The book Designing Your Work Life was written by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Prior to reading this book the authors had written Designing Your Life, which I read, and it peaked my interest in reading this book. I have the hard cover version of the book and it is a great example of what a high quality book should look like. The print quality and font size are excellent. Most of us struggle with our work from time to time, and our first instinct is to bail, you know get me the hell out of here. The authors provide some techniques on how you can salvage your current job by re-framing how you look at your work, and maybe more important empowering you to make changes to your job to make it more enjoyable. I’m actually looking at a list I created from the book called the Hydra Overwhelm List and Solutions, where I looked at things that were bothering me and sucking all the fun out of my job. In this list you write down the job activity that you have issues with, a possible solution, and whether you will eliminate that activity or change it. Mind you this is only one of the many tools and techniques they offer up that help you turn misery into something approaching joy at work.
In the event that you just can’t redesign your job, or you are in a situation where you work for a complete asshole, they also offer some excellent advise on how to quit the right way, and how to move on and find a new job. They even offer up some very good advice for those of us who might be interested in being self employed. The hardcover version of the book is 292 pages, so it’s not a terribly long read and each chapter is of reasonable length.
What I liked about this book
If you like aspects of your job, but hate or dislike some of the things you do, then this book may provide ways that you can not only salvage your current job, but redesign it into something you really enjoy. That alone is motivation to read this book if you are struggling on a day to day basis and losing sleep over your work. The authors come from a design background, so as in their previous book they utilize design practices to approach problems. One example of a design principle they use has to do with challenging your belief and then re-framing it. For instance you might re-frame like this:
Dysfunctional Belief: It’s not working for me here.
Re-frame as: You can make it work (almost) anywhere.
What did I dislike about this book
Seriously there is not a lot to dislike about the book. While the technique of re-framing will help you see things in a different light, there are times when that just won’t help you in a truly miserable situation. Your employer may vehemently resist your attempts to change your job to better fit your interests. Even with that said the authors understand that there are situations where invoking the exit strategy is the best thing for your piece of mind. The chapter on Being Your Own Boss is only 23 pages long, and while it has some useful information you will need to read and learn a lot of other things that are not covered in that chapter.
I highly recommend this book to those of you who struggle with various aspects of your work. I was able through my Hydra Overwhelm List, and some re-framing techniques to address most of the things that were causing the most pain, and ultimately find greater job satisfaction. I also found the authors advice on preparing to leave an employer and find a new job very valuable. One of the hopeful things that I got out of this book was that you have more control than you think, and some of the things you felt you had no control over were simply not true. On the other hand if you love your job, you may find the book offers little, but from the statistics I have read the majority of people are unengaged or actively disengaged at work. Here are some stats from a Gallop poll:
If your workforce is typical, about one-third of your employees are actively engaged, according to a recent Gallup poll. The poll found that nearly half, or 49 percent, are disengaged while 18 percent are actively disengaged. (Mar 17, 2016)
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Designing Your Work Life
About the Authors
Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford, Adjunct Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Stanford
After years of drawing cars and airplanes under his Grandmother’s sewing machine, Bill Burnett went off to the University and discovered, much to his surprise, that there were people in the world who did this kind of thing everyday (without the sewing machine) and they were called designers. Thirty years, five companies, and a couple of thousand students later Bill is still drawing and building things, teaching others how to do the same, and quietly enjoying the fact that no one has discovered that he is having too much fun.
Bill Burnett is the Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford. He directs the undergraduate and graduate program in design at Stanford, both interdepartmental programs between the Mechanical Engineering department and the Art department. He got his BS and MS in Product Design at Stanford and has worked professionally on a wide variety of projects ranging from award-winning Apple PowerBooks to the original Hasbro Star Wars action figures. He holds a number of mechanical and design patents, and design awards for a variety of products including the first “slate” computer. In addition to his duties at Stanford, he is a on the Board of VOZ (pronounced “VAWS – it means voice in Spanish) a social responsible high fashion startup and advises several Internet start-up companies.
Lecturer, Product Design Program at Stanford, Management Consultant, and co-founder of Electronic Arts
From saving the seals to solving the energy crisis, from imagining the first computer mice to redefining software — Dave’s been on a mission, including helping others to find theirs. Starting at Stanford with dreams of following Jacques Cousteau as a marine biologist, Dave realized (a bit late) that he was lousy at it and shifted to mechanical engineering with an eye on the energy problem. After four years in alternative energy, it was clear that this idea’s time hadn’t come yet. So while en route to biomedical engineering, Dave accepted an invitation to work for Apple, where he led product marketing for the mouse team and introduced laser printing to the masses. When Dave’s boss at Apple left to start Electronic Arts, Dave joined as the company’s first VP of Talent, dedicated to making “software worthy of the minds that use it.”
Having participated in forming the corporate cultures at Apple and EA, Dave decided his best work was in helping organizations build creative environments where people could do great work and love doing it. So he went out on his own; working with start-up teams, corporate executives, non-profit leaders, and countless young adults. They were all asking the same question. “What should I do with my life?” Helping people get traction on that question finally took Dave to Cal and Stanford and continues to be his life’s work.
Dave holds a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford and a graduate diploma in Contemplative Spirituality from San Francisco Theological Seminary.