People need tools to invent their own success --- over and over.
--- Designing Your Work Life (2020)
On February 25th 2020, Designing Your Work Life is going to hit bookstore shelves everywhere.
This is the follow-up book to Designing Your Life --- a book that was the catalyst to unraveling a sticky situation and transforming my own professional life and catapulting me to San Francisco, where I haven't looked back.
I fully believe in the power of Bill Burnett and Dave Evans' wisdom to empower programmers to build a deliberate life and career they love, unraveling themselves from any problem.
As programmers, our primary job is to be a problem solver (or problem creator, depending on how you look at it). But many of the skills we learn on the job are also skills we can apply to other areas --- like our own lives.
That was the concept behind the original book, Designing Your Life, which started as a popular course at Stanford University that took the principles of product design in Silicon Valley and applied them toward life building.
With Designing Your Life, we don't and can't have our lives planned from beginning to end. Rather, we design our way forward --- iteratively!
You may be thinking, "But Miranda, that's just what we do in agile software development." And to that, I say, "Exactly!"
This is why we're talking about designing your work life on the Books on Code blog, because even though a book on life design isn't a "book on code," it is in my book. This book is essential to thinking about your career as a programmer.
Designing Your Work Life is Bill Burnett and Dave Evans' follow-up book to Designing Your Life. The new 2020 release addresses a whole-new set of problems that modern people (like software engineers) face on the job, whether that be handling challenging bosses or co-workers, fighting boredom or overwhelm, or reckoning with that nagging sensation that you are not finding enough creative expression or impact at work.
Designing Your Work Life, like its predecessor, focuses on giving you actionable tools to break down problems, find the root cause, and build a path forward through "trying things" (also known as prototyping) and iteration.
The magic of designing your work life is that it encourages a pure problem-solving mindset.
In this world, there is no such thing as wallowing in life's hardships. If it's not actionable, we don't focus on it.
If you ever feel stuck and like there is no solution, there is always a way to get unstuck. And as humans, we seem to love getting stuck.
Burnett and Evans call many of our perpetually-stuck problems "gravity problems." They are problems that will always be there (just like the existence of gravity) and therefore the solution cannot be framed around wishing that problem away. We can spend our entire lives wasting energy wishing for better inherited circumstances instead of designing around them, acknowledging, and working with the limitation.
Burnett and Evans take the time in Designing Your Work Life to unravel common problems and then give you the tools to unravel your own problems independently.
Consider the classic "mean boss" scenario. This can be considered a "gravity problem" --- after all, you can't change people and wish your boss into being nice. But there are still ways to design and problem-solve without jumping straight to quitting. First, you get curious and specific (what about them is mean?) And then find what the real problem is ("I don't get recognition for my work"), and then design around it ("Request regular feedback from those I respect").
Designing Your Work Life isn't a plug-and-play workbook. It gives you the tools to think for yourself, which is what we're all about as programmers. We love our tools. 😊
In the following sections, I'm going to tell you some of the greatest insights Designing Your Work Life has to offer to software developers.