The year is coming to a close and a lot of people are preparing to wind down. For many, this is a good opportunity to do some reflection. When I do my reflecting, I like to think about what happened throughout the year: what my challenges were, what my achievements were, what changed. In the past, I would usually have a general think about it and create a list of what I would like to achieve in the new year (I love a good list). This last year I tried something different in the form of breaking down those goals into bite sized pieces.
It can feel like few things are ever really ‘done’ when working in the UX industry. Depending on where and how you work, the progress from discovery research to deployment can feel like a really long time. Even when finishing bits and pieces at every stage, it is tempting to get stuck into the next thing. When you are finally close to reaching a milestone, another thing pops up.
Plus, UX is highly iterative. Our designs go out into the world, we analyse the data, then we iterate again. There is always work to do. Now, I love that about UX, but it can sweep us up into a state of ambition and pushing. So much so that we forget to take the time to reflect and celebrate our accomplishments. Go, go, go!
I was starting to feel this way at the beginning of 2019, so I tried a new strategy. I still reflected as I usually would, and recorded all the things I wanted to tackle in the new year. In addition, I created a new list in my phone’s ‘notes’ section titled ‘2019 Accomplishments’. I thought I’d keep track of the little things that made me feel good or proud. I didn’t want to limit myself to only celebrating the big accomplishments, like a feature pushed live. I also didn’t want to neglect my accomplishments that weren’t UX related. Anything that I felt was an achievement, I recorded here.
I would complete a presentation, then add it to the list. I baked a cake from scratch for the first time, then added it to the list. Every time I added something, it felt like a mini-celebration. It was an acknowledgement that I’d finished something, no matter how small, and that was something to be proud of.
My list began to grow and I noticed something. It made me feel really good, and it motivated me to keep trying new things. I looked forward to adding the next note to my list. It also changed my frame of mind. I wasn’t looking way out into the future anymore, but to the next little stepping stone that connected me to the future outcome (or not!). Much like gamification — you’re more likely to continue playing the game if the challenges are achievable.
This is just one example of how celebrating little wins works for me. Perhaps this looks like buying donuts for your team (which works great for making people feel appreciated!), treating yourself to the special coffee you like, or sharing the news with your friend. I suppose it would start with defining what an accomplishment is. What do you consider to be a win for you?
Celebrating as a team is also wonderful. If you work using agile methodologies, you’ll know that the end of a sprint is typically a good time to celebrate. Everyone has worked hard to complete their work for the end of the sprint and it’s time to reflect in retro. I’m definitely in favour of celebrating in some way at this time, but I think it is different from a method meant to stimulate personal growth or individual celebration. Also, retros are structured and recurring. You can always depend on them. Although this is true and positive, sometimes progress doesn’t fit into a timeline. It happens in its own time.
Some people enjoy setting these types of goals, and others are opposed to anything somewhat similar to a new year’s resolution. However you see the new year, I encourage you to do something just for you, in whatever way you like to. Because it feels nice. You deserve to feel nice. So, what will you do when you feel like you’ve ticked something off your list, or when you do something you are proud of?