Marti Gukeisen is Senior User Experience Architect at Perficient. She was also an adjunct lecturer at UMich School of Information.
Megan Schwarz is Senior UX Designer at Thomson Reuters. She is very interested in cognitive and behavioral psychology and how human information processing impacts how we interact with new and familiar interfaces.
IA Summit 2015
Topic(s): professional development
Burnout. We’ve all been there. The timeline is insane; the clients are constantly changing their minds, inserting new features, waiting until MUCH too late to give feedback; the person in charge is overriding all your good decisions because ‘they like this way better’. There’s a point where your dedication can cost you a piece of your sanity–creating emotional barriers to the creative and analytical thinking that we need to do in order to solve problems. Whatever is wreaking havoc on your work life, you can learn how to let go enough, without losing focus.
We talk a lot about how to do things right and AVOID problems, but how do you recover when the storm is raging? This interactive session will walk participants through methods for coping with burnout. Improve your OWN work life user experience by arming yourself with techniques to deal with the current crisis and be prepared for what may come.
Marti Gukeisen: Hi. All right. I can hear me, so I guess you guys can.
Marti: Back in the day, young eager Megan was like, “Hey, we should totally submit proposals and maybe talk at the IA Summit!” I was like, “That’s cool. I’m so glad you’re really energetic. Let’s totally do that.”
We started brainstorming, and then I was sitting down to try to flesh out some of the ideas we’d talked about. I got really, like, feeling really poser-y. [laughs] How am I going to wax on about some methodology, when really what I was dealing with at that point a project that had a crazy time line? The goals were changing all the time. I was having some interpersonal issues with someone I was working with.
I was so super stressed out. I was like, “You know what? I feel like what I’ve actually been learning lately and focusing on is learning to give the right amount of shits.” Because I had gone through the whole spectrum of caring a ton, and then being really stressed when things were too crazy and you can’t fit it all in to then going to the full other end of the spectrum and being totally like, “Whatever. I don’t even care. Whatever you want, I’ll do. Fine. Fine. Everything’s fine.”
Like not actually filtering anything or putting in my expertise anymore. Then actually getting really sad about that. Like you know what? I don’t feel good about that and that’s not how I want to operate. Coming back to I need to find some balance and be able to put in what I can, but then also be able to let go when I can’t have that much control.
Megan Schwarz: I was kind of feeling the same way. It was the perfect timing in some ways, because I had a client who was particularly difficult and didn’t really want us to provide any recommendations. She really just wanted us to be puppets and do exactly what she wanted to be done and really wasn’t valuing us as an agency.
We got to a point where we let it all go and just said, “Whatever you want, lady, we’ll do it.” That also felt pretty terrible, especially because with those types of clients a lot of times when the shit hits the fan, they blame you anyway.
Marti: [laughs] Yeah!
Megan: We really didn’t let go. We had to come up with a way to work with her so that we could actually build something she would be happy with.
Marti: Here’s our quick overview of everything we’re about to talk about. Basically, we’re going to go through how burnout happens, how do you focus on being happy and understanding how happiness affects how you’re doing in the workplace.
We’ll do some fun worksheets where we assess your happiness and what’s impacting that. Talk about frustration and those factors. Then really get into some more tactical, what are you actually dealing with? How do you filter that down? How do you cope with those moments when you’re about to lose it or just dealing with a general state of burnout? How do you reset when you do get that, all the way to the apathy side?
Megan: OK. We’re going to start off talking a little bit about the process of burning out and how this happens. It starts. You join an organization, and at the beginning, it’s honeymoon phase, right? You’ve all been there. You’re super excited. We’re going to make awesome things. They’re hopefully equally excited to have you, and the expectations are super high.
Then something shifts—shifts, as Marti likes to say, “Shift happens.”
Marti: A flight attendant used that.
Megan: Yeah. That’s right. We copied that from a flight attendant. I forgot. It definitely seems like at some point we go from being super, super excited to, “I don’t care anymore, and you all suck. I hate everybody here.” But the expectations in the organization, they still expect awesome things. It starts to become, like it feels like a demand now.
It was like, “We’re all excited.” And now it’s, “Do this, now!” [laughs] You don’t want to. Why does that happen? As we all know, we have a very strong desire to belong. This is just after physiological needs and our need to feel safe.
Self-esteem is a sort of measuring stick. It’s our barometer for how well we are actually achieving this goal of belonging. Thinking of it in that way, the higher your self-esteem, the more you feel like you’re actually belonging and you are fitting into some kind of larger system.
Workplace effectiveness is a really great way for us to build our self-esteem. We’re part of this larger system, and we can become more ingrained and feel like we’re contributing to a greater goal with all these great people that we hopefully respect and think are each equally smart.
Basically what I’m saying here is that it’s in our nature to give too many shits. It’s really easy at some point to say, “I’m not going to care anymore. I’m just not going to care.” You’re never, ever going to be able to do that. To some degree, we’re always going to care, even if it’s, as Marti said, “Caring that you no longer care.” There’s always some level, there’s some degree of caring.
Let’s define “burnout.” Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion. We’re not talking here about physical exhaustion. We’re talking about the emotional part where you just feel drained. It causes a decrease of engagement in the workplace.
Specifically today we are talking about burnout in the workplace, but obviously there’s some things going on in your personal lives that may affect that that we’ll also talk about. Typically, as we said, this is happening because you’re not being fulfilled in some way.
This can lead to supernova moments, because when you lose your shit on somebody, just completely lose it, apathy…this is actually, you no longer care. Let it all go. “Whatever you want. I’m a UX puppet.” Isolation, disconnecting from your peers, and depression. As it gets really bad, it can start to affect every part of your life.
There’s two types of burnout that we’re going to address today. One is when you’re just not satisfied and you’re just unhappy. Two is you’re mad as hell. Just pissed off. We’ll talk about ways that you can address those issues. Marti’s going to start us off with happiness.
Marti: Yay! Yay!
Marti: Happy! OK, first off. Being happy matters. Being happy at work matters. You’re going to spend more than half of your adult awake time in your workplace, so don’t get into the mindset where it’s like, “Ah, work sucks, but that’s OK. I just work my nine to five for the rest of the time.” It’s a lot of time that you’ve decided you’re OK with sucking. Don’t do that. Care about enjoying your day.
The good news is you probably don’t need a new job. If we can get some ideas in our head around how do we actually cope and learn how to give the right amount of shits, then we can focus and move forward and be happier at work.
There are some specific triggers when you’re in the workplace. This is from a 2014 study by the Society of Human Resource Management. This was all the things that were rated very important to people having high job satisfaction.
First, there’s a few baseline things that I’m not going to talk a lot about, but just acknowledge really quickly that these matter, but they’re also things that you establish early on and then you move forward and hopefully they don’t change, or things stay good. Or you might occasionally reassess.
But what I’m going to focus on are things that are more involved with your day to day. How is it affecting what’s happening? Those are things like are you getting a chance to really use your abilities? How are your relationships at work? Do you enjoy the things you actually spend your time doing?
We’re going to go through these in a little bit more detail in a minute, but these are some of the factors we want to think about to actually just assess and know whether or not these are contributing to the bigger picture of your workplace happiness.
When you’re happier, you’re better in like every way. We tend to think backwards about this, where you do some things and you would do well. Then you feel happy about that. But actually, if you focus on being happy, that makes you more productive, more creative, more resilient, more intelligent. You can adapt better. In all ways, less susceptible to getting to that point of burnout. It’s worth taking the time to focus on your own happiness.
In fact, so much so that knowing how smart you are and how much you know about what you do is only 25 percent of what actually contributes to your job success. In fact, three quarters of it are things like optimism, social support and whether you can see stress as a challenge instead of something that is a threat to you.
It’s all about what’s happening in here versus…well, I guess it’s all happening in here. Your knowledge is here. It’s all there. But it’s all about outlook.
When it comes to the bigger picture of your long term happiness, knowing everything about your circumstance is only about 10 percent of what contributes to that. Knowing how you interpret the world and what are your perspectives and how do you deal with things is 90 percent of what predicts your long term happiness.
Addressing how you deal with things is very important. We think it’s our circumstances. We put our happiness on our circumstances a lot, and it’s just not very true. I do not think that word means what you think it means.
Marti: We commonly do this sentence that’s like, “I will be happy once…” and fill in the blank of what it is we think we’re working towards. We’re just slogging through and hating life, but that’s OK, because we’re going to get to that thing. Then we have got happiness and we just will have reached that oasis. Then we just get to spend the rest of our lives happy, because we filled in that blank.
Turns out that is not how it works at all. If you get a bigger house and you thought that’s exactly what your family needed to be in a better spot and just be totally happy, you will be a little happier for a little while. Then you will go back to being just as happy as you were before.
The basic formula for happiness is when your experience exceeds your expectation. Then you’re happy. When what you experience is not as good as what you were expecting, then you’re unhappy, which seems like, “Aha! I’ve got this. Just going to set my expectations really low…”
Marti: Then it’s cool, happy. Happiness achieved. Here’s the catch. It’s subject to hedonic adaptation. Yeah, fancy. Fancy words. Which really just means that over time, you adjust, and whatever was really exciting or actually even whatever was really bad. It goes to both sides of the coin. Over time, you get used to that. You adjust to the new norm and you go back to being however happy you were before.
You don’t get to just hit a bump and you’ve reached your goalpost, and now you’re happy. That goalpost keeps moving, because you get used to where you’ve ended up.
At first, that’s a little depressing to me. You’re like, “Oh, God. I got there, but it keeps going. I have to keep trying. I never get to reach the oasis of happiness.” But it’s a good thing, because we don’t all live in a cave. If that first guy had been like, “Ah, it sucks being in the rain.”
Then he wandered into some cave and was like, “Sweet! Now I’m dry.” And he was just like, “I have attained happiness!” From ever after that, he was just like, “Cave is freaking brilliant. Super happy about this cave thing.” We would just still be hanging out there. Like, “Way to go, buddy. We’re really happy with the cave.”
Marti: But because we want to be happy and because there is this hedonic adaptation, where we start to get used to what the new norm is, it drives this push to make life better. Eventually, guy in the cave is like, “This is great, but I wish it was warm and I wish I could see. And that’s all I need.” Then he’ll make it warm and he can see, and then he’ll want something else.
These are sheets, bed sheets that I had as a child. And they point out what happiness really is. We’ve talked a lot about what it’s not, but what it really is, is made up of moments, it’s episodic. If you want to improve your happiness, you have to embrace the fact that happiness comes in bumps. That’s how it works.
Some of the things on the sheet are things like, “Happiness is a warm blanket and a thumb.” “Happiness is a smooth sidewalk,” says Snoopy on his skateboard. “Happiness is feeling your toes in the grass.” It’s about appreciating those little moments that make up life, and filling your life with moments that you get to appreciate it.
Once you recognize that it’s not this long term thing that once you’ve reached that blank that you had set up for yourself as an oasis that will mean happiness, once you let go of that and realize that you need to incorporate and build happiness into your day regularly, you can have a much better strategy for maintaining a high level of happiness.
All right. Now we’re going to talk about some strategies. Just following up on that immediately, now that we know we need to maintain happiness with lots of little bumps, the first thing you can do is actually just keep a scorecard of things that help make you feel happy. Then make a point of incorporating that into your life.
Basically, actually, pay attention to your own user needs, not just the user needs you think about in a work context for a project, but actually what your own user needs are.
There’s a cute worksheet. Yeah, everybody has worksheets, or there are some on a chair somewhere near you. We’re going to make you do stuff and then talk about it. Then when I make people talk about things, it’s basically in three little sections.
The first is, all right, just generally thinking about anything in the world. Just list off some things that make you feel happy. The second one is more honing into, all right, but some things don’t really make sense in a work context. How you think about and pre-plan some things that could actually make you feel happier while you’re in that work context.
The last one is more about being able to change your frame of mind in a moment. Things that you don’t actually need to go do an activity, but just can even think about something or do something in an instant that helps you change your mindset and be a little bit happier.
Megan: We’re going to give you a few minutes to do this.
Marti: Yeah, play. Play. Talk among yourselves. Get happy.
Marti: By the way, if anybody needs more worksheets, they’re right here. This is the one we’re working on right now.
Marti: OK. I’m going to start accosting people and asking you to share just one happiness thing that you put down on your list, particularly workplace happiness examples and the theme of us all helping to learn from each other.
We’ll start it off a little bit. Hug a puppy. That’s a great life thing to do to feel happier. If you can get your work to get a puppy, it makes everyone instantly happier. It would be a good investment for them.
Marti: Bring that back to the office.
Have a happy place, when you’re at the office, sort of, even in the context of your office, have a place that’s like, “OK. I like going out and just walking outside.” Walking outside the office, but have a way to get away. Maybe it’s the break room. Maybe it’s farther away than the breakroom, but having a little bit of an away space, even when you’re at the office.
Oh, and one thing I do to try to insert some happiness into my day, I ride a bike. That is how I get to work and how I get home from work. Every day…I live close, so like 15 minutes, I get to have a little breather, some time that I know I will get to enjoy to start off and to close it up.
Now I’m going to just start accosting people. Do people want to start volunteering, so I don’t have to accost people who are unhappy with that? Because I will. OK. You?
Audience Member: Nailing an insight gives me an instant burst of happiness.
Marti: OK. Sweet. Nailing an insight. Just getting that moment. You’re like, “I just rocked this.” So cool.
Audience Member: Whiteboarding.
Marti: Yay! That is a really, really good point. You get to be physical and be doing something. You feel like you’re 10. I don’t know. It’s nice.
Audience Member: Use different colors to mark stuff.
Marti: Yeah. Colors are good.
Audience Member: My co-workers.
Marti: Oh, sweet! Co-workers. That could be huge. Enjoying and having some happiness in your day. Awesome.
Audience Member: Having a very productive day.
Marti: Having a productive day. Feeling like, “Sweet. I was actually on task.” When I have a day like that, [laughs] I’m totally happy about it!
Audience Member: Really good or bad puns.
Marti: Sweet! The stock is perfect for you. Clearly that is an interest we share!
Audience Member: Doing cartwheels at work.
Marti: Oh, sweet! We need to expand. We have a not as extreme example, but that is really good.
Audience Member: Helping somebody.
Marti: Nice. Helping somebody. That is excellent. That almost instantly lifts your mood. That is a really good point.
Audience Member: Play foosball.
Marti: Foosball. Oh, yeah, sweet. Sweet. You get to be the master of everything in foosball!
Marti: That’s very good. Anymore? Anybody else? OK. You first.
Audience Member: Moments of shared understanding.
Marti: OK, nice. When you feel that moment where you’re on the same page, and you’re like, “Ah!” Very good.
Audience Member: I was going to say having a boss who supports and mentors me.
Marti: Great. Having a boss that actually supports and mentors you. Having a really strong relationship there. Perfect. That’s awesome. The rest of you will just have to be happy on your own.
Next step, a couple more strategies around being happy. The next one has to do with adjusting like your norm level is. We talked about that. It’s really these bumps. That’s when you’re at your happiest. When you embrace that, you can have more happy moments.
You can also do things to tick the marker a little bit of what the baseline level is. Rather than having that and be totally neutral, “OK, I’m not happy but I’m not sad” or even a little bit negative. Actually ticking the marks so it’s, “So, I’m good. I’m good right now.”
We naturally focus on things that need attention. Again, looking back at the larger context of evolution, this was really important back in the day because you had to be worried about something that might eat you or eating something so that you wouldn’t die. Those are very important things. You had to pay a lot of attention to those things that were stressful to you.
Now, we don’t have to. We have a little bit more time and a little bit less likelihood of getting eaten. What really actually makes you happy is to focus on things that are already going right in your life, not the stresses. The things that are like, “Oh, this actually, I could make a whole list of things and I’m super glad they are the way they are.”
You can retrain your brain to actually notice those things and spend more of its effort focusing on those things. Here are three really concrete things you can do to impact your overall outlook and do a better job of processing the world around you in a way that makes you enjoy the world.
First, start your day with kindness. Specifically, making sure that the first message you put out into the world, first text message or email is positive. You might have to send a bunch of stress-y work emails throughout the day, but make sure that the first thing you send is, “Hey, I really appreciated what you did yesterday. Good job,” or, “Thanks. It was really nice to have lunch,” whatever, something positive before you get a note to all the rest of it.
The next one is writing down every day three things that you’re grateful for. This just trains your brain to scan your life and scan what you’re thinking about and think about the things that are positive. Every day, you add three more things to the list. This is quick. You just jot it down. They can be really small things. This doesn’t have to be out and about.
The last one, journaling not about what’s going wrong. Usually diary sort of thing is more about whatever’s crazy and sad or your unrequited love or whatever. Making a point of journaling about a positive experience that you’ve had in a day because even on your worst day, there’s probably at least a moment that something went right.
What’s nice about all of these things is, one, they don’t take a lot of time. Two, you can be depressed and still do these things that help train you to think happier. You can fake it till you make it. Studies have shown, smiling makes you happier. Even knowing that what you’re doing is smiling to make yourself feel happier will still make you feel happier by the end of the day.
Remember that and try to incorporate pausing to think positively and faking until you make it. Megan hates the creepy smile so much. She’s uncomfortable. We can move on. It’s making her uncomfortable.
The last point is a quick one, but a really important one. We are not anymore in control of ourselves than a two-year-old is. We need to get a good amount of sleep. We need to eat healthy food. We need to be able to run around, get some fresh air, get some exercise. If you’re in pain or you are way too cold or way too hot, address those things.
Basically if two-year-old you would be crying, fix it. Don’t just power through. You’re not a Zen master. You need to actually address your physical self. That allows you to be happy much more than we want to recognize.
Coming back to these points that we brought up earlier, these things that are really important to having a high level of satisfaction at your job. It’s worksheet time again. This is my favorite worksheet because it has little sheets all over it. We’re going to look at each of these. I’ll walk through them a little bit and then assess how you think that’s going for you right now in your current context.
Also, maybe make some examples particularly if there’s anything that you think need some attention and then rate how much you actually care about that. These are the across the board things that tend to impact it. Some of these probably matter more to you in your personality than others.
You can start walking through these and talking about them and doing whatever you want to do. I’m going to just go down the list a little bit. Using your abilities, are you doing what you’re good at, what you were trained to do? Work relationship has a lot of pieces.
That’s who are you working with day to day? What is that relationship like? How is your relationship with your immediate supervisor? How do you feel that you can relate to upper management? Is there some sort of conduit there? Do you get to enjoy your peers? If you have a mentor and mentee setup, how is that relationship?
Enjoy what you do. This is not the overall concept of do you enjoy being an IA. This is what are you actually spending your day doing? What are those tasks that make up the hours that are your workday? Do you enjoy doing those things? What percent of your time? Are you happy with what activity you’re doing? So much room for activities.
Autonomy is about you being in the captain’s chair. This can come into play in a lot of different ways. It might mean that you have a high degree of control over your schedule. It might mean that you get to take ownership of the kinds of projects you’re involved in. It might mean that you are able to really be the decision maker on some things and be the person in charge. Thinking about those different aspects, are you getting a level of autonomy that you feel comfortable with?
Company culture. Meaningfulness can come in a couple of different ways. It can be because you feel what you do is really important to the overall job that’s being done where you are. It can also be around how good you feel about what that is in general.
Do you feel you’re making the world a better place in some way? You can think about it in those two different ways. You think your cog is important to that machine and are you making the world better?
Skill development, you have resources and opportunities and variety. That could be working with different people, switching up what projects you’re on. There could be other factors to other ways that you get variety. Are you comfortable at that level?
I’ll pick on you a little bit. This one, I just would like to get a sense as we’re going through in assessing, try to identify of the things that maybe you could use a little more attention and you care a lot about them. Just getting a sense of what are the top things that this helps you realize you would like to make better in your life. Anybody wants to volunteer? You know you don’t have to tell the back story or why you hate your workers or whatever, it’s cool.
Marti: Yell them out. Go ahead.
Audience Member: Meaningfulness.
Marti: Awesome. Keep yelling. People yell.
Audience Member: Company culture.
Marti: More. Yell at me, more yelling.
Audience Member: Work relationships.
Marti: Great. No one is raising their hand. I’m just pointing and then someone over there should yell. Perfect.
Audience Member: Company [inaudible 26:42] .
Marti: Great. It’s good. Trying to accost you a comfortable amount. Next?
Megan: We can talk about part that sucks. We talked about the happiness and assessing what makes you happy and how to figure out and prioritize that list. Now, we’re going to talk about what pisses you off. There’s resources of frustration that we’re going to talk about. You work with people, you work in a place, and you work with yourself. Working with people can really, really suck.
People can be really combative and not agree with the thing you say. They don’t trust you. They want to just disagree with everything you say and just because you said it. No positive feedback. Go straight for the jugular. Tell me everything that sucks about what I did.
Competitive, maybe they try to knock you down. Maybe they steal your ideas, overly siloed. They go off and they do their little thing and then they show you their work and you had nothing to do with it at all. Working at a place can really suck.
Even if you are freelancer or independent, you still work within a structure. There’s still access to resources. Oftentimes, you’re working with a client that works in a structure. You’re still bounded a bit by that.
Work overload, way too much on your plate. No way you can get it all done. No control, no autonomy. As we talked about before, that is incredibly important for happiness. Management pressure, expectations are insane and you can’t possibly meet them. Insufficient reward systems, maybe you don’t feel like you’re getting paid enough. Maybe the benefits aren’t there. Maybe you’re just not getting that pat on the back every once in a while.
Unestablished company culture, if you had no idea how to rate your company culture because you just have no idea what that is, that can be incredibly frustrating, not knowing what those expectations are. Working with yourself can suck. We can be too anxious. We can be unassertive or overly assertive. Sometimes we ask for what we want way too much. Sometimes we don’t ask for it enough.
Insecure, constantly needing validation, eager to please, if you can’t handle it when somebody is mad at you or unhappy with your work. Too motivated at work, this one’s blurry. What does too motivated mean? If you feel like you’re sacrificing things that you like in order to make your achievements at work more prioritized, you might be too motivated.
All of these are necessary evils. We can’t avoid these things. We can’t avoid work. We can’t avoid working with people in a place. We certainly can’t avoid working with ourselves. What do we do? Can we avoid the shit though?
It turns out we can avoid the shit. We identify all the things that piss us off. We identify all those things, the things that we can’t change and then magically much like this woman releasing the birds. We let them go and everything gets better.
Megan: No. it doesn’t work that way.
Megan: I’m so glad that some of you got the joke. I’m not sure about who is going to get it.
Marti: So many levels.
Megan: So many levels. We can’t just let it go. As we talked about before, we care too much, so just let it go. It’s not that easy. It’s also the principle. For a lot of us, it’s just the fact that we feel like when these things happen, it’s like they’re happening despite us.
When the guy in front of us in the car cuts us off, it’s like they’re doing that to me because I’m me. They’re trying to make me angry. We know that that’s not true from somewhere in us. We know, but that’s not how we react. Our initial thought is just everybody is trying to hurt me.
It turns out, as we know, everyone is dealing with shit. Everybody has something going on. As you can see in this room, everybody is here for a reason. Everybody has something that they’re dealing with that they’re bringing into the context that you’re in, the situation that you’re in. it’s not about you.
The first thing that we have to do in order to let go of the shit is stop looking for who to blame. That’s the first thing we want to do. That person is doing this to me, my manager is doing it, whatever, it’s the who or ourselves. Most the time, I say we’re more [inaudible 31:29] ourselves than anybody else.
We have to start looking for what is to blame. It’s the context. We are all very familiar with that word, context. It’s so much easier to apply it in our jobs, in our actual work than it is in our work context, in our situations. What is happening that is making this person or this situation so terrible?
An example of this, of why context is so important, they really help us to adjust our expectations. If you’re looking at this picture and you’re thinking, “Why did this water turn brown?” and I can’t help but feel like it’s kind of a bad example, given the title, you would probably not want to drink the water given the context that we did.
But if you knew a little bit more about why this water turned brown, you would know that it’s actually not water at all, it’s bourbon. It’s been sitting in a barrel for however many years and it’s turning brown because it’s taking on the oak. Then, hopefully most of you would be like, “Yeah, I’ll take some bourbon. I’ll absolutely like that brown water.”
It’s about adjusting your expectations so that you can appreciate things for what they are given what happened before you were even part of the picture.
There’s a little in the checkbook context. The devil is actually in the details. It’s super easy to want to compare situations across context. I’m in a situation before, it’s very similar to what I’m doing now, so, therefore, things should probably be about the same as they were in that past context. But it’s very difficult to have accurate expectations based on your past experiences.
One of the things bourbon, a lot of you will know, is that bourbon can taste very differently depending on the oak that it sat in, where it was stored in the warehouse, the years that it was aging. There’s lots of variations. You can’t have the same expectation every time you take a sip of a new type of bourbon. It’s going to be quite different.
We really have to think about that in terms of our work life too. Stop trying to have exactly the same expectation every time you’re in a similar situation. We talked about understanding the shit. Now let’s talk about how do we identify our own shit.
What is your barrel? Let’s think about the context that we’re all dealing with. This is actually you’re “Narrowing Down the Shit” worksheet, so everybody can get that out.
We’re going to ask ourselves the following questions. Is it more than one person? What do these people have in common, if so? If not, then what is it with that one person that’s causing you an issue? What are they doing that is so damned annoying? Is it more than one project? Is it just one bad project or is it something that’s going beyond that?
What is the common thread across these projects that’s giving you trouble? Is it more than one task? Is it just one task that’s causing you stress or do you feel like it’s kind of a combination of a bunch of things you’re trying to get done at once? What are these tasks and why are they giving you trouble?
We can’t ignore that there are some things going on in our lives outside of work that are impacting our ability to potentially handle normal amounts of stress. What does that look like? We’re going to give you a few minutes to go ahead and think about this. I have to caveat this with if your shit is sitting next to you maybe you can leave names off of it.
Marti: Code words.
Megan: Code words are good. We won’t be asking you to share this, probably. This is just for you so feel free to be honest with yourself.
Marti: No accosting.
Megan: OK. The song ended so I guess it’s time to come back. What among your problems can you actually change? We’re going to give you a hint. You can control your behavior. You can’t control anyone else’s behavior. It’s very simple. It’s very easy. You can control yourself, you can’t control anyone else.
You can influence them. You can alter your behavior in order to impact how they behave. But you’re not a puppet-master and you never will be. Nobody can control anybody. We can’t even control our children or dogs. There’s no control. We can’t do that.
Marti: No control.
Megan: We can influence. With that in mind, this is the shit funnel. It’s adapted, actually, from the shopper funnel.
Megan: Essentially, what this is saying is that all the shit goes into the funnel, all your problems are going into the funnel. Of the shit, there is a certain number of things that you can control. Again, this is the behavior that you can alter in order to address your own problems. That gets filtered out of the funnel.
Next, it’s the shit that you care about. Again, going back to what you just did with Marti about figuring out what do I really care, what makes me happy, this is that. This is the stuff that you really want to prioritize and focus your energy on.
Then, of that stuff, there’s only so much you can do. There’s only so many things that you can really care about. You only have so much time and energy. You funnel out the shits that you give.
That’s the final piece. That’s where you actually give yourself permission to really focus on “I’m going to worry, stress, fix these things.” Hopefully you don’t worry and stress but we’re human so that’s going to happen.
But you’re giving yourself permission to only look at this little thing, this one thing that I care about and that I can control. And you’re giving yourself permission to let go of all of the rest. We’re going to do that. We’re going to go through this. Go ahead and get your worksheet out.
Marti: Grab your funnels.
Megan: I did it with guiding questions here to help you. You don’t have to fill out the top part because you kind of already did that with the “Narrowing Down the Shit” worksheet. Really classy, our titles on worksheets.
What are the things that I can do to change the way I handle the shit? Write down, is there something that I can actually change in my behavior to address this. Of those things, write down what are the things I really care about, what are the things that I want to develop, in terms of my career, that’s going to make me feel fulfilled and happy.
Under that, what are you actually going to spend your time on, what are you actually going to work on and give your time and energy to really give a shit about?
Go ahead and go through that. We do a few minutes. Again, you guys should feel absolutely free to speak to a neighbor if you feel like it’s more helpful for you to talk through these things. Or go ahead and do it individually. Whatever makes sense for you.
Marti: Shoot the shit. Keep your shit to yourself. Whatever works for you. If you don’t give a shit, just dance.
Megan: OK. We’re going to come back. You do not have to feel pressure but does anybody want to share what they ended up narrowing it down to?
Audience Member: I narrowed it down to message slicing and getting sleep. I think that’s about enough.
Megan: Does anybody else want to talk about what they narrowed it down to?
Audience Member: I kind of ended up narrowing it down to solutions to the stuff that’s really bugging me. I narrowed it down to delegating tasks I normally do myself to being present with whoever I’m with and setting boundaries for my work hours.
Marti: One more over here.
Audience Member: I narrowed it down to asking for proper compensation, because I’m self-employed and working on a project to ask for some highly and proper compensation like the smile of the children.
Megan: You can’t live on that.
Audience Member: Smiles of children, [inaudible 47:12] .
Marti: Can’t even feed children.
Megan: How ironic.
Audience Member: Improving [inaudible 47:25] , just responding to someone’s passive/aggressive email.
Megan: Hopefully that was helpful. Again, these things don’t necessarily have to be written down, although I do think it is helpful to keep a journal and sort of document these things as they’re happening.
But if it’s something that you can just get into the habit of doing and thinking about regularly, it’s just going to make it a lot easier for you to sort of focus in on those things that you really want to focus your energy and give your time to, rather than seeing it all kind of jumbling and mixing up in your head and just feeling that kind of over-arching sense of unhappiness.
Marti: Now you can just let it go. Everything that didn’t make it down to the bottom of the funnel, it’s probably still going to bother you, it’s still going to be irritating. But when it starts to irritate you, you can mentally be like, “All right. I know this is a thing I don’t like but I have decided I’m not going to put in my time and energy trying to fix that. I’m going to focus on the things I can and I’ve already decided what those are.” It gives you permission to push those aside.
Don’t lose your shit. Now, it’s the supernova. This is all about when you’re really getting to that moment that you are about to lose your shit, how do you bring it back down. One way to help with that is to pause for realignment. When you’re starting to engage with someone and it’s going from discussion to discussion that’s more of an argument, pause to make sure that you’re even on the same page.
You can spend a lot of time circling around and feeling like they don’t see what you’re saying and they’re not making any sense, only to eventually realize that you had different things in mind as far as constraints. They know about a shift in constraints that you don’t know yet or they were prioritizing something in a different way than you were so they were thinking about it in a whole separate way.
Pause to just briefly go through, all right, what is our main objective here, what constraints are we thinking about or how do we want to prioritize.
Along the same lines of that, when you’re starting to feel combative with someone, pause to mentally go through and try to see their side of things. This is really practicing active empathy. Think about what is their intention, what is their overall goal, are they trying to make things awesome. They’re not really, probably, trying to piss you off so think about what they actually are trying to do. What are they being protective of?
We’re trying to protect the user experience and think about things from that sort of a lens. But they might have a whole different perspective that may be pulling at what they’re thinking about.
Then stop to actually verbalize those things. Talk about what you are aligned on. “Hey. I think it’s great that we both care so much, that we’re really invested in this, and we both want this to turn out really awesome. That’s awesome. I see that you’re seeing it from a perspective that’s really thinking about timeline and budget and that’s what you’re most concerned about. I’m looking at it through a lens of how do we make the best possible product.”
Or whatever those are. But actually pause to acknowledge the importance of all the perspectives at the table. When you’re going through those things, there’s a few do’s and don’ts of trying to persuade someone or talk to someone or going through that. Make sure that you’re staying calm, as much as possible relying on facts and data. Ask questions, especially when the answers will sort of help to make a point that you want to make.
Really pause to listen. This seems really obvious but also is really hard to do in practice. When you’re starting to get worked up, you tend to just start thinking about the next thing you’re going to say and you just use their time talking to formulate your thoughts for the next thing you’re about to throw at them.
When you catch yourself getting worked up and starting to do that, don’t let yourself. Really pause. Be thoughtful. Respond to what they actually said. Be willing to concede points. When they make a totally valid point, don’t gloss over that, acknowledge that because you’re helping with the back and forth of what’s going on.
Remember to take it home that you’re overall goal is a context of advocating for the user. Respect those project tensions that come from the fact that having those other perspectives are healthy and actually make a better end product.
The fact that a designer is thinking about the emotional intention and how is that going to make somebody feel, and that an engineer wants to make sure that load times are going to be reasonable and that this is very doable. That a project manager wants to make sure everything gets done on time, an account manager is trying to make sure the client is happy.
The fact that somebody is in charge of thinking about all of those things specifically, is great because it’s going to end up with a better product overall. Respect that some tension is going to happen because of that but it’s for the greater good. Look for those win-win’s. Don’t get personal or let them get personal. Just go past it if that happens.
If they start going down some weird rabbit hole that’s really off topic, call it out. It’s like, “Hey. Let’s talk about that later. I want us to get through this thing that we’re supposed to be talking about.”
If you’re making a point, and you have a few points you can make, don’t water down your argument by bringing up some things that are sort of half assed, that kind of make sense and kind of don’t. If you have two and a half points, don’t even make the half point, just make your two good points.
Don’t be provoking them. Don’t exaggerate their point to extremes. That just makes people angry. If they do that to you, ignore it or try to pull it back. Another concept is to treat life as comedy because it is. Particularly when you’re trying to brainstorm, or think about how to solve a problem, it’s really helpful to embrace bad ideas.
It can be very tempting to start shooting things down, and pointing out the problems with why that won’t work. Particularly in these kinds of contacts, it’s much more productive to actually roll with it.
If you are involved in improv comedy, there’s not a whole lot of rules, but one of the rules is that you don’t get to negate what somebody else starts doing. You have to roll with it, continue, and build upon it. If we’re doing improv up here, and Megan’s like, “Oh, that chair’s on fire,” I don’t get to be like, “Oh, Megan, you were mistaken, the chair is not on fire.”
Marti: I have just broken all of the rules of improv. What I can do is be like, “Oh, good thing I brought this bucket,” or just dump my water on her.
Marti: That would have been better improv. You just keep building and figure out how to go from there. You can try to guide it to be the improv sketch that you wanted to do, but not at the expense of letting her do whatever she brought to the table.
Even when you know something is a bad idea, the immediate thing in your mind is, “No, that won’t work because X-Y-Z.” Try to reframe and be like, “OK, if that was going to have to be, how would I add to that. What would I put on top of that to actually make that work?”
Go from there. Even if you don’t end up landing on whatever they threw out, it might help you get to a better place in the end, because it makes you think about new ideas. Maybe a workaround for how to make that work, helps solve another piece of the problem.
You tried some stuff, it’s not working and you are at the precipice. This shit is about to explode, supernova style. This is about coming down from that moment without actually having done that. Try to meditate through that urge.
Meditation has to do with observing yourself. You are a little tiny person of yourself, inside yourself. It’s not about closing your eyes and removing all thought from your head. It’s about pausing and reflecting on what’s happening and being very observant of all of that.
When it’s building, pause and be that little inside self that starts to do things. You’re narrating the situation to your own self, “My face is getting very warm, it’s probably red now. I feel that my breathing has gotten very rapid. I feel that my muscles are quite tense and it’s probably visible that I’m being very tense.
“The thought has floated through my mind that I would like to wring their neck. That’s very violent and probably not appropriate. I recognize that I’m taking this very personally. I think that she hurt my feelings when they said this thing, and I don’t think that they’re respecting X, Y or Z.”
Pause to dictate to yourself what’s happening, and not with, “No, I shouldn’t have thought that, that’s not right.” Just pause and observe. Tell yourself what is happening and then start to pull it in and take control.
When you start getting worked up to the point that there is a physical reacting, you are starting to get into that fight or flight mode. That has been initiated in your body. You can control that by actually controlling your breathing, slowing your breathe on purpose, and pulling yourself back away from that.
Lastly just respect that even if you are breathing slower it’s not the right time to talk anymore. You’ve gone beyond, so you just need to pull away. Say, “All right, that’s great. Let’s take five,” or “Let me have some more time to think on that and I will get back to you.”
Do something to not continue to engage in that moment. Just let there be a pull away, where you get a little bit of space. I need this thing. Once this has happened a few times and you start to have this pattern. Learn yourself. Learn what are your triggers.
If there’s some project that’s causing you trouble. You know this one person sets you off. You probably can’t just avoid working with them. Start to recognize, “I’m going to make sure I have some extra happy moments before I go have a meeting with this person.”
I’m going to try to recognize that I start to now get initially defensive just because we have some bad blood already, and try to purposefully go beyond that. Try to compensate for that in being overly positive, or overly embracing their ideas, so that you can address those things.
Megan: We talked about, “How do I avoid the shit?” As we all know there’s no way we are going to completely avoid the shit. It happens and here are some tips for handling it. The shit is definitely in there. It’s not going to be completely gone.
We can narrow it down and focus on some things, but there’s other things that are immediately happening. Here’s what we can do. The first thing I think is probably the most important thing that you can do for yourself is guilt free breaks. Stop wasting time Facebooking.
We all do it. I can’t tell you how many times I walked through and everybody at some point in the day has Facebook up. In a way we think like, “I need this mental break. I need to just get away from what I’m thinking about, because the idea hasn’t come to me. I need to think about something else.”
It’s actually hurting you, because then you feel you can’t actually take guilt free real break. Go for a long lunch. Take a walk. Save them up. Save them for a time when you can actually remove yourself away from your desk and do something that is actually making you happy, like drinking a cup of coffee on the patio, or just taking a walk around the parking lot, or just shooting the shit with one of your friends.
One of the things that we do at Enlighten that is one of my favorite things that we do is what we call, “Three O’clock Pushups.” At three o’clock every day in our area we do pushups all together. We are not going to make you do pushups, because they are really hard and most of us just end up in a plank. We just sit there, and then maybe end up just laying on the floor and we don’t finish them.
Megan: Except for Tracy, she was amazing.
Marti: We have one yoga master person who counts. She does 30, and I think most of us do like five, and then we all just lay there. What we are here to make you do though is squats, so everybody stand up.
Megan: Let’s get physical.
Marti: This gets you moving, it gets your adrenaline up, and you’re doing it all together so you don’t have to feel guilty at all because everybody’s doing it.
Megan: Yeah. Feel free to adjust. If you got really psyched about push-ups and you want to do push-ups, great. I’m going to play with lunges, but just do something that moves your body around.
Marti: If you can’t do squats…You don’t have to go all the way down, by the way, squats can just be…I’m bouncing.
Marti: I’m a bouncer. OK. Are we ready? We’re going to do 15. Let’s go. Ready?
Megan: Don’t step off the stage.
Marti: OK, let’s go. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
Marti: …11, 12, 13, 14, 15. OK, and then after we do this we all just kind of stretch. Most of us are already on the floor by this point so we’re laying down. Kind of moving our bodies. Then we kind of all just shoot the shit, talk about our days. What’s going on with you? Headphones are off, we’re finally interacting, kind of a bonding moment/you get your blood flowing moment.
Megan: It’s a great way…
Marti: Highly recommend.
Megan: It’s a great way to recharge a little bit that’s not sugar or caffeine. It’s surprising, it’s just like taking a nap or something. It really does help you to pause and recharge a little bit. Do it and make everyone around you start doing it. They’ll be like, “Oh, this is ridiculous,” and then they’ll love it.
Marti: Yeah. It’s pretty awesome. I definitely, when I first started like a year ago, was kind of like [inaudible 01:01:27] .
Megan: [laughs] What does that mean?
Marti: Now it’s like, “OK great, three o’clock push-ups.” There’s always somebody there to remind us, “Oh, guys, it’s 3:02, we’ve got to do this,” so it’s become a really awesome thing.
We’re hearing a lot of you guys talk about boundary setting, and here’s the thing about boundary setting. It sounds really awesome. Just say no. Just going to say no. Except that you have to accept that along with this you are definitely going to make some people angry with you.
This goes back to that personality trait of being too eager to please and not being able to let people just be angry with you. If you have a boundary, that means that you are creating a stopper where somebody once had freedom. They no longer have that freedom, so they are definitely not going to be happy with that. People like freedom.
You have to just accept that they’re going to be angry with you, and then count on that hedonic adaptation to rely on them eventually getting used to the fact that this has changed. Hedonic adaptation works both ways. We adapt to shitty situations and we adapt to happy situations. We kind of come back to the middle. People will adapt, you just have to get through whether that first initial scary, “Oh God, they’re mad at me,” they’ll get over it.
Work smarter, not harder. When we’re really, really busy, the first thing that we want to do is do exactly the same thing but just more of it. We’re putting our energy on, “I have to do all these things that I always do, and I’m just going to do it more.” Actually, really you should be putting your energy into finding efficiencies.
A few that I have found in my job. Cutting out a detailed func spec if the tech team is co-located, or if it’s just a really simple little page of project, you don’t necessarily always need a functional specification that’s going to detail every single piece of the functionality. We’ve cut that out on some of my projects.
Be a meeting-skipper. I’m a meeting-skipper. I love skipping meetings. If I can skip it, I won’t go.
Marti: It’s like a confession this thing.
Megan: It’s a confession but I’m also kind of proud of it. I honestly think that there are way too many meetings in most organizations. Skipping a meeting, it’s not necessarily always disrespectful. If you’re just invited because, well, they think that you should be there.
A lot of times I’ve talked to project managers and said, “I do appreciate you including me on the invite list so that I know that it’s happening and I can come if I have time, but I probably won’t come, unless I somehow can fit it into my day.” That can be really, really useful.
Or potentially you can call in. Even if you’re sitting at your desk, just dial in so that you can still do your work. Wearing headphones, the ones that come over your head. Not in meetings, by the way, I got…
Megan: Don’t do it in a meeting, at your desk. It’s a signal that you’re working and not available for chatting.
Marti: Not the little ones, the big ones that announce to the world, “Don’t talk to me. Busy.”
Megan: If you’re somebody who says, “Work is work. Personal life is personal life,” you’re wrong. It’s not a good way to play. Go to work with the idea that these people are awesome and that they could be your new best friends.
Having friends at work is incredibly valuable, not just because it’s easier to work with people who know you on a more personal level, but also because it just makes your life better. You have camaraderie. You can vent some of the issues that you’re having. These things become more available.
Also, in your supernova moments, when you get really, really pissed off and you have that embarrassing, “Oh, my god, I just totally lost my shit,” it’s really a lot easier to apologize to somebody who you like.
Marti: When you’re crashing with someone in general over a particular point, when you know that outside of the context of that conversation, you like them as a person, it makes it a little easier to parse through those moments where you’re still gritting your teeth at them, but they can push forward.
Megan: Give yourself permission to make friends at work. If any of you have ever read “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer or if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It’s such an excellent book. One of the main points that she makes that I really took away was that by asking for help. You can’t do it alone. We all need help in various times.
Instead of seeing that as a weakness and a failing, the way that Amanda Palmer asks you to look at it is as a way that you are empowering the other person to help you. You’re actually giving them an opportunity to help you, and that’s empowering them. It’s a mutual empowerment, that you’re asking for help because you need it, and they have now that opportunity to give you help.
Don’t feel like you can’t ask for help. Definitely, make sure that that is something you have gotten over and can get comfortable doing that. Remember that you have nothing to prove. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a situation where I worked on something for weeks.
I have all of these ideas in this nice, little white frame package and I’ve got it all figured out. Then, I get to a meeting and this developer who just popped in to take a look has this brilliant idea that go along our models.
It’s frustrating because you think, “Uh, why didn’t I think of that? I’ve been thinking about this for so long.” Honestly, there’s different perspectives. People had different projects that they worked on before that might be applicable. You’re still awesome. You still have great ideas. You had a lot of great ideas.
That’s why this thing exists. Just give yourself a little bit of a break. Don’t feel like it’s such a big deal when somebody else has a better idea than you, especially if they’re outside of the UX profession because that is sometimes we feel a little intimidated by that.
Marti: You loosen the jar.
Megan: You loosen the jar.
Megan: Stop complaining. We talked a little bit about making friends, you can have venting sessions, and this is good. Venting is very different than complaining. Complaining, it’s long-winded. Complaining, you go on and on and it starts embedding and validating those feelings more and more in you. A lot of times, we ramp ourselves up when we complain. Venting, get it out the door and then it’s gone and you stop. Just remember you keep it brief.
Stay positive. Don’t let your burnout turn you into a different person. Marti gave the recommendation of even if you have to fake it. Your attitude actually does have the power to change your organization and the organizational culture.
I stole this from a talk that I gave last year. This is what makes up your organizational culture. The thing I want you to look at and see is attitude is on there. Attitude is a huge part of your organizational culture. It feeds into the larger chain. Of course, depending on how large your organization is, your attitude may impact a lot or it may impact a little, but it’s still going to be impactful. Try to keep a positive attitude and keep the persona that you want other people to have around you.
Marti: I was really excited. I’m figuring out how to embed a gift because that’s so tech savvy, but I didn’t. Just own yourself, own who you are and start to get comfortable with that. Recognize what your strengths are and accentuate them. Let that be the thing that stands out that people will remember about you.
Actually, own your weaknesses too. We don’t have to become the perfect textbook IA or whatever your role is. Just own what you’re going to be at and rock it. The things that you’re not going to be good at, just find work around it. Respect that that’s not something that at this point in life, you necessarily need to master. Just, “OK, then I can be late.”
Megan just was warns me that I need to play in to be here a half hour before this thing is starting and things like that. I just find work around to make your weaknesses work with your situation and just own what’s great about you.
Megan: If you’re past a point of handling the shit and you’re in burnout mode, you don’t care. Everything sucks. We want to talk a little bit about some strategies for hitting at least that button. It’s that moment when you realize it’s time that I just start over. We’re not talking about switching jobs.
One of the things that I have found most useful is going back to the basics. The first thing I always think of is talking to my users. They’re the ones that matter. At the end of the day, all of the organizational stuff gets in the way of that. That’s what I am here to do.
Talk to your users. Really, the shit, honestly, it might worth your time to go out and do it yourself if you’re not getting funding for research. Read new UX books or reread the classics. This can be a great way to get back into like, “OK, wait. What is this whole thing all about again? I need to remind myself of that.” Probably the most invigorating thing that you can do is attend conferences. You’re already there, good job.
Marti: Way to go, guys.
Megan: Time for a new challenge. [inaudible 01:10:44] a new design or a research technique. Start thinking about ways that you can switch it up and change what you’re doing on a daily basis. Probably, there is something that [inaudible 01:10:53] on it, hopefully. Try a new deliverable. Are you sick of wireframes? Sometimes, just doing the same thing over and over again and if that’s the mode you’re in, gets old.
Try a different tool. Maybe it’s just sketch. Honestly, it’s a misnomer that we always need to have WiFi wireframes. Maybe it’s just a page and you can just sketch it and annotate that and call it a day.
Marti: We talked about all these factors that can impact your happiness. Some of them seem more obviously things that you can change versus things that are harder to impact, but don’t wait around. Don’t just decide like, “The company culture sucks. That’s it. I’m done. That sucks and I’m sad about that.”
Really decide that you’re going to have some ownership of things that you want to affect. Do what it takes to push that forward. Ask for things that you want. Create proposals if that’s what it takes. Just start doing those things just like a new deliverable, any of it. Make a point of being able to stretch outside of your comfort zone, maybe doing something you don’t normally do as a way to help reset and have a new framing on the world.
Maybe it’s delving a little bit into some content strategy when that’s really not a piece of what you typically always do. Make a point of trying to take on something a little bit different if you have that context where you can ask to do that to make that shit happen.
Megan: Get a life. I’m not actually talking about your personal life here. I really hope you guys all have awesome personal lives. But there’s something that your job gives you that your personal life doesn’t.
There’s something that you’re getting, some goal that is being achieved. Maybe it’s because you like to create. Maybe it’s that you like to analyze things or write reports or whatever. Maybe just being part of a group collaborating.
Don’t let your job be the only way that that gets satisfied. Do something outside of work that also satisfies that need. Start a hobby, whatever. Join a group. Do something. Just don’t let that be…You wouldn’t put all your stock into a relationship, like, “OK. So now you’re my partner. You’re going to provide everything I need.” That’s not how it works. Feel that way about your job as well.
Talk shop. Schedule regular check-ins with your UX colleagues at you job. Marti and I never work together, ever.
Marti: No. Ever.
Megan: We schedule regular check-ins to make sure that we feel like everything’s going OK and just talking shop, making sure that we are both kind of on the same page. Join a meet-up in your area. If you can’t find one, start one. That’s what I did.
Marti: She did it.
Megan: “The Ann Arbor UX Happy Hour.”
Marti: It’s amazing. Come and join us.
Megan: Yeah. If you are ever in Ann Arbor take a look at our page and definitely come join us. It’s kind of helped to create this nice little community. It’s basically one of those things that’s helped to create this community, in Ann Arbor, for UX professionals. Join one or just start one.
Finally, this is kind of a problem we all want to have. If you feel like you’ve made it and you’re like super-successful and things are going great, a lot of times that can mean that you’re being pulled away from the thing that you want to do, whether it means that you’re put into a management position or maybe you’re writing too much or talking a lot at conferences. Whatever that thing is, don’t let it pull you away from the thing that you really love to do the most.
“OK. No more shits to give. I’ve done it all. Thank you so much for trying, Megan and Marti, but, nope, no go. Done with everything.”
Marti: It can happen. We can’t assess all your individual situations on a side.
But something to keep in mind, this little worksheet we had you do, if you went down this list and you’re actually quite unhappy with a lot of these things and you feel like you’ve been in that same situation for a long period of time, like close to a year or more than a year, you’re starting to, probably, get to a point where that’s really not OK, that you just can’t maintain that level of dissatisfaction for that long and have it not just be affecting your life in general.
You have to use your own barometer. Maybe this helps you reset and you try some things and see if it makes a difference. But don’t put up with things internally. I don’t know. Just be ready to make the call that, like, “All right. I want to move on. I need to find a new positive space and be able to reset in a bigger way and actually change jobs.”
Megan: Yeah. If you feel like nothing is working, it may be time to leave your job. But we kind of want to just put a little bit of a warning on leaving a job.
The grass is always greener. It always seems like it’s going to be better if I just leave. But, in reality, you need to focus on changing yourself and your own behavior and figuring out what those shits are that you need to give and how you can work on those within the environment that you’re in. Because shit is everywhere.
Marti: Shit is everywhere.
Marti: Most important part of the talk.
Megan: This is a quick rehash of what we’ve talked about.
Marti: Make “happy” a priority. Engineer your own joy. Look for the good. It’s not personal. Find the real “why’s.” Have a focus. Don’t try to do everything. When you’re in an interaction make sure you take the time to see their side. Breathe through it. Learn to say “no” and when to ask for help. Make a point of rebooting when you’ve stopped caring.
Megan: If you want to read more about how much you should care, these are some of the references that we used to frame our talk. That’s it. Thank you.
Marti: Thanks for giving a shit, everybody.
Megan: I’d like to open the floor. If anybody else has a suggestion, their thoughts with how they’ve dealt with burnout, or if you have any questions.
Audience Member: Can you go back to the resources slide?
Marti: Oh yeah. We only put these slides somewhere on the slide share or something, and then you can have all of these, all of the shit.
Audience Member: This is awesome. You talked a lot about dealing with your own shit. Say that you are in a position that you can set your company culture up to have them all deal with their own shit. What would you do? Do you have any tips on that?
Marti: In a management kind of role, is that what you’re talking about?
Audience Member: Yes.
Marti: Take it away, Megan.
Megan: I guess I’m just really not understanding the question. You’re saying that you are in a management position and everybody kind of works individually? I guess I’m not sure I understand the question.
Marti: Just how to affect the overall culture and help people deal with their own shit in a more general sense?
Audience Member: Yeah.
Megan: Oh, more of a top down standpoint. Got it. Actually, I’m really glad you asked that question because we had a lot of content to put into this talk, so we kind of had to think about whether or not we wanted to talk about the bottom up approach or the top down approach or even give that a nod.
Absolutely there are tons of top down ways to impact your organization. I would say, probably, that would be the most effective way. If you have a company culture that is promoting burnout and you feel like people are just burning out all over the place, that’s going to be the most effective way to get people to sort of…
It might be things like adding more resources so that people are less overwhelmed. It might be things like more company outings or just getting people kind of a little bit more informal or feel less like everything is so rigid. Yeah, top down is definitely the most effective way to deal with a company culture of burnout.
Since, on an individual level, we’re usually less in a position to do that, to affect change, that’s what we chose to focus on today. But yeah, absolutely, I would say that would be the most effective way.
Marti: Try to be aware of cultural things that you didn’t think you put in place, but have become the norm. Things can evolve to where people expect everyone to be putting in 80 hour work weeks, not because from the top down they said, “You need to put in 80 hours.” But because there were a few people who just never quit and people started to feel like they had to be at that same level or else they were just letting that other person take it all on themselves.
Things can evolve in a way that nobody purposely intended to make this craziness. Start to recognize when there’s things like that happening, and make a point of undoing it, saying it’s not OK for this to be the norm, talking to people who are working too many hours about how to make that not happen.
Megan: Forced vacations. That can be really, really useful too.
Marti: Yes. Picking apart that this is not going to be our culture.
Audience Member: Can I say just to tap on to that, I do know managers who purposely weave that fine cloth, and maybe work from home or they’ll go to another building where their teams are just to have that perception of it’s OK to go home. That’s another tactic that I’ve seen used.
Megan: That’s a great idea. Have your senior leadership people make sure that they’re not putting in…because they do have to tell them for what the hours are going to be or what that’s going to look like.
Audience Member: To add on to that, clean up your emails. If you happen to email at 10:00 PM at night, that’s cool, but don’t send them [inaudible 01:20:37] , because it just sets a different expectation.
Megan: Yeah. I think that’s a great suggestion. Making sure that if you’re emailing late at night that you’re not sending at two in the morning but hold off until it’s a time when people will…because people will notice that stuff, for sure. Any other thoughts or questions? OK. Great. Enjoy your team. Thank you.
Marti: Thanks, everyone.