I sat in on Breonna Rodriguez' keynote address at the Columbus Women in Digital Annual Conference and I'd like to share some of her ideas on personal and professional growth. As a lead digital designer for Sesame Street and a digital entrepreneur, she has a cool twist on the user experience model. She spoke on: The UX of your life: Avoid your pitfalls and conquer life with confidence.
"I do not always have my shit together," Rodriguez said to the laughing crowd. "But I can get my shit together very very quickly!"
She told us to check our lives for "system failure" signs that could indicate we need to re-boot and/or make some changes to run smoothly and efficiently – which, in turn, brings happiness and contentment.
Recently, her own signs of system failure included:
- Looking down at the coffee table and seeing five empty taco wrappers
- Waking up in a sour mood
- Downing a glass (or glasses) of wine like it's water at night
- Plowing through money for some retail therapy
- Turning down "nighttime cardio" with her boyfriend
"I realized something wasn't right," she admitted. So when this happens, and the signs are clear, she returns "to the map of my life." Rodriguez suggested reflecting on your goals and visualizing where you want to go with your career as a map. She also knows how easy it is to let outside influences tear you down and change your course direction. Trying to keep up with people you see in Pinterest photos and Instagram posts is exhausting and can completely derail you.
You start to see that "you're not living your own design," she said. "You're living someone else's."
When you start to feel like you're not doing enough, not accomplishing enough goals, not working from a beach, and other defeating thoughts are running through your head at all hours, just remember that those Instagram pics are not real. No one actually gets work done while sitting in the blazing sun in a bikini on a deserted beach with a personal photographer, makeup artist and hair stylist following them around for 45 minutes. It is not real life. And it is not your real life.
Rodriguez recommended taking some time with yourself and writing down all the things you love. No rules, no timers, just free thought on paper. Then, she said, make a list of all the things you value. Don't think about anybody else's input! Write only what you value. Then make a list of what else you want to do with and in your life – both professionally and personally. For example, write down the job titles you still want, the skills you'd like to grow, and things you want to do.
"Then take out the top five of each list," she said. "That's all you need. Focus on the necessity of the top five only. Within that boundary you will find control over your map again."
Narrowing your focus will help you feel less overwhelmed, ease anxiety and allow you to thrive. Sure, you might get inspired by something and want to add it to your list or move it up in priority level. Great! Add it, but maintain your top fives until one can be swapped out for a new one. And be certain a new goal is really what you want, not what someone else wants from you.
"People will wait," Rodriguez said. "You decide what you do and don't do and when."