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Coping With the Stress of a Career in UX

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Working as a UX designer or researcher can be incredibly stressful. Our work is constantly subject to intense scrutiny and debate from clients and colleagues. If we're consultants, we have the added pressure of constantly proving our worth to clients. If we're in-house, we may have to get along with and even prove the value of UX to other departments. Even the fast pace and ill-defined nature of the field itself can lead to stress: we can suffer from impostor syndrome and general insecurity about where we fit in our own profession. In this talk I take a frank look at common UX stressors and, most importantly, discuss ways to address them. Become better prepared to handle a UXer's everyday challenges, and take away a myriad of ways to improve your emotional wellbeing.

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Coping With the Stress of a Career in UX

  1. 1. Coping With the Stress of a Career in UX Meredith Noble Director of User Experience, Cloudberry Creative @meredi | meredith@meredi.com June 24, 2015 | UXPA Dilbert,byScottAdams,2005
  2. 2. @meredi Hello. I’m Meredith. I’ve been a UX consultant for 10 years. My work sometimes often stresses me out. 2
  3. 3. @meredi 3 Me and Stress I’m a sensitive, conscientious, people-pleasing, perfectionistic emotion-squelcher… …who chose a role with intense deadlines and external judgment! I hit a breaking point. Something needed to change.
  4. 4. @meredi I started exploring the mind-body connection and the effects thoughts and emotions can have on our bodies. 4 Me and Stress
  5. 5. @meredi Talk Outline • What is stress? Why is it a problem? • Why is stress a problem for UXers? • How stressed out are we? • Stress topics: choose-your-own adventure • Other ways to combat stress • Resources 5
  6. 6. @meredi What is stress? 6 • Autonomic nervous system: • Parasympathetic nervous system (‘rest and digest’) • Sympathetic nervous system (‘fight, flight, or freeze’)
  7. 7. @meredi What is stress? 7 • Fear system constantly scanning the environment • Activates hormone craziness!
  8. 8. @meredi What is stress? 8 • Energy is mobilized to send to muscles • Heart rate and blood pressure increase • Non-essential activities stop or slow: • Digestion • Immunity • Growth & tissue repair • Blood flow to skin • Etc.
  9. 9. @meredi 9 Why is stress a problem? • Lions aren’t a big problem in 2015 • Most of our stress is: • Psychological • Ongoing • Our bodies are sustaining long-term damage!
  10. 10. @meredi 10 Why is stress a problem? • Chronic stress can lead to: – Heart disease – Depression and anxiety – Increased illness – Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome – Diabetes, metabolic syndrome – Pain disorders
  11. 11. @meredi 11 Why Stress is Bad for UXers • Hinders creativity • Creates tunnel vision • Reduces empathy in men • Hinders accessibility of memories • Reduces our ability to learn and store memories
  12. 12. @meredi 12 How Stressed Are We? Last week, were you: • Not at all stressed • Somewhat stressed • Moderately stressed • Very stressed • Extremely stressed
  13. 13. @meredi 13 Stress: Choose Your Own Adventure! Impostor Syndrome Unnecessary Meetings Too Much Work; Deadlines Improper Expectations Keeping Up
  14. 14. @meredi 14 Watch for Key Approaches (4 As) ALTER the stressor AVOID the stressor ADAPT to the stressor ACCEPT the stressor bit.ly/fourAs
  15. 15. @meredi 15 Impostor Syndrome What is it? • Feeling inadequate and like a fraud despite evidence to the contrary • The tendency to attribute success to external factors (like luck) • The fear of being found out and having your true abilities discovered
  16. 16. @meredi 16 Impostor Syndrome Lori Widelitz-Cavallucci & Amy Silvers bit.ly/uximpostersyndrome
  17. 17. @meredi 17 Impostor Syndrome Why do we have it? • We don’t have certifications • We don’t have a good way to see other people’s work or process • “Should” articles • Always feeling behind in knowledge
  18. 18. @meredi 18 Impostor Syndrome How do we prevent it? • Avoid the words “just”, “only” • Find someone who can mentor & support you • Write down your wins • Remember you’re not alone!
  19. 19. @meredi 19 Impostor Syndrome • Any other tips?
  20. 20. @meredi Unnecessary Meetings 20 • Key question:
 “Should I attend?” • Ask yourself • Ask your boss • Ask your colleagues bit.ly/unnecessarymeetings
  21. 21. @meredi Unnecessary Meetings 21 • Decline meetings you don’t feel are necessary • Block out non- negotiable time in your calendar • Try email or phone instead, or dropping by someone’s desk
  22. 22. @meredi Unnecessary Meetings 22 • Improve the meeting: • Ensure everyone’s there who needs to be • Suggest no tech • Suggest standing up • Insist on an agenda in advance • Conclude with action items
  23. 23. @meredi Unnecessary Meetings 23 • Any other tips?
  24. 24. @meredi 24 Too Much Work; Deadlines • Break a project into small steps, allocate time & prioritize • Get fresh eyes on the problem • Try the Pomodoro Technique • TAKE A BREAK • Renegotiate with new information
  25. 25. @meredi 25 Too Much Work; Deadlines • Any other tips?
  26. 26. @meredi 26 Improper Expectations • In-house: • Ever been asked to do a research study in a week? • Or were brought in to do research at the tail end of design? • Agency-side: • Ever had a client completely get the wrong idea?
  27. 27. @meredi 27 Improper Expectations • Proactive education: • Strategic one-on-one meetings • Lunch & learns • Repeat, repeat, repeat • Get creative with execution • Bi-weekly research sessions • Guerrilla testing • Etc. • Find powerful / persuasive allies
  28. 28. @meredi 28 Improper Expectations • Killer kick-off meetings (over-communicate) • Be realistic & leave buffer room • Use your research skills: listen & intuit
  29. 29. @meredi 29 Improper Expectations • Any other tips?
  30. 30. @meredi 30 Keeping Up • YOU ARE NOT BEHIND • Follow your passion • Dedicate time each morning to read one thing • Try using a tool like Nuzzel to monitor the zeitgeist
  31. 31. @meredi 31 Keeping Up • Any other tips?
  32. 32. @meredi General Ways to Combat Stress 32 1. Make friends with your thoughts 
 (defusion in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) • “I’m having the thought that…” • Sing the thought to “Happy Birthday” • Name your stories
  33. 33. @meredi Ways to Combat Stress 33 2. Practice self-compassion
  34. 34. @meredi Ways to Combat Stress 34 3. Use a relaxation technique to return to ‘rest and digest’ • 3 deep breaths, 9 times • Exercise • Open Focus
  35. 35. @meredi Ways to Combat Stress 35 4. Tune into your emotions • How am I feeling right now? • Let yourself feel it
  36. 36. @meredi Resources 36 The Open Focus Brain Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers Robert M. Sapolsky
  37. 37. @meredi Resources 37 The Happiness Trap Russ Harris The Inner Game of Stress W. Timothy Gallwey
  38. 38. @meredi Resources 38 Self-Compassion Kristin Neff The Mindful Path to Self- Compassion Christopher K. Germer
  39. 39. @meredi Resources 39 Mind Body Toolbox 
 Audio Course & Other Resources Abigail Steidley abigailsteidley.com
  40. 40. Thanks! Meredith Noble Director of User Experience, Cloudberry Creative @meredi | meredith@meredi.com
  41. 41. @meredi 41 Questions?