Lessons on working smarter and getting more done

1. Don’t Overlook Fresh Eyes

There’s a moment in every project where you feel stuck. Your brain may be foggy from staring at the same project constraints, working with the same stakeholders and running up against even more issues than when you originally started.

You may feel as if progress has slowed down or that you’re getting the same answers over and over. At this point, you may need to try a different approach or include a different partner.

problems are not black-and-white, and getting a second opinion could bring in a perspective you haven’t previously considered.

So what are the takeaways?

Credit: Unsplash

First, don’t underestimate the value of getting a pair of fresh eyes (someone unfamiliar with your project) as a second opinion. When you’re “in the weeds” with a project, it can blind you to simple solutions.

Second, realize if you’re part of systemic failure. A systemic failure may be simply defined as a failure due to a flaw or flaws in a system. When things go wrong, make sure you take time to debrief and analyze why it ended up the way it did. Make changes to address this issue for your team and organization to prevent it from happening again.

Third, take deep breaks.

…you need to consciously take a deep break, in which your mind gets a chance to regroup and recharge without impeding the chance of returning quickly to the high concentration level you need.
 — Harvey Schachter, Deep breaks needed for deep work

2. Give Ideas a Chance to Thrive

At the end of the day, teams have limited resources — people and time, to spend on a given project. So when you have several ideas at the start of a project, it may be best to cull it down to your best idea rather than segmenting your efforts into several directions.

Credit: Ari Tanninen

This is a practical way to focus your design . While explorations at the start of a project are needed, keeping your efforts divided among many different potential ideas can be exhausting to keep up over time. This may end in several ideas which are all poorly executed and tested with mediocre results. So rather than spreading your team too thin, invest in the best case option you have available to give that idea the best change to thrive.

Disagree and Commit

Another way to improve the process of making decisions as a group is to “Disagree and commit”. In a letter to shareholders in 2016, Jeff Bezos recommended the phrase “Disagree and commit” as a way to do good work.

Disagree and commit is a management principle which states that individuals are allowed to disagree while a decision is being made, but that once a decision has been made, everybody must commit to it. Disagree and commit is a method of avoiding the consensus trap, in which the lack of consensus leads to inaction.

3. Launch Something

If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives…

Design is never finished. The point of this practice is to reminds us of the limitations of user testing and how the results always have to be taken with a pinch of salt due to the differences between how people say they will act in a testing environment (even with the best moderator) vs. how they actually behave in the real world. Teams that end up launching something have the chance to adapt around customer feedback.

4. Include a Variety of Data into Decision-Making

Depending on your role in an organization, you may be extracting raw data (“data-miner”), presenting the data to others, or merely consuming insights from the data. While this “data” doesn’t just mean numbers, it’s important to realize that at any part of this process, your data is subject to bias and some degree of interpretation.

So the best way to consume data is from a variety of sources if possible — ingest a good balance of qualitative and quantitative data to inform your design decisions.

Data cake analogy

. Make Time for UX Debt

After scheduling time to address UX debt, there is a simple two part process:

Credit: Andrew Wright

Step 1: Create an inventory of the areas where your team may have taken design shortcuts due to business/time constraints or other factors.

In your team’s tracking system of choice, you might choose to organize your comments/feedback on the following categories:

  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • Efficiency of use
  • Consistency
  • Learnability
  • Aesthetics

Step 2: Prioritize by impact

Which items are “quick wins” (that bring the most impactful benefit to your users in the shortest amount of time) vs. lower priority improvements?

Credit: Example of how to organize usability improvements

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