STEAL THESE TIPS! (Not the dashboard)

You want to make an all-star Tableau dashboard, but you’re tired and the coffee maker is fresh out, save for a quarter of a cup.  You sure aren’t making the next batch and the last person who did may as well have put the grounds in the carafe, not the filter.  What’s a person to do?

Well, Google solves all.

Stop starting at an empty canvas.

No, really, stop!  Make a chart – a line chart, a bar, chart, any chart.  STOP starting at the white space.  While hypnotic, it’s not helping.  Made all the charts?  Then put some of them on a dashboard.  Still not happy?  Make another dashboard.  Make several.  Ran out of charts?  Yeah, you know where this is going….make more charts.  And then…yup.  Put ’em on some dashboards or…put them on some existing ones.

Oh, and feel free to NOT hide charts and do versions of your charts with different things.  Move ’em around.  Yeah, now that’s the spirit!  Still not feeling it?

How many dashboards have you made?  13?  Fine.  Walk away.  No, really, take a coffee break and make that coffee.  Or, are you ready for this?  Step outside.  Either the sun, cold, or rain will get you going.

Reuse old work

Unless you’re writing an academic paper, reusing YOUR old work is called inspiration or another version, depending on what you’re doing.  Sometimes, you remake it.  Other times, it gives you an idea of how to present things.  And every now and then, it solves the block.

Still not feeling it?

Find inspiration from others

Not “Ice Ice Baby” inspiration, Hamilton inspiration.

Go to Tableau Public and look.  Download the workbook and see how they did it.  Now, replicate pieces, but make sure you’re finding yourself in it as well.  Feel like you’re getting lost?

Go back to your old work.


Get a wide variety of inspiration.  Just make sure you honor and remember it.

Austin Kleon – steal like an artist

Not there either and reaching the overwhelmed point?

Switch the medium.

Write out the problem you’re trying to solve or the question you want to answer.  Draw out the process.  Flowchart it.  Talk out what the user probably goes through.  Walk and talk if it helps.

Or hit the whiteboard.  Draw out whatever visions you have, even if it’s just a Hello Kitty lunchbox or a pot of coffee.

If you’re feeling really bold, break out the sticky notes.  I dare ya.  Extra points if you get multiple colors.

Buried in sticky notes with no leads?

Talk to a real human.

If you’re in an office, this is easy.  If you’re not, there’s these old fashioned devices called phones.  Most of us use them to text, tweet, or obsessively read the news (or all 3 at once), but rarely do we hit that green button that makes a lot of noise.  Sometimes, it has numbers, and right now, we’re not digging numbers.  Most cell phones have some screen with names or, if you’re really lucky, a screen with faces (provided we linked them).

If it takes me 20 minutes to dial, you know why.

If you hit some buttons or a face, you get a human.  Just don’t hit a face if you’re face to face.

Talk to that human about anything – the weather, the news, the things you’d normally tweet.  Just drop the hashtag.

Or, here’s a really bold idea – go talk to the human that’ll use the dashboard.  Not happening?

Try music, podcasts or other verbal media.

Passive YouTube probably won’t fly if you’re in an office (something about bandwidth), but music (and some ear buds if you’re in a cube) might help.  Or do a power session with a podcast.  Try something data viz related or hit something outside your normal reach.  Maybe listen to app designers or, are you ready for this, something on social causes you like.  Or maybe ones where you know you disagree.

No dice?

Get some quiet.

Bring ear plugs or stuff in the ear buds.  We know you fake it sometimes, it’s cool.  Practice meditating or breathing.  Or count the fibers that make up your office carpet.  No, really.

Can’t do it?

Try something else.

It’s rare to have 1 project.  Switch gears for a bit and come back to it.  Yes, even if that deadline is staring you in the face like a hungry cat in the morning.  Try a quick diversion.

Do that data shaping job you’ve been avoiding.

Not doing it or out of stuff?

Go buy some coffee.

You need to get out and you probably need sugar grains, not coffee grains, in your coffee.  And, I’ll take an Earl Grey Latte with no sweetener while you’re there.  Some places call this a London Fog (usually with the sweetener).  And don’t forget the scone.

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