Four Ways Being Selfish Will Make You a Better UX Designer

Man and women work professionals holding up a lap top

Warning Signs of UX Burnout

Empathy towards users alongside a passion for discovering their needs and helping find solutions are not just part of the job — they are the job. This is why it is no surprise that burnout looms large and sometimes prevails against many of us at some point throughout our careers.

The Risks of a Human-Centered Profession

But, despite that fact, data suggests that there are prolific complications and risks around purpose-driven work like ours. Empathy overload, compassion fatigue, and secondary trauma are foremost among them. But none so dire or self-defeating as self-neglect: a cause, not a symptom of burnout. And one that often goes undiscussed. The absence of dialogue around it only reinforces the feedback loop.

Self-Care By Being Selfish

Self-care (the opposite of self-neglect) plays a central role in breaking the cycle that leads to burnout. Not in a social media #selfcare type of way, but rather as a personal and professional mission to define and pursue our own interests and needs first.

The Ethics of UX Self-Care

When defined as “taking care of your own needs before others,” selfishness can genuinely make you a better designer, especially within the confines of practicing self-care for your mental, physical and emotional well-being. Some UX influencers, like Vivianne Castillo, even consider self-care an ethical mandate as a means to “do no harm” as a designer.

Being Selfish Means Putting the You Back in UX Design

Self-Centered By Nature

As Richard Dawkins also points out, “understanding what our selfish nature is up to” plays a critical part in curbing the darker side of a me-first ideology. In other words, being cognisant of why we choose to, at times, be selfish can indeed justify the ends.

Say Yes, But No

No isn’t a four-letter word, but as a UX designer on projects that demand attention from every angle, it sure feels like it sometimes. Faced any direction, client, or team, it just sounds wrong. But it isn’t.

Set-Up “Office Hours”

Interruption is the rule whether you work in an office or at home. There are so many ways for coworkers to access our time: email, slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Chat only scratch the surface. Even small pauses have a ripple effect on productivity.

Set and Enforce Hard Stops

Fact: in the human-centered and UX design fields, there is a lot of talking around, a lot of different, yet kind of the same, ideas. Parts of our process are, indeed, ideation and iteration, which require collaboration and conversation. As a result, meetings can go down rabbit holes or in circles. Sometimes this can lead to innovation, but more frequently, it wastes time and causes meetings to run long.

Use Personal Days to do Something…Personal

Americans are the most overworked developed country. We’re number one [audible sigh]. We work too many hours, too long of hours, and use very little of our paid time off. This is doing us little good. We’re more stressed, less balanced, and physically ill from it. A side effect that may have even sparked the “Great Resignation.”

Maintaining a Work-Life Balance in the UX Field

Selfish strategies like these are healthy and foster personal growth. As your UX career matures, the more likely you will need to apply them to avoid burnout. Professional boundaries are all about maintaining a balance between work and life, and that equilibrium will make you better at both.



Speck Design is a legacy product design company and thought leader looking to initiate unique design thinking and conversation around extraordinary topics.

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We improve human connections and experiences through innovative product design.