Use Design Thinking to Make Your New Years' Resolution Come True
Changing is not easy, regardless if you are changing your business strategy, your career, your habits, your location or your thought pattern.
Sometimes you know what is the change you want to pursue (e.g.: have a healthier lifestyle or apply to grad school) and sometimes don't feel great about your current state but you are not sure what change is needed (e.g.: you want a more purposeful job, but what does it really mean to you?).
Regardless of the type of change you want to drive in your life, you can make the process enjoyable by using the same methodology that companies leverage to drive creativity and innovation.
Design Thinking is a human-centered approach that leverages divergence and convergence of ideas to create innovative, desirable, viable and feasible products and services. Inspired by the book Designing Your Work Life I did a fun exercise to pivot my work life.
Here are my key findings that will help you to explore new pivots in your life:
1. Go analog to avoid distraction and boost creativity
We all know computers and phones are distracting. Even if it's the weekend and you want to spend time thinking about your life, you can get sidetracked by notifications or just start browsing when you get stuck. Social media and e-commerce have the power to drive us into procrastination (and overspending).
So turn off the computer, put your phone away and pick up a stack of colorful sticky-notes or an inspiring notebook and fun pens. There's something about post-its and colorful sharpies that make me feel creative, so they are my favorites for brainstorming exercises.
You should also set up your environment to help you to be on the flow. Nature helps to boost creativity, so if you have a view of nature from your home you may want to stay in an area that you can look out of the window. In case you don't, nature pictures can also help. Turn on music that will keep your energy high. I usually choose instrumental, house, techno or concentration channels on YouTube or Spotify, so I don't pay attention to lyrics. Find what works for you.
Standing up keeps your energy high. You can leverage a standing desk, put the post-its on a wall, or stand up (and jump around for a few min) from time to time.
2. Ask yourself better questions to unlock your full potential
“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” – Tony Robbins
After setting up the physical environment, I drafted some questions that would help me to analyze what I like to do, what I don't and what I want to focus on in the next few years.
Flexibility is key to this exercise, thus you can create or modify new questions on the go. For example I started with the question: What are you good at? and my second question was What are you not good at?. Once I added the post-its responding to the first question, I realized that there are many things that I am great at, but that I wouldn't like to continue to do in the long run .
For example, as I am very organized, I perform very well as a Program Manager. I love working on cross-functional teams, understand and drive the overall program, but I'd like to explore other strategic areas on my future projects.
Thus I created another question: What do you really like doing? and I moved some of the post-its from the first column to the third one. The main difference between this and the first column is that this one is forward thinking and helped me to reflect on what I'd be excited to do in the future.
3. When redesigning your life, take a holistic approach
How do you want to feel when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at the end of the day? What is your priority? How many hours do you want to work a day and how do you want to spend your free time?
Even if like me, your purpose of pivoting your life is career oriented, you should think about your life and how your job or business fits in. Although we usually talk about work-life balance, you have one life and based on how you prioritize your work, family, self-care, learning and leisure activities you'll be able to achieve the balance that is appropriate for you.
One of the questions of my design thinking brainstorm was What is your priority today? I added multiple post-its and then ordered them. Flexibility to work remotely ranked pretty high and it's something I would not even consider as an option two years ago, as I really enjoyed going to the office and meeting new people. Reviewing your priorities from time to time is important, so you adapt to the phase of your life
On the video below, Nicole Smith, Life and Leadership Coach, Founder & Principal at Smitn and myself talk about how to start a life change on a fireside chat moderated by Janette Ciborowski, Public Relations Senior Executive in Tech at Silicon Valley.
Here is the video of full event organized by the University of Michigan Alumni Club of Silicon Valley.
What is next? After understanding what is the change needed in your life, it's time to plan, take action and connect to people who can help.
Right after doing the design thinking exercising is updating my resume and focusing more on my aspirations than my previous experience. When searching for projects at my company, I was able to clearly articulate what I wanted to do next and why. Within a few months I started working on a project that has many of the items I highlighted as priorities on my post-its.
You can prototype your pivot by connecting with people who are doing things that you potentially like to be doing, asking them to share experiences. I have also connected to people in industries and sectors I am curious about to learn if I'd like to do a career pivot in the future.
You can also try to volunteer or shadow people in areas of interest. For example, if you think you'd like to serve as a board member of a non-profit you can try to become a volunteer in ad-hoc projects first, or support a chapter of your university alumni community to learn if the activities are aligned to your purpose and availability.
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