New year, new blog location! (Let’s not talk about my string of former blogs littering the internet like jilted lovers. It’s not me, it’s you, with your insufficient formatting options and difficult subscription processes.) Here’s to hoping this one sticks.
It’s January 3, so raise your hand if you’re already sick of people talking about new year’s resolutions–as well as the accompanying articles about why resolutions are dumb and never work. Let’s face it: many people choose resolutions arbitrarily (Lose 10 pounds! Go to the gym every day! Be more tidy!) then jump in whole hog and wonder why the endeavor fizzles after a week or so. Better luck next year, right? But there’s actually a better way, courtesy of human-centered design (aka creative applications of social science).
Step 1: Learn. 2016 shall be the year of The Best You. Ok, great. But in what respect? Health? Financial responsibility? Taking charge of your career? Not dressing so schlubby on weekends? While it may be tempting to jump straight to the “I shall…” first examine the situation more closely. Maybe even talk to trusted sources who have see you in (in-)action. If you’re looking at improving your health, try keeping a food diary for a few days and see what’s actually happening there. Why do you make these food choices? How do you feel at the time? If you’re constantly trying to be tidier, watch for patterns; does the laundry tend to migrate to the floor as the work week gets busier? Don’t make any changes yet, just observe.
Step 2: Understand. Like any good (social) scientist, you now have data. Huzzah! Time to make sense of it. What really seems to be the problem here? Go beyond “I eat like an 18 year old boy.” Why? “Because I get hungry and cranky at work.” Why? “Because I don’t have any good snacks and the vending machine is 20 feet away.” Ok, so then maybe the issue is snacks. But before jumping to “I resolve to buy healthy snacks!” try to open the possibilities a bit more. If the problem is that you don’t have good things to eat at work, as yourself “How might I have good things to eat at work?” Then start brainstorming. Go for quantity. This is the one time “Cannibalize the intern!” is an acceptable answer (on paper; do not attempt). Shoot for at least 15 ideas.
Step 3: Fail. Yes, really. Nothing is perfect the first try. If you think you’ll succeed the first time, and you come up short, that’s usually the end of that goal. (Think new year’s resolutions 2015, 2014, 2013…) But what if your plan is merely to try to fail quickly in order to learn something? Going back to the snack idea…Maybe you decide to solve your snack issue by buying a huge bag of trail mix at Costco. Heathy protein! No need to remember to refill the snack drawer! By day two, you look at the empty bag and realize this was a terrible, terrible idea. But why? Portion size matters. Ok, next prototype: single sized snax pax. Etc. Eventually, you’ll figure out the right answer for you and it will seem effortless. (And maybe even lose those 10 pounds after all.)
Isn’t this fun? You get to be your own guinea pig! If you want to nerd out about this stuff some more, check out IDEO’s Field Kit.
And what are my 2016 plans? Still being prototyped. Check back later. Hopefully, I’ll still be at this URL!