Designing Your Work Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

In their long-awaited follow-up to their bestseller, Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans of Stanford University want to help you love the job you have, before you try to leave it.

The first book grew out of a popular course the authors taught at Stanford University after fielding so many questions from undergrads on career planning. It focuses a lot on career change and choice, and grew out of their conversations with students. This aims to help you stay put instead of move on.

Designing Your Work Life coverThe timing couldn’t be better. Burnett and Evans have a product design background at Apple, and they bring a fresh perspective to problems like bad bosses, jobs you’ve outgrown, and other frustrations. They apply concepts like prototyping, minimal viable product design and bias toward action (a nice antidote for those of us who tend to anxiously ruminating over a problem).

I recently picked up the book to check it out for clients  but found myself reading for my own problems, especially some looming decisions about my kids’ education in the fall.

The authors’ approach problem solving in a way short-circuits my self-pity, anger, and other emotions that cloud our thinking. Instead of ruminating, they encourage you to talk to people and try out solutions.

I especially loved….

Their suggestions around overwhelm. They describe types of overwhelm, how to recognize which type you have, and possible action steps. They discuss it with a their signature wit and push you to try things and new ways of thinking to avoid feeling helpless.

I especially their points on what makes us unhappy at work. Could you possibly, deep down, still like your job if there weren’t so darn much to do?

“Sometimes we like what we are doing; we are just doing too much of it. We love our work but don’t like our situation, because we are dealing with task lists and inboxes that are replicating and growing and invading our lives like aliens in a science-fiction movie. We know we are getting swallowed up, and we can’t escape.” -Bill Burnett & Dave Evans.

If you have only time for one chapter….

Try Chapter 3: What’s the Problem? This chapter will help you begin to ask different questions about your work problem and reframe your circumstances. It’s a great place to dip into their approach and see how it works for you.

My clients are often searching for new jobs and have given up hope on their current one. Job hunts can feel so high stakes when you feel overwhelmed overwhelmed and helpless. I recommend reading this book if you want to feel more empowered about trying to fix bits and pieces of your work life, even as you try to move on. In this economy, job hunts may take longer. Why suffer if you can design a solution, even if it’s temporary?