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Going for the Small Win: Keeping Engaged when Circumstances Weigh you Down

In: DesignTips

A Story Short

I started on a new elearning course a couple of months ago. The kickoff meeting was a super-awesome, mighty morphin’ success. Then came the mandatory storyboarding and deadline setting. As a rule, I’m quite in favor deadlines. It’s only with not enough time or not enough resources that we actually focus. It’s one of the shortest courses I’ve done with one of the tightest deadlines but, in spite of this (unlike the Articulate challenges, for instance), or perhaps because of it, it hasn’t been the most inspirational experience. There were some jQuery tricks I wanted to try to animate some onscreen elements but, because of time, I’m having to cut them. That got me a little down. You see, I’m one of those people who believe whole-heartedly that if you aren’t moving forward, however incrementally, you’re moving backward. A perfectionist, you say? Not a bit of it. In fact, I relish the opportunity to fail. But that’s just it. I like to be always pushing the envelope, just that tiny bit. Experimenting, failing, trying to improve. And sometimes, for business reasons, that time to experiment isn’t there. I hate that. Beyond anything else, I hate that.

An Epiphany

One night, a few weeks in to storyboarding, late in the evening when I probably should have been sleeping, a thought occurred to me: this course had provided me with two small but very important wins. The kickoff meeting  was this amazing new process. Beyond that, this is the first course (that I’ve worked on, anyway) where we’ve got permission to use a skills-based assessment (having users demonstrate that they know how to do a fingerprint comparison) instead of asking users to regurgitate answers on a multiple choice quiz, this course actually was pushing that envelope. In it’s own small and unassuming way, this course was making me a better designer. Instead of throwing a pity party, I took time out to think about the course as a whole. And, in doing that, I was able to turn what might have been a period of disengagement and disappointment into a deeper understanding of the small wins that this course represented. Embracing these small wins reminded me of this great TED Talk by Sarah Lewis. Mastery is a commitment to a constant pursuit and embracing the near win gets us there.

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What about you?

What do you do when circumstances threaten to disengage you from your work? How do you look on the bright side and go for the near win in your design, even when you can’t quite reach the outcome you want?