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Manage your energy levels as a designer
How to navigate a highly social job when you're not an extrovert
My image of a designer was very different from how my actual life as a designer is. I imagined designers a bit like artists. Just like an artist is tucked away in their atelier working on a painting, we’re tucked away in a quiet office corner spending time in Figma.
Oh, how the reality is different.
As designer we spend the majority of our time working together with other people. User interviews, design reviews, workshops and design sprints are just a few examples. It’s what makes our job so exciting but it can also drain your social batteries. Especially when you’re not an extrovert.
I’ve come a long way from feeling nervous about interviewing users to getting excited about facilitating a 5-day design sprint. Even though I’m not the most introverted person anymore, I still need a lot of time to restore my energy levels.
5 ways to recharge your batteries ✨
Here are 5 things I do to manage my energy levels and make sure my social batteries are not completely drained after an intense work day.
1. Plan focus time
In the beginning of the week I take some time to plan focus time blocks in my calendar. These are blocks of max. 2 hours that I dedicate to deep work which needs quiet time. Planning these focus blocks helps me manage my time and makes sure my designflow is not broken up by spontaneous meetings. Keeping a meeting-free day in your calendar also helps!
2. Understand what drains your battery
It took a while for me to accept that I need a lot of time and space for myself to recharge. I now know that having meetings all day and noisy environments make me feel really tired, so I try to avoid a combination of these.
I’d rather facilitate a virtual workshop from home, so I can take a break in silence in between. After a long day in the office, I’ll probably not meet up with friends in a loud bar afterwards because it’s too much for me.
3. Reading breaks
During lunch I like to step away from my desk and take my eyes off the screen. One habit I developed and that really helps me relax is going to a café for a reading break. I prefer reading non-fictions books and novels to really switch off my mind from my design tasks.
4. Hybrid working
I’m lucky enough to have an employer that offers hybrid work. I use my WFH days to focus on important design work and use the office days to meet with colleagues, work on presentations or do ‘light’ work that does not require deep focus.
5. Balance mental intensity with physical intensity
Since August 2022 I’ve been taking my fitness more seriously and go to the gym 3-4x a week. It really helps me ‘get out of my head’ after sitting behind my laptop the whole day. Taking a walk during lunch or finding hobbies that don’t require a screen (still a work in progress) also really helps.
6. Clear separation between work and private life
In the past years I’ve worked hard on establishing clear boundaries between professional life and private life. Here are some of the things that have really helped managing my energy levels:
I don’t text with my colleagues on Whatsapp or other private messaging channels.
Strictly no work during vacation and holidays.
I log off of work chats and emails after work and during the weekends. Preferably don’t use any work apps on my private phone.
I don’t follow colleagues on personal social media.
UX Clinic: start as a UX designer from scratch 🧗♀️
As mentioned in my previous newsletter, I want to dedicate a part of every mail you get from me to diving deeper into a reader’s question.asked me:
If you had to start from scratch, what would you do to get back to where you currently are in your career and skill set as fast as possible?
I like this question a lot, as the industry and UX education has changed a lot since I made my careerswitch!
Here are 3 things I would focus on if I were to start today
1. Turn theory into practice as much as I can
If you want to know what it’s really like to work as a UX designer you’ll need to practice your skills. A lot. I would seek out out hackathons, design jams, personal projects, charity work or other opportunities to sharpen my skills.
2. Understand business and product development
The reality of working as a UX Designer is very different from what the Design Thinking process would make you believe. The way products and services are designed and build is oftentimes more chaotic than you would expect and you’ll have to work with colleagues from different teams and functions.
Here are some resources I recommend:
3. Learn how to collaborate with stakeholders
An important part of my job has been showing stakeholders the value of design. This felt like an uphill battle for a long time, because I thought I had to convince others about my design practice. Things changed when I learned that instead of convincing others to help me, it’s more effective to figure out how my skills and experience as a designer can help them. Stakeholder management to me means understanding the goals that your stakeholders are trying to achieve and find ways to support them with that.
Got a question for my UX Clinic? ✍️
Comment or reply to this email with your question about UX design, career(growth) or other design challenges!