Hey there, design reader!
Happy week 18 of my UX Academy Journey (or at least it is for me!).
It’s time again to take a little break from our regular UX design programming, and zoom back out to the big picture — by looking at how the lessons from this full-on world of UX Academy are being synthesized into everyday life.
Last week’s post was all about how to transform a design education into a rapid UX design practice. This week’s menu includes a starter of self-psychoanalysis, followed by an entrée of affirmation, which I’d wager is a welcome dish for everyone (like me) still in the thick of Phase 2’s capstone projects.
Part 1: The Wins
Capstone 1 is all but finished! I’m in the midst of making final adjustments to my high-fidelity prototype and adding the case study to my shiny new design portfolio site. But aside from that, huzzah! One-third of Phase 2 is signed, sealed and delivered.
A few weeks back I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at some of the high-pressure professional demands built into the career preparation side of the Phase 2 curriculum. Initially I was struggling to stay spongey enough to absorb the stream of information. But that soon passed, and I’ve now settled in to the process and saddled up for the ride.
If ever there was a time for me to feel confident in my use of a trendy hashtag (#winning!) it would be now.
Part 2: The Reality Check
Remember way, way back in the early weeks of Phase 1 when I discussed my serial careerist habits and the joys and woes of being a multipotentialite? One of those woes is — and will likely always be — indecision. I have a lot of varied interests and paring down (and saying the occasional “no”) has always been a very real struggle for me.
I also have a huge guilt complex, which makes saying that occasional “no” all the more difficult. What I’ve had to learn is that in life and especially in work, things are always changing, and fast. It’s all relative. No matter how much I try to orchestrate a plan of action, MacGyver a mega schedule, or otherwise control the scope and delivery of a project, things can and will often always change.
As John Lennon famously sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
It pays to remember Murphy’s Law — that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. While being deliberate with my project management is always a goal, building in a little flexibility to deal with unexpected setbacks definitely helps to keep the execution resilient to outside realities.
Part 3: The Hustle
My fiancé and I have this running joke that I tend to be a work hustler and always have been, but am pretty much terrible at it. What I mean by this is that I have numerous jobs, clients, projects, school work — multiple irons in multiple fires at all times. But I never seem to be successfully managing all of them — covering all of my bases — simultaneously.
This is more about appearances, I guess, than anything else. Hustling is hard, of course. It’s essentially figurative juggling, and juggling is super hard (especially for the physically uncoordinated).
A large part of a successful hustle is making something that is inherently tricky — like managing multiple projects and clients with competing priorities, deadlines and demands — look like it’s an absolute breeze.
This is the part where it all falls apart for me. When I’m frazzled and struggling to keep up the pace, believe me I look it. Mastering the art of the hustle is a long-term life goal. The good news: constant reiteration, a hefty Trello project management timeline, and numerous productivity apps are helping me design my coursework and my life habits a bit better every week. #slowwinning?
Part 4: Coping Processes
I have a tenant in the building I manage who writes positive affirmations in multicolored dry erase pens on his bathroom mirror so that every day when he wakes up and goes to brush his teeth, he’s reminded of what his goals are, why he’s working so hard, and is emboldened to stick with it however difficult the pursuit might become.
Whenever I go in to fix a leaky faucet or reattach his towel rack to the wall (it falls off regularly — I don’t know why), I’m inspired by his diligent and habitual self-care.
In order to improve my hustle and have enough confidence to actually understand what I’m learning and make it look like I know what I’m doing, I’ve taken to cultivating some habits, treats and rituals that maintain my confidence and keep me strong. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in UX Academy so far, it’s that it takes time to build new processes that work for you. And effort. And practice. And time. Did I mention time?
Just for funsies, here’s a quick list of the things that I’ve indulged in that bring me joy and keep me going, as of late, when I’m tuckered out and hitting a learning/designing wall:
- Coffee: I know, I know. I’m the quintessential Seattleite. I love it. Sorrynotsorry.
- Nora Ephron: She’s amazing. Right now I’m reading I Feel Bad About My Neck, a book of essays she published in 2006 that discusses everything from plastic surgery, to the absurdity of women’s fashion accessories, to parenting, to the obscenity of Manhattan apartment prices. Maybe it’s just me being a young 30-something working professional woman, but darn it Nora is so relatable and so, so funny. If I wake up in the middle of the night anxious and sleepless, and I can literally open the book to any page and be rolling with laughter and sweet relief in minutes. I love her so much. She is everything.
- GLOW: I don’t know what else to say about this except this: Strong female leads, plus 80s spandex, sequins and big, HUGE hair, plus showboaty wrestling?! The writing is amazing. Every episode brings me so much joy and de-stresses my whole situation, by the end I’m smiling ear to ear. Season 2 just came out so if you need a little break from work or studies, Netflix-and-chill this series right now (but trust me, you’ll be caught up with the watching and not so much with the chilling).
- Humor: There’s nothing more gratifying (for me) that cracking a joke and getting a chuckled response. If I manage to wield my silly, jokester powers into diffusing an otherwise sticky or tense situation, all the better. I’m not saying I’m great at it, but it’s oh-so-sweet when I swing and don’t miss.
Part 5: Inspiration
And when all else fails, it’s about keeping my eye on the prize and reminding myself what my ultimate goal is: to get trained up and ready for a new creative career that ticks all of my boxes (financial stability, intellectual stimulation, and creative satisfaction, all in the same job?!).
On tough days, actively recalling why I’m doing this always helps me hunker down and stay strong. This is a rapid learning experience, and the hurdles are made to be… hurdled.
Stories of fellow students’ success help a whole lot too — like this one from my awesome tea buddy Robbin Arcega, who has just successfully transitioned into a full-time UX design role with her company.
Until next week, happy designing (and happy affirmations!) Stay strong, people!