace.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

Mollie: I get up around 6 or 6:30 most mornings to write, and then work on the weekends. It takes a lot of discipline, but it’s fun work, so I enjoy making time for it.

Liz: I have a more flexible schedule (I usually work from home and take on a variety of freelance projects), so finding time throughout the week is easier. But generally, I strongly believe that we make time for what matters to us. So the best way to find time is to pick a side project you deeply love. If you’re obsessed with the thing, you’ll go to bed thinking about and wake up excited to work on it. It’ll become less “how do I find time” and more “how do I stop myself from working on this so much!”

Why have a side project?

We both find it to be incredibly rewarding and fun. It engages a different set of muscles than we use in our other jobs. It’s also something that is uniquely ours—we aren’t doing it for anyone else. We are writing the book that we want to read!

A side project also acts as job therapy. When work is frustrating or hard or simply dreary (which even the best jobs are at times), burrowing yourself in your side project is a lovely outlet and escape. It's a BEAUTIFUL and cathartic thing to want and work on something for yourself that originates from you.

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Diptych courtesy of Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


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