Approaching New Data, Step 1: Ignore It

by Jess Hancock

So dashboard week has finally arrived, and with it has come an onslaught of unfamiliar data and five tight deadlines. As both of these things are a) common, and b) horrible, a framework was very much needed. I’ve been following the recommendations that Andy gave me, and decided that as they’re working for me, they may well work for others, too: so why not share them?

Behold! A diagram.

A big cause of stress with unfamiliar data, at least for me, is that I’ll wade right in and want to understand it completely: every column, every row, regardless of relevance. This approach forces you to work ‘inside-out’, in a way: you understand all the surrounding information first, make a  visual plan, and only approach the data once you’ve got these figured out, cherry-picking the bits that fit.

It’s not a complete solution — but it’s efficient. It works for many different circumstances. And it’s also versatile: set a time limit for each section, depending on your deadlines. Even ten or fifteen minutes per stage will get you solid results that you can justify.

Do you use a similar method when faced with a new project? Or something totally different? Maybe you tried this process and got results! Leave a comment below and let me know.

© 2022 The Information Lab Ltd. All rights reserved.