School teaches us one thing. Society is full of its own expectations. Parents pressure us their own way. Friends another. When do we stop to listen to ourselves and what we really want?
In this two-hour WRITE YOUR OWN RULES workshop we’ll explore creating your own guiding principles to propel you forward being sure to relate them to your own story, interests, and vision for your future. You’ll be presented with engaging, interactive exercises pulling from design thinking, UX, and creativity coaching to get you reflecting and thinking with fresh eyes, guided by creative coach and consultant Anne Ditmeyer (me! aka @pretavoyager).
Expect to meet new people (yes, even in an online format), learn something new, have some fun, and leave with your own “rulebook” of guiding principles— your own personal zine that will serve you in life and work.
** Bring yourself, 3 sheets of plain printer paper + a pen or markers **
This workshop is perfect for you if:
- You’re frustrated with the status quo.
- Are considering a life change.
- Want to push yourself further at your current job.
- You’re looking for a fresh perspective.
- You want something more enriching than scrolling your phone for 2 hours.
There are TWO upcoming workshop dates to help reach a wide range of participants around the world:
- Friday, March 26th, 4-6pm CET (check Eventbrite listing for local time; times may be different due to US daylight savings time)
- Sunday, March 28th, 11am-1pm CET (check Eventbrite listing for local time; times may be affected by Australian daylight savings time)
** PLEASE CHECK YOUR LOCAL TIME ZONE BEFORE SIGNING UP **
Past participants have said:
“That was mindblowingly awesome! We covered so much in two hours in a way that became this incredible deep dive, and at the end you leave with something tangible. During the workshop I had huge ‘ah ha!’ moments in a connected way to the work I’m doing now.”
“Anne’s workshops are truly a breath of fresh air. Her thoughtful event scaffolding paired with her creative, warm, and joyful persona make her an incredibly special facilitator. I left feeling delightful, refreshed, and full of wonder. She’s a gem of a host!”
“Write Your Own Rules workshop is creative, out of the box, stimulating and a great way to understand/find what’s truly important for you next ! You also get to know new faces!”
“Your workshop came along at the perfect time. I’ve been making slow progress launching my passion project — a small publishing company. I used the workshop to write the Rules for my company. This will help choose projects, tell the story internally and some marketing content, too! And (hopefully!) grow the business. I am usually more of a list maker than a free-flowing-creative type. But I love it when I am coached/coaxed into a more visual kind of organizing. The worksheets and zine were a great mental stretch. Now I’ve got to put the markers away so I don’t keep adding to my new Rule Book! (Time to start using it for business!)”
“A stimulating 2 hours workshop, empowering you with a will to fight lingering frustration, and better adjust to your inner desires. The international participants are a source of inspiration and your invisible supporter!”
“I have a million thoughts swirling in my head at any given time, but this workshop allowed me to center myself, find themes, and lay down my own brickwork for a structured way of thinking about my life, actions, and goals.
By putting pen to paper, you can concretize your guiding principles and be an active participant in your own narrative. Anne herself is creative, vulnerable, open, and enthusiastic for you to find your own path; she’s a great, empowering workshop leader.”
“Still feeling the positive glow after your workshop! Anne was super organized and skillfully maneuvered us through the 2 hours with a delightful ending. Anne creatively gets you to think out of the box to find solutions to problems. And she does it in a funny, quirky way with a literally punchy surprise at the end to get your ass up and moving!”
“Going into Write Your Own Rules I wanted clarity and hoped the workshop to be a springboard, and I felt that it brought me that. There was a shift. Now that I have my rules, I realized I should go for what I want. It was just the springboard I needed!”
HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE! This workshop is perfect for both personal and professional development, or maybe you just want to try something different for 2 hours of your life. Everyone is welcome!
Participants will receive an email the day before the workshop with Zoom access, as well as a mini “assignment” to get you in the mindset for rule writing.
How would it feel to actively be creating your big goals and the life you want? How would it feel to actually be taking strides not just sitting, thinking about them? Mapping Your Path: Finding Direction is designed so you can go from feeling out of control, lacking clarity, feeling overwhelmed, and not knowing where to start, to taking steps, breaking through limiting beliefs, taking (imperfection) action, gaining momentum, and having a clear vision for what you want out of life, be it personal or professional—or even both.
WHAT IF you embraced doing things YOUR way? To get on on the path YOU really want to be on. What if you finally carved out the time for yourself?
This is not about doing things the way we think we’re “supposed to” and thinking in traditional ways, and it’s not like any other workshop you’ve experienced before. Mapping Your Path: Finding Direction is about shaking things up, exploring, and having fun while you’re at it, all while being part of something more and in community so that you can start to make real progress, as defined by you. It all starts February 5th.
MYP is about setting yourself up for success for the path you really want to be on deep down. You know there is “more” waiting for you.
Take off the pressure. Remove the overwhelm. Give yourself permission to reflect. Allow yourself to explore, flourish, and thrive. All while moving forward. No one said progress had to be perfection.
The world has been A LOT lately. It’s almost as if the universe wanted us to hit a collective reset and ask:
- What are our priorities?
- How do we want to be spending our time?
- Who do we want to be spending our time with?
- Where do we want to be?
- What if we tried something new—or differently—despite these new constraints?
At the same time the world moves so fast that we have to be intentional to MAKE the time to reflect on these questions. While these questions should always be questions we’re asking ourselves, now they more relevant than ever before.
Mapping Your Path: Finding Direction is a 3-month workshop and community that follows you through your journey. It’s about taking stock of where you are now, and where you want to be. We’ll do this through mapping, storytelling, and creative exercises that will get you out of your head and living your deepest desires, all while seeing what really is possible.
You’ll be in a tight cohort of amazing humans around the world working to take the steps on the path YOU each want to be on, even if it means changing course, pausing, or allowing for detours.
Mapping Your Path will give you permission to:
- explore alternatives
- slow down and reflect
- take the pressure off to do it all
- develop habits to support your endeavors
- celebrate your wins
- find inspiration in unlikely places
- connect with others who can relate to the journey less traveled
By the end of our 3 months together you’ll have:
- A renewed sense of direction
- A renewed sense of clarity and focus
- A renewed sense of calm and inner peace
- A renewed sense of self and the journey you’re on
- A renewed sense of energy to carry into your life and work
- A renewed sense of creativity
- A realization that you’re in it for the long game and not instant gratification
- A realization that more isn’t necessarily better
- A realization that sometimes slowing down is how you go further, faster
- A feeling of inspiration, fulfilment, and new confidence to carry forward
- Reminders to find joy and have fun
- Permission to explore, experiment, and try new things
- Permission to be yourself
- A community of amazing cheerleaders and accountability partners
You may already be clear on the destination, or you may be looking for more clarity. Either way, the journey is the destination, and together we’ll walk through creative exercises to build our own toolkit to help carry us through whatever the future holds.
It all happens through the magic of live workshops (which will be recorded and you can watch later if you can’t join live), office hours, mini group calls, and a private community (on Slack). The pace allows time for reflection, digestion, and percolation.
** FIRST LIVE WORKSHOP meets Friday, Feb 5th at 5pm CET /11am EST / 8am PST / 8pm Dubai. **
It’s up to you how much time you want to commit, but know there is a guide and a community there for you when you need it.
The goal is to remove overwhelm, NOT add one more thing to your to do list. Also, this is going to be FUN!!!
You’ll have your very own cheerleaders built in as we work through exercises centered around mapping and storytelling, write your own playbook for life, and unlock your own super powers as we examine mindset and the beliefs that can get in our way to help propel you forward.
You’ll be given all the tools and support you need to make magic happen, and time during the live workshops to work on the exercises, helping to remove pressure from those growing to do lists. This workshop isn’t like anything you’ve experienced before, it will be FUN!
First, you need to show up for yourself…. SIGN UP TODAY! Space is limited.
I’d be HONORED to have you on this journey! Oh perhaps forwarding this to a friend may just change their life…
Questions? On the fence? Want to know if it’s a good fit? Shoot me a message at hello (at) anneditmeyer (dot) com or shoot me a DM on social media (@pretavoyager) and I’m happy to help! Just don’t delay because time is running out to join!
Holiday traditions can take all sorts of forms and styles. For me, it’s making a map to help guide me into the New Year. 2020 my map was all about exploration. For 2021, it’s all about audacity. On my Biz Blog I broke down what my word for the year means for me (where you can also view the map full size).
This year’s key locations in AudaCITY include the Moon, the Path of Possibility, the Island of Incremental Change, the Tower of Systems, the Grotto of Gratitude, Question Camp, Curiosity Camp, Creativity Camp, the Limitless Library, the Museum of Momentum, the Fort of Fun, the Do Nothing Dome, the Love Hut, the Path of Potential, Neuroscience Forest, the Garden of Growth, and the Pool of Endless Ideas (deep diving only, thinking caps required). To tie it all together the viewer is granted permission to do things your way.
It’s always a fun exercise to see what comes out of my head when I sit down to draw my map. I know my theme going into it, but otherwise I don’t plan anything out. I just let it flow. Then when it’s done I have it printed (I went for pink ink with a Riso printer this year because it felt more… audacious) and send it to 100 people who have impacted my year with notes of gratitude.
As a fun twist to the year, I was also featured in the Feb 2020 issue of Psychologies Magazine [UK] where I got to share how I use mapping as a tool to guide my year (my alternative to New Year’s resolutions). You can find the full article online or linked from my Biz Blog. It was such a huge honor to be featured.
Speaking of maps, I also just opened my 3-month workshop Mapping Your Path: Finding Direction for enrollment! Get ready for 3 months of creative mapping, new connections, and a global community of inspiration. It all starts February 5th. Spaces are limited in order to keep the community connected—it’s where the magic happens! ✨ SIGN UP TODAY!
It’s no secret that I love maps. (Something I inherited from my dad.) I have an every going collection of illustrated paper fold out maps that I display on a postcard rack on my desk that I stare at as I work—and type this post. I even taught an entire class on Skillshare that encouraged people to make their own maps.
We so often turn to our phones to tell us where to go, but maps have always been the best way to help us find where we are, and show us where we’re trying to get. Mapology Guides take maps a step further thinking about maps in terms about concepts and ideas rather than physical places, not confined by location, landmarks, or sites to see. They’re illustrated self-help maps for life’s journey.
I first met Mapology Guide creator Tina Bernstein at Betahaus in Berlin where we were for The Hive Berlin, a conference for bloggers. That year was my first conference talk I spoke about the less glamorous side of blogging: blogging etiquette and how to deal with negative comments. (I’ve always liked to keep things real.) One of the people who came up to me after my talk was Tina. We stayed in touch, and connect whenever I’m in London. She even took my Skillshare map making class when it first launched. (Little did I know that conference would unlock SO many friendships.)
Since we first met, Tina has gone on to launch her own line of Mapology Guides which are the intersection of her love of maps and mental health. Until recently mental health has often been a taboo subject in the mainstream. Tina, a huge proponent of “doing the work” on yourself, set out to change that through her illustrated guides to life. Our conversations always inspire me to keep exploring myself, and I love how she integrates creativity and play into everything she does.
For each Mapology Guide she brings her own experience with a subject, and teams up with a writer or expert, as well as a different illustrator to bring her vision to life. It’s very much a collaborative effort that starts with brainstorming (I always love when she shares behind the scenes on @mapologyguides on Instagram).
I also love that each map includes a bio of each collaborator, but it’s not some copy and pasted bio. Each is woven into the theme of the map, so you get a personal look into the lens in which they see life. In many ways the bio have tips for life tucked between the lines. In her latest map, “Who Are You?” Tina shares her gratitude for getting to play a small part in expanding the world’s collective wisdom, kindness, and compassion, recognizing she—like all of us—is a work in progress. Tina is the perfect guide for this collection of guides.
Each map seeks out to address different themes from different perspectives:
- Who Are You? : Playful ways to discover your true self
- What’s with this Gratitude Thing? How to make the ordinary extraordinary
- Make it Happen: The incredible power of taking small steps
- How to Make Better Decisions: 9 tools to deal with every dilemma
- Are You Looking for Answers? : Enrich your life by asking the right questions
- How to Grow Your NO: This tiny word will change your life
- The Anger Apothecary: Dispensing advice for managing this strong emotion
- What’s Bugging You? A Powerful 7 step coaching session
- Overthinking: Free your mind from troubling thoughts
- The Sea of Uncertainty: How to stay afloat in challenging times
- Where do Ideas Come From? A simple guide to having great ideas
- Hey, Let’s Work Things Out! Proven tips for a flourishing relationship
- Check out them ALL!
Clockwise L to R: The Anger Apothecary – images by Jenni Sparks and text by Lottie Storie. How to Grow Your NO – images by Nic Farrell and text by Lottie Storie. How to Make Better Decisions – images by Sarah Edmonds and text by Robert Twigger. What’s Bugging You? – images by Jenni Sparks and text by John-Paul Flintoff.
Each Mapology Guide has a “map” side that may be imagined as the section of a building, a flow chart, a list of questions, a board game, or an imagined place, while the flip side expands on the ideas explored in the map. Every time I open a guide, I notice new details, and there are new concepts and ideas that resonate with me depending on what’s going on in life. You can pick by theme, or your favorite illustrator.
The flip side is like a giant legend. There tends to be more text and lots of questions to get you thinking. The maps are more like games for life to get you thinking (outside of the box) and playing.
And like any map, it’s always fun to revisit them, taking time for reflection and to ponder. It’s amazing how big a world can fit on a single piece of paper. (They’re all printed in the UK.) Also, they come in a really fun package when you order from the shop—Tina wraps them all with love.
P.S. Next Write Your Own Rules is Dec 12th from 6-8pm CET! It’s the last time I’m running it in 2020, and a great way to set yourself up for the new year.
P.S.S. I’m planning on running some version of my 3-month program ‘Mapping Your Path into 2021’ starting in late January or February. Sign up to be notified for the next MYP workshop launch.
On a 1 hour walk during the first day of reconfiment. Digital permission slip on phone.
In Paris and across France we officially hit our deuxième vague (second wave) of COVID-19. I’d been watching our numbers steadily going up for weeks, hitting 52k new cases a day at points. I felt like I was watching the uptick in slow motion, because took the government awhile to speak up, but then when they did life came at us fast. We had less than 36 hours to get our lives together to lock.
On Wednesday Oct 28th President Macron addressed the nation. The details were announced the following day by Prime Minister Castex (if you recall, this is a change from PM Edouard Philippe who managed the 1st wave, quite well I say). When the clock struck midnight on Thursday night we were back to our days of permission slips (attestations) limited to our 1km radius for 1 hour with the exception of certain cases (doctors visits, certain jobs, etc.). The risk again is hospital overload.
Leading up until the 30th we’d already been operating on a 9pm curfew in Paris (and other major cities hit with a high case load in France). For anyone who knows French culture, eating at 7pm is not the norm at all. I’d never seen such efficiency in getting the bill—at outdoor terraces, bien sûr—to get home in time. That now feels like a distant memory with all restaurants closed, with the exception of delivery and click and collect.
The biggest difference this round is that schools are open (with universities being remote)—so far. The idea (I suppose) is to help lighten the load of working parents in order to keep the economy going. (How you want to protect the economy, while giving such little notice is something I struggle with, but more notice would have lead to more super spreader gatherings aka last hurrahs.)
If you can télétravail (work remotely) you need to according to the government. However, based on my network I’ve heard of too many companies are taking liberty on that front and writing special attestations for their employees. (Note: masks have been required in offices for awhile now if people do go to work.) I’d argue in France there’s still an old school sense of management that if you are not seen, you’re not doing your job. There is definitely a sense of entitlement and exemption for many in charge. They see themselves first rather than working to get us out of this collective mess.
Shops are closed, but some have a table at their door for click and collect orders. It’s been interesting to see chocolate shops and florists have dubbed themselves as essential. Last Friday during my first one hour outing, I was happy to bring some flowers home. I just may have to make it a regular thing in my new routine.
As for me, my life hasn’t changed much. I’m fortunate to be busy with many of my own projects and endeavors that came to life during first lockdown. (I’m grateful for my incredible community in Mapping Your Path.) I’ve worked hard to develop good habits and stick to them. I’ve added dance parties to my daily regime because an hour walk isn’t enough movement for me (and dancing is good for the soul).
Most exciting is my new hobby: cooking in the InstantPot (which no doubt will get its own post soon). Feeding myself three times a day was my least favorite part of our first lockdown. I’m not much of a cook, but I’ve decided to change that with the help of this magic machine that’s part slow cooker and part pressure cooker. (My friend Jenni is a professional chef who got me hooked.) So far I’ve made soup in 5 minutes, rice in 3 minutes, and shredded lime chicken in 20 minutes. It’s pretty much a dump and go thing and everything is fast once it pressurizes). I’ve also learned the joys of YouTube rabbit holes thanks to this new hobby.
I’ve learned with COVID there’s no point in trying to predict the future. We’re locked through at least December 1st, but I suspect it will continue longer…
Helpful resources for staying up to dat:
- Santé Publique France announces new cases in France at 8pm CET nightly
- Veteran correspondant @John_Lichfield on Twitter regularly synthesizes data (in English)
- Journalist @kimwillsher1 regularly simultaneously translates announcements in English
- France24 – International news from a French perspective
What would life look like if you started to visualize it in maps? Not as straight forward and linear as one would expect is my guess. I love maps because they give us the mindset of an explorer. We can see both where we are going, and where we have been. It’s time to zoom out and get the big picture of life, reflect and put things in perspective.
That’s also why I created Mapping Your Path into 2021, my new 3-month online workshop to help you explore intentionally while setting yourself up for success—whatever that means to you—in the New Year.
In the hustle and bustle of daily life we rarely make time for ourselves. We keep moving forward as if it’s the path we’re supposed to be on without ever questioning what where doing, why we’re doing it, or when we’re doing it. We may be exactly where we’re meant to be, but we also may need to reset our course.
This 3-month workshop is about exploration and creativity, with full permission to slow down and detour as needed. It’s about intentionally slowing down to take stock of where you’re at, and where you want to be. It’s about preparing yourself for the New Year now rather than coming up with a half-baked resolution when the clock strikes midnight and we ring in Jan 1.
During our time together you’ll be building your own tool kit to help guide you into 2021, and beyond. We’ll be doing it step by step while learning from and being inspired by each other. This workshop is not about creating more for you to do, but giving you a creative outlet to minimize overwhelm, all while being intentional. After all, change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about building muscles, and resources, over time.
This will all happen through live workshops (which will be recorded if you can’t join live, or if you want to re-watch them) and office hours/co-working calls (bring any questions or plan to come together to work on your own explorations). We’ll have mini group calls with 5 community members to chat about whatever you’re working on, and you’re welcome to share or ask for feedback and support. On top of it, we’ll have our own online community (on Slack) to connect with each other, share progress, and celebrate small wins.
We’ll meet bi-weekly until we wrap on January 14th, giving you plenty of time to digest each workshop and continue to dig deeper. We’ll also take a pause around the holidays.
For more information + sign up today visit the full offer! Doors close on October 16th when Mapping Your Path into 2021 sets sail. Come be part of the adventure!!!
P.S. Interested in Write Your Own Rules? Sign up for the workshop waitlist to be notified when the next date is announced.
I was recently talking to a friend about travel and the fact that we can say, “I love to travel” but travel can mean so many different things to different people. For some people travel may mean going for long hikes at along a new landscape, for others it’s sitting in coffee shops for hours or casually strolling local neighborhoods, for some it’s seeing every major site in a guidebook, and for others travel is about 5-stars.
There’s no one way to travel just like there’s no one way to approach life.
Sometimes there’s a bit of trial and error, and we learn from each experience. We also don’t have to fit into a box. We have agency to pull from a variety of possibilities in order to determine our own formula for what makes a great trip.
Just as we have to determine our favorite ways to travel, we also have the power to determine how we want to move through life. It can be easy to get caught up in the rules of society. And while many rules are there for a reason, there are just as many that are there because they’ve always been there. Its these rules of the later variety that I’m encouraging us to question. We can feel out of place when we don’t fit in the guidelines of society. We can even feel like we’re doing it wrong, when in fact we’ve just never seen anyone do it any other way.
In my 2-hour Write Your Own Rules (online) Workshop I walk participants through a series of fun, quick-thinking exercises that culminate in writing your own guiding principles to carry you forward in life and in work. You’ll write your own rules that serve YOU, not what society tells us they should be. You leave at the end of the workshop with your very own rulebook [zine] that is distinctly yours and designed to be a reminder of how you want to live your life.
So who is this for? Do any of the following sound like you?
- You’re frustrated with the status quo.
- Are considering a life change.
- Want to push yourself further at your current job.
- You’re looking for a fresh perspective.
- You want something more enriching than scrolling your phone for 2 hours.
- You’re craving some time to focus on YOU.
Past participants have called Write Your Own Rules mindblowingly awesome, a breath of fresh air, thought provoking, a springboard, and more (testimonials here!). I promise it’s a ton of FUN!
The next Write Your Own Rules is on October 3rd from 6-8pm CET [Paris]. (That’s 12pm EST and 9am PST.) Hope to see you there! Tell a friend and SIGN UP NOW to grab your seat and get ready to show up for yourself!
Slightly mixed messages. Left sign: Reopening at the end of August [no date specified] Have a good summer + see you later. Right sign: Open Tuesday—Saturday 2pm-7pm.
Come to Paris any time of year and it’s a game of opening days and opening hours. Anything but a 24/7 culture. Museums tend to be closed Mondays or Tuesdays, restaurants may be closed Mondays or Tuesdays (or in other cases weekends), and shops will play by their own set of rules. Of course holidays will affect openings as well. A month like May when there are 3-4 holidays definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. But nothing beats the month of August when Parisians are famous for skipping town and taking advantage of a large portion of their 5-9 weeks of vacation a year.
It’s one thing to be on the side where you leave town. It’s a whole other ballgame to be in Paris and trying to figure out where you can go and what you can do during this month where anything goes. My own love/hate relationship with the month awakened my inner educator, and I couldn’t help but turn this post into a lesson in UX (user experience) design and look at the experience through the lens of the customer.
UX tends to be the side of the experience that isn’t always overtly visible, so I thought I’d bring it to the forefront. There’s a huge opportunity for businesses, even if they do leave on holiday. Who knows, this whole idea of breaking down lived experiences from a design perspective may become a whole series. If it does I’m tentatively calling it #missedopportunities.
The business perspective
When a restaurant or shop in Paris closes for a few weeks for summer holidays, their mindset is something like, “I’m so ready for vacation, I can’t wait to get out of here!” They’ve had the dates on the calendar for half a year and they are beyond ready for a break. They know everything they need to take care of before they go to close everything up and be able to completely unplug and disconnect. Lowest—or at least last—on the list is the most public facing component: communicating closures to others.
The typical final step owners take is to lock up and post a sign on the door or closed grate noting when they’ll be back. It’s probably a quickly written or typed sign on A4 paper and posted with clear tape. They may or may not have had the foresight to update their social media, website, and opening hours on Google.
The mentality around communicating August closures is not so much that they don’t care about their business so much as “out of sight, out of mind.” Running a business is hard work, burnout is real, and they’re ready for a well earned break too. They won’t be around to deal with customers and the business will be closed anyway, so anything customer facing is an afterthought and a minor detail in the grand scheme of what needs to do to leave on holiday. There are a significant amount of odds and ends that need to take place in order to take a well deserved break.
Now let’s flip the script and think of this scenario from the customer perspective.
A rare sight of too much communication. All very helpful and something for everyone! Including where to find them online. Perhaps the July hours could have been erased as they’re no longer relevant.
The customer perspective.
I’m in Paris. I love when Paris is quiet. That doesn’t mean I want to stay in my apartment all day everyday. I completely understand the need to take a break and go on holiday. There’s no judgement there. I still can want to support local businesses and have interactions with other humans.
I also know in August I can’t just do/go whatever/wherever my heart desires in Paris. It takes a bit more planning, thought, and research. I’m not a big planner, but if I know you’re going to be open in August I get super excited and I’ll be there all the time. I’ll become a new regular.
If I have a visitor in town it’s extremely helpful to know what will be open, particularly when it comes to restaurants. With visitors, I usually have advanced notice of when they’ll be in town, and it’s something to look forward to. Vacations and closures actually start the last couple weeks in July, but there’s still no forethought into communicating to customers about openings or closures. I find myself figuring out where we can go as it happens.
I love being a regular, but August shakes up my routine. For some of my favorite places I frequent I’ll take to asking them about their summer plans. The reality is that it’s exhausting to ask everywhere you want to go whether and when they’ll be open, and you really need a spreadsheet to keep track of everything because every business plays by their own rules in summer. It also can change from one summer to the next. They keep you on your toes!
The thing that kills me is that signs go up at the last second. They’ve essentially closed their doors and then think to communicate it. If it were up to me, I’d have a sign up a couple weeks before I was set to close to let people know what to expect.
I was so bummed when my favorite chicken place closed extra early this summer for renovations. Had I known they were closing I would have had one last run to get my fix. Instead, this year they closed for nearly a month and a half. A similar thing happened with a favorite coffee shop. While they typically close in August, I had no reason to believe they’d close even earlier—and longer—starting in July this year. I would have gone out of my way to get that last cup of satisfaction to tide me over for the summer. As a customer I WANT to give you my money, but sometimes businesses in France make it hard.
Then there’s a whole other type of businesses who just don’t communicate ANYTHING. I love supporting small, independent, and local businesses, but sometimes they make an already frustrating time even more aggravating. Take a couple weeks ago, I was really excited to go to a restaurant in my neighborhood that works with local producers. I tended to walk by during off hours so I never saw it open. There was no sign on the door, so I had no reason to believe they were closed. I know in Paris that’s not enough to go off of, so before heading there for dinner I checked their website and social media. Still nothing. I knew their sister restaurant another neighborhood over was still open, so it didn’t make sense the one near me would be closed, but you never know. So I decided to call. It was when they should be open but the phone rang and rang and rang. Were they busy or closed? I didn’t know. It was close enough I decided it was best just to walk by and see what the scene was. Of course it was closed. What made this so frustrating was all the different points where something could have been communicated. Instead it makes me as a client feel stupid and annoyed. That’s not great for business.
Another thing that happens in summer is businesses may change their opening days, times, as well as their offers. Perhaps summer hours are different, or you’re opening your terrace in the evening. Yes, it’s great for the person strolling by who discovers it just when they needed something to eat or drink. But what about the rest of us who don’t even know that we should come back because nothing is communicated that you have this offering later in the day? #missedopportunity
I often joke that the French don’t like to volunteer information. That’s a lot of pressure on me as the customer to think to inquire, and also figure out which question(s) I should ask to uncover this gem of information I really would have liked to know. If you’re a business owner and sales are down, trust me there are some super simple tweaks you can make to get the word out and communicate your offers. Depsite what society may make us believe, social media isn’t always the answer either. Word of mouth still is the one of the best ways to get word out, but the “spreaders” need to know what’s going on in order to pass along a good word.
Lately I’ve also noticed that restaurants will have menus listed in a few different places—perhaps written on the window, posted on the wall, and there’s more still in the display case. I grew up looking at one menu, so my mental model doesn’t tell me to look in multiple places to find information. On more than one occasion I’ve placed my order only to realize there was something I wanted more, I didn’t know it existed.
Just like with the opening hours, I’m having to work way too hard as someone who is a customer who literally wants to give you my money. I’d probably spend even more money if I knew some of these other products and offers existed. (And if certain items are only offered during certain windows of time, please don’t hide that information.)
Sure, signs outside your business are great to communicate summer closures, but businesses have to remember that all of their customers don’t necessarily live in the neighborhood. It’s incredibly frustrating to travel across town to find out a place is closed. Even before social media was as big as it is today, businesses weren’t great at updating their websites with opening hours. You were more likely to find updates on Facebook pages than official websites. (The challenge of finding the simplest information like opening hours on websites in France any time of the year is a whole other challenge for another post.) My goal as the customer is to find the information at a glance. Not have to go digging for it.
Google is quite smart, but still can’t read minds when it comes to holidays. Some businesses do update their summer hours on Google (that feeds into the maps feature), but some don’t. Will you be on the lucky side or not?? One business may respond, “but we updated Google,” but the baggage of the five others who didn’t is real in the customer journey.
I try not to use social media to complain about businesses, but I sometimes do when it comes to communicating openings. They may respond, “but we did share it…on Stories!” Stories are the Instagram feature that disappear after 24 hours. Other times they may share it in an Instagram post, but I have no control over what the algorithm tells me. And it takes some time and effort to have to look for said post. Why not just share it on your profile?(It’d be great if you shared your address with Paris zipcode while I’m at it!).
The goal should be for the potential customer to find the information fast, and it should be where they expect it. People should not have to go digging or hunt for it. Remember, UX is from the USER perspective. It’s necessary to get inside the brains of users and customers. While we can’t mind read, but we can gain empathy for their perspective. (Hence, I wrote this post ;) ).
UX is often something no one thinks about because when design is done right it’s seamless and easy. We’re more likely to notice—and complain—if air conditioning isn’t working, it’s too hot, or too cold. We totally ignore how it’s working until it goes awry. It’s the when things don’t go as planned that the true opportunities too. Let’s dig into some opportunities when it comes to summer closures in Paris.
My favorite sign I’ve seen this summer which an Instagram follower shared with me. (Sorry, it didn’t save your name, I’m happy to update with credit!)
Frustrations = opportunities
When it comes to UX, designers look to frustrations and pain points to find the biggest opportunities. By empathizing with the user or customer, we can learn a lot about a context or situation. Sometimes it’s the smallest changes and shifts in mindset that can have a big impact.
Every summer I encounter the same frustrations, but these are the easy fixes I’d suggest.
Post an awesome sign. If you do I’ll probably share it. So consider that free publicity. It also may grab the attention of some locals who may never have otherwise have noticed your shop or restaurant. It’s practical for the short term, but also can build buzz for long term business. Stand out and make people look. (Several years ago I put together posts here and here with a collection of my favorite signs—here and here—they still leave a lot to be desired.)
To be clear awesome doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or be time consuming. Have a little personality. Everyone loves having a smile on their face. You can even take a photo of your awesome sign and share it on your social media. Simple and effective content.
Pay attention to where you hang the sign. When you do post the sign, make it easy to find. As a customer my habits make me want to head to the door to look for information. The tiny sign on the side window around the corner is not the obvious place where I’d think to look. (Yes, I recently encountered this. It was at least a rare fun sign.)
Communicate closures—or openings—in advance. A few weeks before holidays you can post a sign of when you will be closed (or celebrate the fact that you’ll be open, because we customers need to know that too! August 15th is a public holiday, so that day brings everything into question again). This can be a small sign near check out.
Communicating in advance is also important as often social media algorithms have a day or two delay to have information appear in the feed. Businesses can also communicate the information more than once, because customers need to hear it for it to sink in. It’s about a respect for time.
Communicate in multiple locations. Make it easy to find.
Update your website, social media profiles, and create a post. Also, be explicit (day, month, date—say it in all the ways. We’re going for clarity and clear, direct messaging here). “See you next week” in an Instagram caption isn’t very useful when the interface doesn’t clearly state the date. UX is about not making the user have to think to get what they need. Volunteer information before the customer has to ask or makes false assumptions.
Don’t make assumptions. I fear it’s assumed that locals “will know” opening hours so there’s no need to communicate. You can tell me something but that doesn’t mean it sinks in. Trust me when I say that it’s very different knowing your own travel dates than keeping track of all your friends as well as businesses. It’s a giant swirling mess. Then it’s quite a bit of effort to see if a place is open. Keep in mind that even the most regular or regulars can’t keep track of it all!
Check in regularly to make sure the hours and information on your profiles is still relevant. We all get so in the groove we forget to make sure the basic information is still correct. Schedule these regular check ins.
Of course all of this is wishful thinking. I was looking forward to supporting a local coffee joint I love on their first day back. Of course they extended their closure until September 3rd. It wouldn’t be the authentic Paris experience without these twist and turns! Ha! (And it’s not even owned by Frenchies. It’s just in the air here.)
These are my thoughts. Can you relate? I spend so much time pondering why no businesses have ever thought about this from “my” perspective. Am I crazy to see all this all as a missed opportunity?? Does it drive anyone else insane? How else would you redesign the experience of summer closures? Share in the comments.
In general I love August in Paris. You can listen to me chat about August on Earful Tower last summer. As for UX, you can learn more about the field through my OpenClassrooms courses + in this Biz Blog post with my favorite UX books and resources.
Eating a croissant will never be the same again. It only took 11 years of living in Paris for me to learn what goes into making a proper croissant: patience, time, and BUTTER (one of my favorite foods!). It’s incredible how “simple” they are to make, yet it’s a true art, and it’s all about how the dough and butter is combined into layers. Here’s a glimpse inside the super fun 3-hour Croissant and Breakfast Pastries class at La Cuisine Paris.
Croissants all start with simple ingredients—flour, salt, sugar, yeast, water, and melted butter—to make the dough, known as détrempe. The process is like making pasta in terms of how it’s combined. The process is quite quick, but the dough needs several hours of refrigeration before the next steps.
When it comes to croissants, it’s all about the butter. Roll out the butter block in parchment paper that then gets folded into the détrempe. The goal is to keep the rectangular shape of the dough to ensure even layers. (Our chef Segoline made this look SO easy! It definitely takes some practice.)
The croissant dough (pâté levée feuilletée) gets rolled thin. Croissants are cut into triangles and rolled into their very identifiable shape. Pain au chocolate are made from rectangles, with a couple variations for rolling to enrobe the bars of chocolate. The secret to croissant making is to keep all the scraps! Every bit can be used, even if they’re minis.
The same dough is used to make pain au raisin and drops. This involves a layer of crème pâtissière cream filling that adds a layer of moisture to the pastry. You can add any other flavors along the way to give it your own twist.
You can also have some fun with different shapes, forms, and filling. It’s kind of magic how it all comes together.
It’s the preparation that takes time. Before baking the pastries need time to rise. The pastries actually cook quite quickly (15-20 minutes). Some pastries got a sugar syrup glaze.
We had a blast during our 3 hour class with lots of simple “Ohhhh, that’s how it’s done!!!” mind-blowing moments! For over 10 years La Cuisine Paris has been teaching travelers and locals the art of French cooking at their cooking school in the center of Paris along the Seine.
While travel may not be in the cards right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t travel vicariously and learn a new skill, or make croissants for your loved ones or neighbors (you never make a small batch when you’re making croissants). La Cuisine Paris has launched an online version of the school where you can everything from croissants, to macaroons, choux pastry, French sauces, souflées, basic breads, and more. They’re also offering LIVE cooking classes (space is limited, which means everyone gets access to the chef).
Of course the best part of the class is when you get to taste your creations—fresh out of the oven! Thanks to croissant-lover Graham for inspiring me to learn something new. I’ll never look at croissants the same again. (After class the hunt for the best croissants in Paris continued.)
Paris croissant resources:
- Best croissants in Paris according to Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini
- Best croissants in Paris according to Paris by Mouth
- Best pastry shops in Paris according to David Lebovitz
- A brief history of croissants from La Cuisine Paris
- La Cuisine Paris Croissant Fundamentals online class & classes in Paris
Mille mercis La Cuisine Paris + chef Segoline for such a fun experience!!
It’s strange to have lived in a place for so long and still realize there’s so much about it you still don’t know. There are many days where I feel like I know Paris like the back of my hand. There are other days where I’m reminded that I’ve only brushed the surface. After reading The New Parisienne: the women & ideas shaping Paris by Lindsey Tramuta I fell into the category of the latter. It wasn’t that felt overwhelmed by all that I don’t know, but curious to learn more.
I’ve thought a lot about my own desires to tell “alternative narratives” or the stories that are less told. In recent years I’ve come to see how the perpetuation and celebration of certain narratives in the media, and in our own minds are stories we’ve accepted, but without question. We don’t always know there’s another way of doing things because that other way of doing things isn’t always visible or represented in front of us. These stories that seem like exceptions, may likely be more the norm than we realize.
The New Parisienne was the first book I’ve been able to get into and read cover to cover since lockdown began. My mind had been distracted, but this book gave me focus, and pulled me in. Lindsey does an incredible job of distilling her long interviews into a few cohesive pages that capture the spirit of each woman featured in the book. I was so intrigued and eager to learn more about these different approaches and ways of doing business. I could relate!
While the book is focused on women who call Paris home, the stories in this book really could be from anywhere in the world. There’s something about the release of the book now that feels more relevant than ever. It’s incredibly timely to learn about different experiences beyond what movies and media perpetuate, but at the same time these stories feel very timeless. I couldn’t help but wonder where I’d be now had I discovered many of these women earlier in life. I learned a lot about the world in the process of reading their stories and discovering their work too.
Once I finished the book, I wanted to know more about the process. Here’s a special interview with author Lindsey Tramuta (aka Lost in Cheeseland).
Anne Ditmeyer: Your book was initially supposed to launch in April but was delayed until July due to Covid-19. While I’m sure that was frustrating, I can’t help but feel like the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement makes the release of this book more important and relevant than ever. As the author, do you have any thoughts on the timing of your book as it relates to this current time in history?
AD: You point out “parisiennes” are often conflated with French women. One of the main goals of this book is to highlight the fact that there is a much richer view of Parisian women than the ones celebrated by the media. Why do you think people have clung to those narratives so closely?
The book features prize wining authors, musicians, an Olympic boxer, shop owners, and more.
AD: Was it a conscious choice to make sure some women you picked weren’t born in France and may identify more as nationalities other than French? Do you think the fact that you’re an American in Paris (who now has French citizenship) played a role in those choices?
LT: If you’re in the US, please consider ordering the book from Bookshop.org or an independent bookseller! They need our support! You can find some other options on my website: www.thenewparisienne.com.
AD: THANK YOU, LINDSEY!! MERCI BEAUCOUP for all your incredible work and telling these stories.
Portrait of the author by Joann Pai.
It’s also worth checking out Lindsey’s podcast, The New Paris where she continues to tell different stories inside Paris. Yours truly recorded an episode shortly before lockdown (episode 51 – On deeper travel experiences).
You can read more about The New Parisienne:
- A New Book Pushes Back Against the Stereotypical French Woman (Vogue)
- How Mayor Anne Hidalgo Plans to Reinvent Paris (sample chapter—Condé Nast Traveler)
- Poonam Chawla on Tourism, Cooking, and Raising Her Boys in Paris (sample chapter–LitHub)
- More press here!