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How I Rewired My Brain to Think Like a Designer and Unlock My Creativity

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How I Rewired My Brain to Think Like a Designer and Unlock My Creativity

Design is not a subject confined to the creative industry. In fact, it is something that we all might want to learn.

According to a 2014 assessment conducted by the Design Management Institute, design-led companies have maintained significant stock market advantage over the last 10 years, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 228%. [1] These companies include Apple, Coca Cola, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Walt Disney, etc.

Amazed by the remarkable success of these companies, many entrepreneurs want to learn how to think like a designer and apply the design principles to their work so that they can have a big success.

But design thinking is not only useful for entrepreneurs. It is also useful for ordinary people like you and me. Design thinking contributes to both business success and individual success, as it helps unlock your creativity and break away from the chain of traditions.

What Is Design Thinking? It’s About Creative Problem Solving

Design thinking is a concept defined and popularized by Rolf Faste in the 1980s. It is a problem-solving practice which attempts to actualize your concepts and ideas and to create a practical yet creative resolution of issues. Unlike the conventional problem-focused one, a design mindset is solution-focused and action-oriented. It explores different possibilities to bring out the most desirable outcomes.

As a human-centered innovation, design thinking shows understanding to the people affected or served by your ideas. The aim is to cater users’ unmet or unarticulated needs by a deep knowledge of customers and their problems. This increases the chance of success when implementing your ideas.

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5 Things You Should Know to Think Like a Designer

A design thinking process can be divided into five stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

1. Empathize

The first stage of a design thinking process is to understand the problem in an empathic perspective. Design thinking is a human-centered design process so empathy plays an important role in it. Instead of making assumptions, immersing yourself in the environment to have a deeper personal understanding of the problems involved is rather crucial. In other words, design thinkers should always put themselves into others’ shoes.

2. Define

The information you gathered during the Empathize stage should be used in the Define stage to define the core problem as a problem statement in a human-centered manner.

To put it simply, you should define the problem from the perspective of your customers or whoever you serve, instead of from the perspective of a provider.

For example, instead of saying ‘we need to increase our page view by 10%’, it is better to define the problem statement as ‘readers need some high-quality content’. This is how design thinking values the unmet needs of customers.

3. Ideate

When everything is ready, designers can start generating ideas to solve the problem. The most important part of it is to think outside the box. You should try to identify new solutions and view the problem in alternative ways.

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Possible ideation techniques include brainstorm and worst possible idea. They are ideal to stimulate free thinking and to expand the problem space. You should try to get as many ideas or solutions as possible at the beginning and then consider their feasibilities to come up with the best way to solve the problem.

4. Prototype

The Prototype stage is an experimental phase. The idea is to produce a number of scaled down versions of the product to be shared and tested within the team or outside the team.

Through such kind of experiment, the team will be able to identify the best possible solutions. The solutions are investigated one-by-one and they are either accepted, improved and re-examined, or rejected according to the feedback from the users.

At the end of the stage, the designers will have a clearer picture of how real users behave and think when they interact with the product.

5. Test

The final stage of design thinking is to rigorously test the complete product using the best solutions identified during the previous stage.

Design thinking is never a linear process. In practice, tests often inspire new ideas for the project. The information collected from the testing phase is often used to redefine problems and inform the understanding of the users. So the final stage does not really mean the finale.

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Design Thinking Makes You a Better Achiever

The above description is perhaps illustrated from a business perspective. But how can ordinary people like you and me include design thinking in our daily life?

Case 1: Design thinking helps you perform better at work

Let’s say you want to boost your productivity at work.

First, you should ask yourself why this bothers you. Perhaps your low productivity makes you feel exhausted at work.

When you try to define your problem, explore if there’re other possibilities for causing the your problem. It not, define your core problem. Maybe you find yourself hard to stay focused.

Then, it’s time to explore solutions. Brainstorm and research for all the possible solutions. Maybe you should take some breaks during work, or maybe you should turn off any devices that would cause distraction. Try them out one by one and choose the best to be tested. At last, you will find the best way to solve the problem.

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Case 2: Design thinking helps you achieve a personal goal

What if it’s a personal goal? Yes, design thinking works for a personal goal too. And it has helped me to overcome workout laziness.

I am one of those who are lazy to go to gym. At the first stage, I ask myself, ‘What would going to gym really do for you?’ As a sport enthusiast, I want to perform better by strengthening my muscles.

The answer is not surprising. But what is the problem? I finally find that the excuse I give to myself every time is quite similar: it’s too rush to do it before work, or it’s too tiring to do it after work. So I come up with the problem statement, ‘I need to find a suitable time-slot for gym’.

Then I try to think of different available options: before work, during lunch break, after work, in the weekend, and so on. In the following stage, I try all the possible solutions one by one. At last, I choose to the best options and see if it works. It turns out that this really works for me!

So obviously design thinking is not only an approach for us to create success in business but it also helps us to solve problems in our daily life! Remember the five stages of design thinking and follow it next time!

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Sheba Leung

Translator. Sport lover. Traveler.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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